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Hero image for Michael Noonan: Pioneering scriptwriter...

Michael Noonan: Pioneering scriptwriter...

Interview – 2009

Michael Noonan was a legend in New Zealand scriptwriting, and not just because he was one of the first to prove you could actually make a living at it. Creator of landmark TV shows The Governor and Close to Home, plus this award-winning drama about Prime Minister Richard Seddon, Noonan often explored ideas of power and social injustice in his work.

Noonan died on 11 June 2023. In this ScreenTalk conducted in 2009, he talked about:

  • Becoming the first script editor in state television's fledgling drama department
  • The secret letter-writing campaign that boosted pioneering forestry drama Pukemanu
  • The importance for writers of having good producer and director partnerships
  • His strong working relationships with directors Murray Reece and Tony Isaac, and their award-winning 1970s dramas Richard John Seddon and The Longest Winter
  • Bonding with author Janet Frame for interview series Three New Zealanders, and deciding it was best that he stayed out of the way of another famous Kiwi author 
  • Working on landmark historical series The Governor — and those he felt campaigned against it
  • Treasured scripts that never got made — including an adaptation of Bill Pearson novel Coal Flat
  • Enjoying his work on 1987 series Legacy — and the rave reviews that met short-lived TV3 drama Homeward Bound, which began as a rival to Shortland Street 
  • "Infiltrating" and being secretary of Kiwi authors' organisation PEN 
This video was first uploaded on 14 April 2009, and is available under this Creative Commons licence. This licence is limited to use of ScreenTalk interview footage only and does not apply to any video content and photographs from films, television, music videos, web series and commercials used in the interview.
Interview - Clare O'Leary. Camera and Editing - Leo Guerchmann
...The Governor became unexpectedly controversial, because first of all the Prime Minister — I think because he found it just too subversive for words — he wanted to do an inspection of its books. And I think that that was partly stimulated by the private sector of the film industry, who were jealous that the project was going ahead . . . some of the big names in the film industry were working on The Governor, and trying desperately to stymie it.
– Michael Noonan on reactions to epic TV production The Governor, from Rob Muldoon and others