Launched on 5 April 1976, Winners & Losers heralded a new age in Kiwi screen drama. Indie talents Roger Donaldson and Ian Mune based their tales of success and failure on New Zealand short stories, after managing to negotiate funding from various government sources. Then the pair took the series to Europe, proving there was strong overseas demand for Kiwi stories. In the backgrounders, Mune recalls the show's origins. There are also pieces on its place in local screen history, and its 2018 restoration. Plus watch two video interviews on the series.
This short clip showcases restoration work done by Park Road Post Production for 1976 series Winners & Losers. The left image is taken from one of the best versions available before 2018. In the middle is a digital scan of the original master negative, the first stage in restoration. On the right is the final version after restoration and grading. The images are of Ian Mune in A Lawful Excuse, Shining with the Shiner, Yvonne Lawley in Blues for Miss Laverty, Julie Wehipeihana in Big Brother, Little Sister, Clyde Scott in After the Depression, David Weatherley in A Great Day, and A Lawful Excuse.
Bill Morrison is a man on a mission. His wife and child can't walk nearly as fast. As the trio head toward the mining settlement where a new job awaits, Bill is about to react in different ways to two very different surprises — one from his wife, and one at the mine. This half-hour drama from the Winners & Losers series is based on a Maurice Shadbolt story, which later fed into Shadbolt's decade-in-the-making novel Strangers and Journeys. Singer turned advertising veteran Clyde Scott plays Bill. Actor and public speaking expert Jane Thomas John plays the nameless, long-suffering wife.
Almost two decades before Once Were Warriors, another drama about urban Māori under pressure stirred controversy. Hema (Dale Williams) and Janey (Julie Wehipeihana) are two kids adrift in the city, trying to escape a broken home. Screen historian Trisha Dunleavy found this "the most powerful and controversial" edition of the Winners & Losers series; it was TV's first drama about "the alienation of Māori in a contemporary urban setting". Based on a Witi Ihimaera story, it also marked the first solo directing credit for Ian Mune. He later directed the sequel to Once Were Warriors.
Veteran actor Yvonne Lawley (Gloss, Ruby and Rata) landed her first leading role on-screen with this adaptation of a Maurice Duggan short story. Lawley plays Mary May Laverty, a proud but lonely violin teacher who craves "a little human warmth", but fails to connect with people. Awkwardness abounds when she invites the father of one of her students over. The half-hour drama was co-directed by Ian Mune and Roger Donaldson, as part of their Winners & Losers series of short story adaptations. It closely follows Duggan's original story, which was one of his most popular.
Frank Sargeson’s tale of two men and a boat is adapted for this episode of Winners & Losers. Fred (played by radio actor William Smith) sets off for a spot of fishing with recent acquaintance Ken (theatre veteran David Weatherley). As the pair head out across the harbour, Ken doesn't seem all that receptive to Fred's friendly interrogation. The episode marked only the second time that Ian Mune had directed solo for the screen. Storms, a leaky dinghy and Mune's near drowning while acting as a stand-in made this one of the most challenging shoots of the Winners series.
This episode of anthology series Winners & Losers takes a fresh angle on going straight. Smooth-talking criminal Mick (Ian Mune) dreams of starting over, by cultivating mushrooms with cellmate Charlie (Coronation Street's Ivan Beavis). Charlie claims to have committed a lawful murder, thanks to a technicality. In an inspired change to Barry Crump's original story, Mick commandeers a bus to finance the pair's plan. Crump praised the episode, but felt that Mick and Charlie treat their third cellmate unfairly. Director Roger Donaldson cameos in a red Swanndri during the bus scenes.
Conman and victim face off in the first, and arguably funniest Winners & Losers episode. Legendary vagabond The Shiner (Coronation Street's Ivan Beavis) sets out to prove to his fellow swaggers that he can con alcohol from a dour publican (Ian Watkin). Co-director Ian Mune dons a fake eye; singer Tommy Adderley plays harmonica. The real life Shiner — Irishman Ned Slattery — was immortalised in a series of stories by John A Lee. Although Lee claimed to have "once walked thirty miles side by side" with Slattery, he admitted that his Shiner stories were far from gospel truth.
This acclaimed drama from 1975 adapts a Katherine Mansfield story about three travellers who encounter a strange woman and child, at a remote country store. Co-directed by Roger Donaldson and Ian Mune, it won Feltex Awards for Best Script (Mune and Peter Hansard) and Actress (Ilona Rodgers). Mune and Donaldson used the drama's success and innovative financing model as a 'proof of concept', to secure funding for their 1976 series Winners & Losers. The Woman at the Store debuted on Kiwi TV screens in March 1975; it was sold as part of the Winners series overseas.
Long before they became veritable Kiwi screen legends, Ian Mune and Roger Donaldson hatched a clever plan: pool their talents, turn some classic short stories into a series, and maybe even get paid for their efforts. The result was landmark 1976 anthology series Winners & Losers, which helped open the door for New Zealand stories on screen.
In this mini ScreenTalk interview, New Zealand screen expert Roger Horrocks provides a quick guide to breakthrough 1970s drama series Winners & Losers — who made it, where they managed to find the funding, and why the series is so important for the Kiwi screen industry.
Quite aside from being a talented and prolific actor, Ian Mune has made behind the scenes contributions to many New Zealand screen landmarks. Mune's writing career ranges from some of New Zealand's earliest television series to Goodbye Pork Pie. His work as director includes classics Came a Hot Friday and The End of the Golden Weather, and the hit sequel to Once Were Warriors.
Roger Donaldson is notable for spearheading the New Zealand film renaissance with Sleeping Dogs (1977). He has been busy directing in Hollywood for much of the period since. Donaldson's first Kiwi story since acclaimed drama Smash Palace (1981) was Burt Munro biopic The World’s Fastest Indian (2005) — the most successful New Zealand film on home soil until the arrival of Taika Waititi's Boy in 2010.