After shooting Taika Waititi's Oscar-nominated short film Two Cars, One Night (2003), Adam Clark made his feature debut as a director of photography in 2007 with Waititi's first full-length movie, odd couple tale Eagle vs Shark. After shooting Waititi's second movie — Kiwi box office champ Boy — Clark won a Qantas Film award in 2010. His eclectic CV also includes much travelled short film The Hole, as well as music videos (Little Things), commercials, and docudrama What Really Happened - Waitangi. His contributions to Vincent Ward's Rain of the Children were also Qantas nominated.
Allen Guilford, AlBol (Alun Bollinger) and Richard Bluck taught me all the skills I needed to become a cinematographer. But in the end you have to reinvent the wheel for yourself. My wheel still has rough edges, but I'm working on it. Adam Clark
Two cars, one day: directed by Taika Waititi, this extended public service announcement uses humour to address the dangers of motoring under the influence of marijuana. A trio of tamariki imitate their Dads’ stoned antics, driving home what’s at stake when getting behind the wheel while ‘blazed’. Young Julian Dennison was fresh from his acting debut in Shopping. Waititi later cast him to co-star with Sam Neill in his 2016 hit Hunt for the Wilderpeople. The advertisement was part of a Clemenger BBDO traffic safety campaign made for the NZ Transport Agency.
This docudrama follows an imaginary news reporter who travels back in time to cover the days leading up to the Treaty of Waitangi’s signing on 6 February 1840. Dropping the usual solemnity surrounding Aotearoa’s founding document, it uses humour and asides to camera to evoke the chaos and motives behind the treaty. Written by Gavin Strawhan, with input from novelist Witi Ihimaera, What Really Happened screened on TVNZ for Waitangi Day 2011. Its nominations at the Aotearoa TV Awards included Best Drama, director (Peter Burger) and actor Jarod Rawiri (who played Hōne Heke).
Taika Waititi's blockbuster second movie revolves around an imaginative 11-year-old East Coast boy (James Rolleston) trying to make sense of his world — and the return of his just-out-of-jail father (Waititi). Intended as a "painful comedy of growing up", Boy mixes poignancy with trademark whimsy and visual inventiveness. The film was shot in the Bay of Plenty area where Waititi partly grew up. A winner in its section at the 2010 Berlin Film Festival, Boy soon became the most successful local release on its home soil (at least until the arrival of Waititi's 2016 hit Hunt for the Wilderpeople).
This much praised documentary revisits the subject of a film Vincent Ward made in 1978, aged 21. That film, In Spring One Plants Alone, told the story of 80-year-old Puhi, who lived with her schizophrenic son in the isolated Urewera. The follow-up — part detective documentary, part historical reenactment — focuses on Puhi's life. She married the son of Māori prophet Rua Kenana, had 14 children, and after a run of tragedies, believed herself to be cursed. This excerpt goes “way out there in the bush” to the Maungapohatu community where Rua “made the city of God on Earth”.
Taika Waititi's 80s extravaganza wouldn't have been complete without the man himself arriving on set in a DeLorean — the time-travelling car from Back to the Future. The clip for The Phoenix Foundation is another homage-packed example of lo-fi genius from the Oscar nominated director. Note how Eastern European-derived keyboardist Luke Buda is playing a 'Poland' synthesizer. Said Waititi: "I spotted the DeLorean parked near our flat in Mt Cook, and left a note under the wiper saying 'what year are you from?' Turns it was one of two owned by a local doctor."
Taika (Boy) Waititi's first feature is an offbeat comedy about two lonely misfits and their attempts to find love. Lily (Loren Taylor) is a shy fast-food cashier with a crush on clueless gaming geek Jarrod (Conchord Jemaine Clement). When Lily crashes Jarrod's fancy dress party wearing a shark costume and impresses the self-styled ‘Eagle Lord' with her gaming prowess — excerpted here — she gets her man. But their budding romance is sorely tested by Jarrod's obsession with a childhood nemesis. Empire called the film, "a comic delight destined for cult adoration."
