Marcia Russell, OBE, blazed a trail for women working in print and screen journalism. Her TV work ranged from reporting and documentary making, to Beauty and the Beast panelist, and a key role in the creation of TV3. She was behind the award-winning Revolution series (surveying 80s Labour government reforms), and contributed to major series Landmarks and The New Zealand Wars. She died on 1 December 2012. 

Feminism made some gains for women. I don’t think we thought everything through, I don’t think we got everything right — but some things had to change, and I think we changed them. Marcia Russell

Screenography

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The New Zealand Wars - The War that Britain Lost (Episode One)

1998, Script Editor - Television

This excerpt from the first episode of James Belich’s award-winning history of Māori vs Pākehā armed conflict examines growing Māori resentment following the signing of the Treaty of Waitangi. The focus is on Ngā Puhi chief Hōne Heke, who sees few concessions to partnership. The refusal of the British to fly a Māori flag alongside the Union Jack particularly incenses him — and his celebrated acts of civil disobedience directed at this symbol of Imperial rule flying over the town Kororāreka (now Russell) lead to the outbreak of war in the north.

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Revolution (part one) - Fortress New Zealand

1996, Writer, Producer - Television

Documentary series Revolution mapped the social and economic changes in New Zealand society in the 1980s and early 1990s. This first episode focuses on NZ's radical transformation from a heavily regulated welfare state to a petri dish for free market ideology. It includes interviews with key political and business figures of the day, who reveal how the dire economic situation by the end of Robert Muldoon's reign made it relatively easy for Roger Douglas to implement extreme reform. Revolution won Best Factual Series at the 1997 Film and TV Awards.

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The New Zealand Wars - Kings and Empires (Episode Two)

1998, Script Editor - Television

In this excerpt from James Belich's award-winning history of Māori vs Pākehā armed conflict, tensions simmer in 1850s Taranaki and Waikato between land hungry settlers and Māori who don't want to sell. This resolve to retain their land results in, what is for Belich, "one of the most important developments in Māori political history" — the birth of the King Movement; but a new governor determined to reassert British authority exploits disunity between Māori factions and a disputed sale at Waitara culminates in "New Zealand's great civil war of the 1860s".

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Revolution (part two) - The Grand Illusion

1996, Writer, Producer - Television

Award-winning series Revolution examined sweeping changes in 1980s New Zealand society. This second episode argues that in its first term in office, the Labour Government promoted neoliberal reform via illusory ideas of consensus and fairness, while PM David Lange mined goodwill from its indie anti-nuclear policy (famously in an Oxford Union debate, see third clip). The interviews include key figures in politics, the public service and business: an age of easy lending and yuppie excess is recalled, while those in rural areas recount the downside of job losses.

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The New Zealand Wars - The Invasion of the Waikato (Episode Three)

1998, Script Editor - Television

In this excerpt from James Belich's award-winning history of Māori vs Pākehā armed conflict, George Grey returns to the governorship in the wake of the costly Taranaki war. Now bitter, secretive and reluctant to share power, he talks peace while planning to strike at the heart of the King Movement in Waikato. As gunboats patrol the Waikato river and a great road is painstakingly built to take his army south, Grey fabricates plots and conspiracies, convincing London to send more troops and ships until the military balance of power tips in his favour.

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50 Years of New Zealand Television - Episode One

2010, Subject - Television

This is the opening episode of the Prime TV series celebrating 50 years of New Zealand television: from an opening night puppet show in Auckland in 1960, through to Outrageous Fortune five decades later. It traverses the medium's development and its major turning points (including the rise of programme-making and news, networking, colour and the arrival of TV3, Prime, NZ on Air, Sky and Māori Television) and interviews key players. The changing nature of the NZ living room — always with the telly in pride of place as modern hearth — is a story within a story.

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The New Zealand Wars - Taranaki Prophets (Episode Four)

1998, Script Editor - Television

In this excerpt from James Belich's award-winning history of Māori vs Pākehā armed conflict, the focus returns to Taranaki, where the charismatic chief Tītokowaru had been promoting peace. But settler demands for land and confiscations exhaust his goodwill and he declares war. Vastly outnumbered, Titokowaru embarks on a devastatingly effective guerrilla campaign aimed at provoking his foes to attack him on his terms. As emotions rise, Tītokowaru's war escalates with the attack on Turuturumōkai Redoubt, an act of cannibalism, and his taunt "I shall not die ..."

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Hudson and Halls - A Love Story

2001, Subject - Television

They came, they battered, they bickered. Peter Hudson and David Halls were as famous for their on-screen spats as they were for their recipes. The couple ("are we gay - well we're certainly merry") turned cooking into comedy. Their popular cooking series led to the duo winning Entertainer of the Year at the 1981 Feltex Awards. This doco explores the relationship, careers and ultimately tragic deaths of this celebrity couple. Produced by Philippa Mossman, who went on to become a TVNZ commissioner, and directed by Juliet Monaghan.

