Don McGlashan showed his screen talents early on a trio of shorts (including classic Walkshort) made with Harry Sinclair, his partner in multi-media group The Front Lawn. Since then he has composed music for TV, shorts, and features. His score for An Angel at My Table won acclaim. 2006 saw awards for No. 2, and hit track 'Bathe in the River'. There have also been TV awards for Katherine Mansfield tale Bliss and This is Not My Life.
It was very satisfying...Someone was saying to me the other night, “Wouldn’t it be cool to do a big score somewhere else, like LA.” I might be naive but, honestly, I could say “No, it was more fun doing it here.” Don McGlashan, on composing the score for No. 2, in Onfilm magazine, May 2006
Action movie The Dead Lands joins the short list of screen tales set in Aotearoa, before the pākehā. James Rolleston (star of Boy) plays Hongi, the son of a Māori chief. After the massacre of his tribe, Hongi sets out into the forbidden Dead Lands, hoping to enlist the help of a legendary warrior (Lawrence Makoare). The Anglo-Kiwi co-production marked new screen territory for director Toa Fraser (No. 2) and writer Glenn Standring (fantasy Perfect Creature). After debuting at the 2014 Toronto Film Festival, The Dead Lands topped the Kiwi box office and won three Moa awards.
Kiwi Flyer sees 12-year-old Ben (Edward Hall) and his mate Jeff quest to win a local trolley derby in memory of Ben’s father. In their way are schoolboy loan sharks, the Aussie competition — a family led by Wayne (Vince ‘Beaureparies’ Martin) — and permission from Mum (Tandi Wright). There’s plenty of Boy’s Own action and slapstick (aided by comedian Dai Henwood as a well-meaning but bumbling teacher) as Ben channels the DIY spirit and races for glory. Tony Simpson’s low-budget heart-warmer was based on Nelson’s annual Collingwood St Trolley Derby.
Bliss is a portrait of an artist as a young woman. The telemovie follows Katherine Mansfield from boredom in Edwardian Wellington to liberation and love affairs in London, where she dares to dream of being a writer. Kate Elliott plays Mansfield as spirited 19-year old hungry for experience. Bliss screened to acclaim in TV One's Sunday Theatre slot in August 2011. Listener reviewer Fiona Rae praised director Fiona Samuel's "excellent" script, and for allowing "her Mansfield to be witty, passionate and outspoken without belabouring the status of women in 1908".
Iaheto Ah Hi's play Tautai involved an urban car thief emulating his Tokelauan fishing ancestors — only instead of hunting sharks, he hunted cars. Twelve years and 27 drafts after first seeing the play, director Michael Bennett and co-writer Gavin Strawhan intertwined Tautai's story with seven other characters, each impacted by one moment of violence. Praising the "excellent ensemble" and Don McGlashan score, Herald reviewer Peter Calder argued that Matariki delivers "a touching series of intersecting stories about the fragility of life and the redeeming power of love".
The second feature film directed by writer Anthony McCarten (Ladies' Night) is a small tale with some big themes. Set in a New Plymouth car yard, the film chronicles an endurance contest in which a car will be awarded to the person who manages to keep their hands on it the longest. As night falls, solo mother Jess (Melanie Lynskey) finds herself fending off the attentions of an obstinate competitor (Craig Hall), with a much harsher vision of the world than hers. Inspired by similar real-life contests, McCarten based the film on his novel Endurance.
This offbeat father and son feature was written by Scotsman Alan Sharp, and mostly filmed in the UK by a Fijian-Brit Kiwi. Lawrence of Arabia legend Peter O'Toole plays a stiff upper lip Englishman whose frosty relationship with his son warms after hearing an extraordinary tale of reincarnation from Reverend Dean Spanley (Sam Neill). Based on an Edward Plunkett novella, Toa Fraser's second feature won praise for its cast, and mix of comedy and poignancy, "intertwined to the last" (The Age). Spanley won a host of Qantas awards; GQ rated it their film of the year.
Orange Roughies was a 'border security' drama series following a Police and Customs task force led by Danny Wilder (Australian actor Nicholas Coughan). Made by ScreenWorks for TV ONE the production was a Kiwi take on the Aussie water police procedural, with the action transferred to Auckland Harbour and CBD. Storylines included drugs busts, undercover ops and plenty of motorised chase action; this excerpt from the first episode sees Customs Officer Jane Durant (McLeod's Daughters' Zoe Naylor) board a ship suspected of trafficking children from China.
