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Mike Smith: On directing drama and passing on Russell Crowe...

Mike Smith: On directing drama and passing on Russell Crowe...

Interviews - 2014

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Versatile director Mike Smith has made an enormous amount of New Zealand drama. Highlights of his lengthy television CV include Radio WavesDugganSerial KillersThe Almighty JohnsonsNothing Trivial, tele-movie Siege and docu-drama Nancy Wake: The White Mouse. Smith also had a big hand in creating Heroes (80s pop band on-the-make show), yokels comedy Willy Nilly, children’s drama The Lost Children and 2013 comedy Sunny Skies. He was also one of the key players in the launch of Outrageous Fortune.

In this ScreenTalk, Smith talks about:

  • The unforgettable personnel officer when he interviewed to join state television
  • Vital lessons learned from drama head John McRae, while directing 70s soap Radio Waves
  • Producing and directing Heroes, the drama series about a pop band
  • Failing to cast a young unknown called Russell Crowe
  • Differences between Australia and NZ, after eight years largely working across the Tasman
  • Returning home for drama series Cover Story
  • Creating shows after setting up a production company with editor John Gilbert
  • Making successful short Willy Nilly, about two 'rural idiots', and learning about the complexities of comedy on the hit TV series which followed
  • Casting secrets from his days as producer of Outrageous Fortune: including a lack of network enthusiasm for star Robyn Malcolm, and Munter originally being a Pākehā
  • Working with 'fantastic' producer/director Mark Beesley on The Almighty Johnsons
  • How in a sense directing is a little bit like sex
  • Taking different approaches to turning true life stories into drama with Siege and Underbelly: Land of the Long Green Cloud
  • Lessons learned as a director

This video was first uploaded on 28 April 2014, 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 and Editing - Ian Pryor. Camera - Jess Charlton