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The New Zealand Wars - The East Coast Wars (Episode Five)

1998, Script Editor - Television

This excerpt from the final part of James Belich's award-winning history of Māori vs Pākehā armed conflict focuses on Tūhoe prophet Rua Kēnana — the target of the last action of the New Zealand Wars in 1916 (73 years after hostilities began). He creates an independent community at Maungapōhatu in the Ureweras (complete with a remarkable meeting house). But any whiff of domestic dissent is intolerable for a government fighting a war overseas. Armed constabulary are sent to apprehend Rua on trumped up charges, with fatal results for two of his followers.

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Revolution (part four) - The New Country

1996, Producer, Writer - Television

Four-part series Revolution examined radical changes in New Zealand society in the 1980s and 1990s. This final episode sums up, after examining "the second wave" of neoliberal reform when National took power in 1990 shortly after Telecom was sold to American interests. Incoming finance minister Ruth "mother of all budgets" Richardson oversaw a reduction of welfare payments, a shake-up of the health system, and a curbing of union powers. Richardson: "in a human sense I understood that [community outrage], but that wasn't going to deflect me".

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Revolution (part three) - The Great Divide

1996, Writer, Producer - Television

Four-part series Revolution examined sweeping changes in New Zealand society that began in the 1980s. This third episode looks at the lurch of the Kiwi stock market from boom to bust in 1987, and the growing philosophical divide between “head boys” PM David Lange and finance minister Roger 'Rogernomics' Douglas. Within two months of the October 1987 stock market crash, $21 billion was lost from the value of NZ shares. Lange and Douglas give accounts of how their differing views on steering the NZ economy eventually resulted in both their resignations.

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The Party's Over

1992, Writer, Narrator - Television

Christopher Columbus sailed 15,000 miles to find the new world: "500 years later, it turned up on the doorstep." This documentary chronicles New Zealand's hit contribution to Expo '92, held on the Seville island where Columbus apparently planned his voyages. Amidst the celebrations, come culture clashes. Reporter Marcia Russell argues that ultimately Expo is about creating consumers and brand awareness, by selling NZ as sophisticated, exotic, proud, and culturally mature. It is also a chance to persuade the masses that Aotearoa is actually south.

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Dame Cath Moves Up - A Personal Portrait

1990, Narrator, Writer - Television

Dame Catherine Tizard has been many things: mother, marriage celebrant, civic leader and Her Majesty's rep in NZ. Here Tizard takes reporter Marcia Russell through her life, from a Waikato town (where she was wary of becoming a farmer's wife); through marrying her uni lecturer; leading Auckland as mayor; to her Governor-General role. Her front-running story parallels societal changes that presented increased opportunities for Kiwi women. A roll-call of Governors-General outlines how for over 100 years the position was held exclusively by white British males.

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Smiling Again

1991, Associate Producer - Television

A law change in the 1980s gave mentally-handicapped children the right to be educated at New Zealand state schools. This 1991 doco examines the pros and cons of mainstreaming special needs children, by looking at the schooling of severely brain-damaged child Jessica Palmer. Teachers both for and against mainstreaming are interviewed, alongside Jessica's parents. Palmer's teacher Sue Dunleavy admits there have been noise issues at times, but thanks to Jessica's presence her classmates have "learnt acceptance and caring and understanding, and it's taken the fear away."

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Mercury 10

1979, Producer, Director

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Perspective

1977 - 1978, Director, Reporter

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Six Artists

1979, Producer, Director

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Moment of Truth

1992, Writer

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Women

1976, Subject

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Sheilas: 28 Years On

2004, Subject

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News at Ten

1975 - 1976, Producer

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The Traders

1994, Producer

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Fourth Estate

1981 - 1988, Presenter - Television

Column Comment in the 60s and News Stand in the 70s established a tradition of print media scrutiny by TV. Fourth Estate succeeded them with a brief expanded to include radio, TV and magazines. For 12 minutes on Friday nights, no media outlet (and especially not broadcaster TVNZ) was safe from the ruminations of journalism lecturer Brian Priestley, along with John Kennedy, editor of the Catholic weekly The Tablet, and guest presenters. Only brief programme excerpts and graphics of the newspaper articles under discussion provide visual relief.

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Beauty and the Beast

1976 - 1985, Presenter - Television

Presented by broadcasting legend Selwyn Toogood, this beloved agony-aunt (and uncle!) discussion show screened on weekday afternoons, from 1976 to 1985. Toogood and four female panelists answered viewers' letters, taking on issues big and small. "We tackle every problem, be it incest, love or tatting" as panelist Liz Grant put it. Regular panellists included artist Shona McFarlane, Heather Eggleton, Catherine Saunders, and writer Johnny Frisbie.

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Speakeasy

1975, Presenter