Nanna Maria, the matriarch of a Fijian family living in Auckland feels that the heart has gone out of her clan. Nanna demands that her grown grandchildren put on a traditional feast at which she will name her successor. The grandchildren — Soul, Charlene, Hibiscus, Erasmus, and Tyson — reluctantly turn up. But tiffs send the day into chaos and Nanna calls the whole thing off. The lovo-warmed love letter to his Mt Roskill hometown was the debut feature for director Toa Fraser. It screened at many festivals and won the World Cinema audience award at Sundance 2006.
In Boy, a college-aged rent boy exposes the truth about the death of a girl in a hit and run accident. Using typography that hovers on screen in place of dialogue, flares of bold colour, dioramic frames, and brutal portraiture reminiscent of Dianne Arbus, director Welby Ings creates a powerful, exquisite perspective on the silent claustrophobia and sexual violence of small town New Zealand. The film gained acclaim both at home and internationally. Accolades included Best Short Film at Cinequest in the United States.
Over four seasons, Street Legal’s slick Kiwi take on urban crime and law genres racked up a stack of award nominations - including a 2003 NZ TV Award for best drama series. Although initially wary that the Auckland setting might alienate viewers, writer Greg McGee chose a Samoan lawyer (Jay Laga’aia) as his main character, to exploit the show’s inner-city Ponsonby setting (where cafe society bumps into Pacific Island immigrant culture). Other key characters included Silesi’s lawyer ex-girlfriend Joni, and her new partner Kees, an overstressed sergeant.
One of a trio of late 90s Kiwi crime-based pilots, Street Legal was the only one that would successfully spawn a series - four series, in fact (though Kevin Smith vehicle Lawless saw two further tele-movies). The Street Legal pilot provides a stylish big city template for the show to come, as Auckland criminal lawyer David Silesi (Jay Laga-aia) enlists the help of an over- enthusiastic journalist (Sara Wiseman) in the hope of winning an out-of-court settlement over a hit and run case. Meanwhile Silesi's lawyer girlfriend smells something fishy - with good reason.
Actor and filmmaker Sam Neill weaves portions of his own biography into an insightful, idiosyncratic and liberally illustrated analysis of New Zealand cinema — from its crude beginnings to the full flowering of technical and artistic achievement seen in the breakthrough films of Peter Jackson, Lee Tamahori, and Jane Campion. Made as part of the BFI's Century of Cinema series, it screened at the 1995 Cannes Film Festival to wide acclaim; The New York Times' Janet Maslin rated it a highlight of the series. It won Best Documentary at the 1996 TV Awards.
Don McGlashan’s anthemic plea for safe harbour — written for his band the Mutton Birds — won him his first APRA Silver Scroll and became a Kiwi classic with a life of its own. It was used in the soundtrack of a short film (Boy), a feature (Perfect Strangers) and given all star treatment by Greenpeace. But TVNZ’s use of it under National Party conference footage was a step too far for McGlashan, who famously took very public offence. Director Fane Flaws places his video in the eye of a mermaid rather than a storm, but plenty of watery perils await.
This slow burning tale of a domestic appliance with a mind of its own was The Mutton Birds’ only number one hit. The sinister, surreal and partly animated video — the band’s fourth with director Fane Flaws — hints at the short films of Don McGlashan’s other project The Front Lawn. A furtive, nerdy McGlashan takes the lead with Elizabeth McRae (in her prime as Marj on Shortland Street) as his mother; the other Mutton Birds have cameos as a seedy second hand dealer (David Long) and a Salvation Army brass section (Ross Burge and Alan Gregg).
Pacific 3-2-1-Zero is a record of a performance of the eponymous work by renowned percussion group From Scratch. The work was devised in 1981 as a protest against nuclear testing and waste dumping in the Pacific. Ring-leader Phil Dadson, his players and their instruments — from whirling PVC pipes to biscuit tin lids — are arranged in the shape of the peace symbol. From Scratch's rhythms are cut with footage and facts of testing by director Gregor Nicholas to make for a resonant statement. The film won the Grand Prix at Midem’s Visual Music Awards 1994.