Vincent Ward's fifth feature follows an Irishwoman in 1860s New Zealand, as Māori tribes resist the occupation of their land by the British. Sarah (Samantha Morton) has had an affair with a Māori and borne his child. Years later the boy is kidnapped by his grandfather, a powerful tribal leader. Sarah embarks on a search for her child, aided by warrior Wiremu (Cliff Curtis). When she finds him, both mother and son must decide to which culture they belong. This excerpt from the notoriously ambitious film sees Sarah encountering charismatic chief Te Kai Po (Temuera Morrison).
Six Māori Battalion soldiers camped in Italian ruins wait for night to fall. In the silence, the bros-in-arms distract themselves with jokes. A tohu (sign) brings them back to reality, and they gather to say a karakia before returning to the fray. Director Taika Waititi describes the soldiers as young men with "a special bond, strengthened by their character, their culture and each other." Shot in the rubble of the old Wellington Hospital, Tama Tū won international acclaim. Invited to over 40 international festivals, its many awards included honourable mentions at Sundance and Berlin.
The Insiders Guide to Happiness follows the interconnecting lives of eight 20-something characters — one of them dead — as they search for happiness. Dramatic, comic, sexy, surreal, the drama won critical acclaim and was a ratings success. An ambitious chaos theory-derived 'meta' concept is underpinned by strong performances from the ensemble of burgeoning acting talent, and stylishly-shot Wellington city locations. The Gibson Group production won seven awards at the 2005 NZ Screen Awards, including Best Drama and Best Director (Mark Beesley)
One night in a West Coast pub, Melanie (Australian actor Rachel Blake) meets a handsome stranger (Sam Neill) and accepts his invitation to go back to his place. When they board his boat she discovers it is further than she thought (a shack on a deserted island). Once they arrive he treats her like a princess. However it slowly dawns on her that she's been kidnapped. Terrified, she also knows that he's her only way off the island. As events play out in Gaylene Preston's twisted thriller, Melanie's feelings change from anger and fear — to desire.
Youngsters Romeo, Ed, and Polly wait in two cars after dark while their parents are inside drinking. It’s a situation many Kiwis would recognise: cars without parents outside the bar or rugby club. Soon cross-car rivalry warms to budding friendship. Winning performances, and the tender mix of comedy and romance saw the tale of a Te Kaha pub carpark become an international hit. Two Cars won a boot-full of awards, launched Waititi’s career, and was the second New Zealand short to be nominated for an Academy Award. Waititi infamously feigned sleep during the 2005 ceremony.
Notable music video and feature film director Chris Graham (Sione's Wedding, Scribe) made his drama debut with this short film, which finds a bus driver and his passengers lost in their own thoughts on a rainy Wellington night. As they ruminate on incidents in their lives, ranging from confused and sad through to contented and joyous, the driver’s thousand yard stare portends a quiet desperation of his own. Shot in black and white, the largely wordless Bus Stop finds a group of people sharing an experience but completely alone (yes, even pre-iPhone) in their own worlds.
This (mostly) black and white video stars late great actor Wi Kuki Kaa (Ngāti, Utu). The concept is simple but impactful: a close-up on Kaa's eye leads the viewer in and out of a series of memories. In combination with Kaa's performance — seated on a veranda, as family activities take place around him — Chris Graham's video works superbly to convey the essence of the song. The cinematography is by Adam Clark (Boy, the Oscar-nominated Two Cars, One Night). Julian Arahanga (Broken English) appears among the moving celebration of whānau and community.
Written by Scott Wills, shortly before he won an award for acting in hit pool caper Stickmen, Ouch is the tale of a man (played by Wills) who arrives at a beach close to sunset, gazes intently at a nearby house, and dives into the ocean. Afterwards he approaches the house, and slips inside. The puzzle presented for viewers in this wordless short film is working out what sort of intruder this man is. Wills, director Brian Challis and future Boy producer Ainsley Gardiner first worked together on another moody, low dialogue short, The Hole (1998), which played at festivals around the globe.
Awash with off-kilter angles and some highly unusual noises, The Hole centres around a man and a woman who react in very different ways to the unexpected. Dean (Scott Wills from Apron Strings) and Jenny (Magik and Rose’s Nicola Murphy) are digging a well when Jenny hears voices from the bottom of the hole. The irascible Dean starts thinking about exploitation; Jenny thinks about helping. Inspired by a tale told by his grandmother, Brian Challis’ first film was invited to the prestigious Clermont-Ferrand Short Film Festival, plus more than a dozen others.