Curtis Vowell began acting in short films while studying at Wellington drama school Toi Whakaari. Vowell has worked as both an actor and assistant director. In 2014 he made his directing debut with Fantail, starring (and written by) his partner Sophie Henderson. The tale of a young petrol station worker who identifies as Māori was acclaimed as fresh, fascinating, "funny and dark and sad" (The Listener).
A fascinating and brave film anchored by Sophie Henderson’s Kidman-esque performance ... Curtis Vowell’s direction lends a refreshing lightness to a story that both embraces and critiques New Zealand culture, and what that term actually means. Sam Brooks reviewing Fantail on website Lumiere, August 2013
Service station worker Tania (Sophie Henderson) is a blonde-haired, blue-eyed woman who identifies as Māori, working to take her little bro Pi to Surfer’s to find their Dad. But flitting Pi causes plans to go awry. Directed by Curtis Vowell (his debut) the script was adapted by Henderson from her theatre monologue, and shot in 20 days via the NZFC’s low budget Escalator scheme. The twist on the Hine-nui-te-po myth was a breakout hit of the 2013 NZ Film Festival. NZ Herald critic Dominic Corry raved: “one of the freshest New Zealand films to come along in years”.
This 2012 comedy series follows city slicker lawyer Will (Toby Sharpe) who inherits guardianship of his half-sister Lily, a stately house, a greyhound (the notoriously named Lundydixonwatson) and its live-in trainer Marty. Will’s life goes to the dogs as he enters the low-rent world of greyhound racing. The downlowconcept production won wide acclaim; On the Box’s Chris Philpott thought it New Zealand's best scripted TV comedy to date, as did the Herald's Chris Schulz. Hounds won Best Comedy at the 2012 NZ TV Awards. The six-part season screened at 10pm Fridays on TV3.
In this acclaimed comedy series the life of a lawyer goes to the dogs, when his father’s death throws him into Auckland’s low-rent greyhound racing scene. In the second to last episode, Will’s mongrel crew have a new dog, trainer Marty does community service and Will takes on a retail job. Thedownlowconcept production screened late Friday nights on TV3. Stuff television critic Chris Philpott thought it the best scripted comedy New Zealand had produced to date. Hounds won Best Comedy at the 2012 NZ TV Awards.
The Cult follows two groups: the members of a commune, who have renounced all contact with the outside world, and a loose-knit team of 'liberators', keen to reestablish contact with commune members they care about. The first prime time drama from Great Southern Film and Television won six of its 11 nominations at the 2010 Qantas Film and Television Awards — including for the acting of Lisa Chappell and Danielle Cormack (as a devious doctor). It was nominated for Best Drama. The moody 13-part thriller was created by Kathryn Burnett and Peter Cox.
TV personality Jaquie Brown plays (and plays up) herself for delightful comic effect in this hit TV3 satire. Former Campbell Live reporter Brown plays an egomaniacal journalist looking to climb the media ladder any which way she can. Auckland's aspirational set: a cast of Metro social page alumni and wannabes, are skewered with self-referential glee. The second series was retitled for DVD release as The Jaquie Brown Odyssey; both series won acclaim and Best Comedy gongs at the Qantas Film and TV Awards. The Listener gushed: "A local sitcom that doesn't suck."
During WWII the Post Office photographed letters, enabling mass mailing to soldiers via rolls of film. Post Office worker Ngaire (Yvette Reid) deals with mail for soldiers serving overseas. On this small, handsomely-framed canvas, writer-director Paolo Rotondo explores how war and distance affect relationships. Dead Letters makes a persuasive case that the memories preserved in words and film contain their own magic, even when that magic is tinged with sadness and death. It won best short screenplay at the 2006 New Zealand Screen Awards.
In this mockumentary series, hapless property developer turned politican Dennis Plant (played by Bob Maclaren) campaigns to win a fictional Queenstown seat, then later launches party Future New Zealand. Made by Great Southern, the first season screened on TV3. A second season on TV One coincided with the 2008 election; it was thrice nominated at the 2009 Qantas NZ Film and TV Awards (Best Comedy, plus Actor and Supporting Actor, for Maclaren and Andrew King respectively). Reality met fiction when Plant's 2008 election blog appeared on the NZ Herald website.
The Ballantyne's Department Store fire in November 1947 claimed 41 lives and left a lasting scar on Christchurch — the city’s biggest single disaster until the 2011 earthquake. The events of that spring day are explored in this short film which intersperses archive footage with a fictional account of workers and customers in the tailoring department as the dramas of everyday life are suddenly overwhelmed. It was directed by Aileen O’Sullivan, shot by Alun Bollinger and made with the NZ Drama School graduating class of 2002 (with music by Gareth Farr).