Don McGlashan has never been scared to use NZ place names in his songs and never more so than here on the Mutton Birds’ classic debut. His imagined back story for a man he watched from a bus window one day — a resident of the fabled “half way house, half way down Dominion Road” — is a tale of loss and redemption set on one of Auckland’s busiest arterial routes. Fane Flaws directed the shots of the band, while the colour footage (showing glimpses of forgotten shops and a less multi-cultural streetscape than can be seen today) was shot by Leon Narbey.
This muscular early 90s cover of The Fourmyula’s pastoral 1969 classic (voted best NZ song in 75 years by the songwriters’ association APRA in 2001) comes from the self-titled debut album by Don McGlashan’s band The Mutton Birds. The award-winning music video was directed by Fane Flaws — the first of six he made with them (after previously working with McGlashan on The Front Lawn’s Beautiful Things clip). Guest vocalist Jan Hellriegel features amongst the battery of kaleidoscopic and psychedelic digital effects used to evoke the joys of nature.
Performance group The Front Lawn (Don McGlashan, Harry Sinclair) stretch all of their prolific talents in this kooky Truly, Madly, Deeply style short. An eerie body-shifting whistled tune precedes Ben (McGlashan) finding his partner Linda (Jennifer Ward-Lealand) dead in bed. Then things get stranger: Linda’s ghost catches up with an old lover Victor (Sinclair) and faces a life-changing dilemma, while her body — awol with a tennis player on Tamaki Drive — has other plans. The surreal romance was made for TVNZ; it won best short at the 1990 NZ Screen Awards.
Directed by Jane Campion, An Angel at My Table is adapted from author Janet Frame's renowned three-part autobiography. It threads together a series of images and scenes to evoke Frame's dramatic life story. Originally made as a TV drama, the much-acclaimed dramatisation won cinema release in 35 countries, establishing Campion as an international director, launching actress Kerry Fox, and introduced new audiences to the "mirror city" of Frame's writing. This excerpt follows Frame's life-saving escape from Seacliff Asylum, to first publishing success at Frank Sargeson’s bach.
The zenith of Don McGlashan and Harry Sinclair's legendary Front Lawn collaborations, this iconic Kiwi short follows two men and one woman on a rainy night at a deserted bar. Pivoting on amnesia and woven together by music, two timeframes are seamlessly combined and a darkly humorous plot unfolds. The film had a wide international release (Ireland to Norway, Germany to the USA) and was a finalist in the inaugural American Film Festival.
Illustrious Energy sees Chan and his older mate Kim prospecting for gold in 1890s Otago. Marooned until they can pay off their debts and return to China; they’ve been fruitlessly working their claim for 12 and 27 years respectively. Chan faces racism, isolation, extreme weather, threatening surveyors, opium dens and a circus romance. The renowned feature-directing debut of cinematographer Leon Narbey provides a poetic evocation of the Chinese settler experience; especially vivid are Central’s natural details — desolate schist and tussock lands, rasping crickets.
A slice of life amongst the pedestrians of Auckland's Karangahape Road shot in an increasingly hilarious baton relay-style narrative. Directed by Bill Toepfer this classic New Zealand short film features both halves of musical comedy team, The Front Lawn (Harry Sinclair and Don McGlashan) playing all the roles in a range of disguises.
This was a beloved six-part children’s drama about the adventures of skateboarding 12-year-old Terry Teo, based on a 1982 graphic novel comic by Stephen Ballantyne and Bob Kerr. The Auckland-set series honoured the comic’s distinctive New Zealand landscapes, people and humour, and gave them a cartoonish feel with larger-than-life acting, animated arcade game style sequences, bright costumes and oversized props. Former Goon Michael Bentine headed the cast which also featured Billy T James as a bikie, and a cameo from former PM Sir Robert Muldoon.
The series finale in this 80s children’s drama begins with hero Terry Teo once again in the clutches of the evil Ray Vegas and sidekicks Blue and Curly. While Terry is held hostage by the gang, local cop Sergeant Wadsworth calls for back up — but reinforcements seem to have come from Keystone rather than HQ. Blue reveals an unexpected facility with heavy weaponry and humanity in amongst the pyrotechnics, but will the forces of good, and Polly’s karate skills and commonsense, be enough to get the Teo siblings back home for mum’s roast dinner?
In this episode of the 80s kid’s TV drama, matters are coming to a head. Terry Teo and brother Ted and sister Polly, criminal mastermind Ray Vegas and his henchmen Blue and Curly, government agents Thompson and Crouch, the bikies and the local policeman continue to chase each other around rural Kaupati. What Thompson and Crouch lack in intelligence, they make up for in costume changes; and Spud (Billy T James) is now quoting Byron to his bikies. The constable is dimmer than first suspected — but old salt Captain Shaddock’s aim is true.
In this episode of the larger-than-life kids' drama series, action moves to the punningly named town of Kaupati where crime boss Ray Vegas and sidekicks Curly and Blue are expecting a weapons delivery (in well labelled cardboard cartons). They’ve also abducted Terry Teo after he stumbled on their cunning plan. Meanwhile, Terry’s sister and brother are in pursuit, Thompson and Crouch are looking highly conspicuous in their quest for stealth, the bikies are discussing Hegel — and the Kaupati cop could be the dimmest bulb in the chandelier so far.
In this episode of the beloved 80s kids’ drama, hero Terry Teo has escaped from evil criminal mastermind Ray Vegas. All roads lead to a lovingly realised Kaupati A&P Show (with cameo from radio personality Merv Smith) as Vegas’ henchmen Curly and Blue, Terry’s brother and sister, and Thompson and Crouch pursue him. Curly still has the best outfit and manages to trash another motorcycle — but the bikies are too busy discussing philosophy. Meanwhile, Thompson and Crouch are revealed as government agents (with a cavalier approach to spending taxpayers’ money).
In this episode of the kids’ adventure series, 12 year old Terry Teo has stumbled on a gunrunning operation. The baddies — boss Ray Vegas and villainous sidekicks Curly and Blue — are hunting for him; and Terry’s brother and sister are doing their best to help, ending up in Kaupati in the most Kiwi holiday park ever. Meanwhile, more information emerges about the mysterious, but dim, Thompson and Crouch as they report to their boss (none other than real life former PM Sir Robert Muldoon) and Billy T James is turning out to be a very cultured bikie.
This first episode from the kidult series pits 12 year old Terry Teo, sister Polly and brother Ted against a gang of gunrunners led by crime boss Ray Vegas (former Goon Michael Bentine) after Terry skates down the wrong driveway and stumbles on the crims and their illegal arsenal. Terry was fondly remembered by Kiwi kids who grew up in the 80s. Taking cues from the Stephen Ballantyne and Bob Kerr comic it was based on, there are Batman-esque graphics and arcade game style animated sequences. Sean Duffy’s bald villain is called Curly and the bikie is Billy T.
Mortimer’s Patch was a highly popular detective series following Detective Sergeant Doug Mortimer (Terence Cooper) and his policing adventures in the small town of Cobham. Mortimer plays a city cop returning to his rural roots. In this Keith Aberdein-scripted episode a girl, Judy Savage (Smash Palace’s Greer Robson), goes missing in sand dunes near the shack of an eccentric recluse. Fear and suspicion mounts and Mortimer brings in help from the city: prejudiced detective, Chris Knight (Ken Blackburn). Don Selwyn plays Sergeant Bob Storey.
Mortimer’s Patch was a popular detective series following Detective Sergeant Doug Mortimer (Terence Cooper) and his policing adventures in the small town of Cobham. Mortimer plays a city cop returning to his rural roots. The series was NZ’s first police drama and was the most successful drama of the early 80s (it was a rare local show to top ratings). The series was made when the archetype of the ‘community cop’ everyone knew was still a powerful one, and it was a counterweight to the faceless riot policing of the Springbok Tour. Three series were made.
Kaleidoscope was a magazine-style arts series which ran from 30 July 1976 until 1989. Running for many years in a 90 minute format, the show tried varied approaches over its run, from an initial mix of local and international items — including live performances — to episodes which focused on a single artist or topic. In the early 80s Kaleidoscope collected three Feltex awards for Speciality Programme. Hosts over the years included initial presenter Jeremy Payne, newsreader Angela D'Audney, future Auckland music professor Heath Lees, and Warratahs fiddler Nic Brown.