David Copeland’s legal career lasted three days before he abandoned it to become an actor. By 1984 he was playing Constable George Brooks in Country GP and appearing as a villain in crime drama Inside Straight. He moved into directing, working on series Peppermint Twist, Bert and Maisy and Night of the Red Hunter. After co-founding new media company CWA in 1994, Copeland set up e-learning company Copeland and Associates in 2013.

I don’t make any distinction between one job and the next. As soon as you start doing that you start phoning it in – like an actor who only tries when they’re doing Shakespeare and doesn’t try hard when they’re doing a commercial. David Copeland
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Fallout

1994, As: Joe Ronayne - Television

Written by Tom Scott and Greg McGee, South Pacific Pictures-produced Fallout was an award-winning two-part mini-series dramatising events leading up to NZ’s 80s anti-nuclear stand. PM Robert Muldoon (Ian Mune) calls a snap election when his MP Marilyn Waring crosses the floor on the ‘no nukes’ bill, but his gamble fails, and David Lange's Labour Party is elected. Lange (played by Australian actor Mark Mitchell) is pressured from all sides (including a bullish US administration) to take a firm stance on his anti-nuclear platform. He finally accepts there is no middle ground.

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Fallout - Part Two

1994, As: Joe Ronayne - Television

Written by Tom Scott and Greg McGee, Fallout was an award-winning two-part mini-series about the events leading up to New Zealand's 80s anti-nuclear stand. In part two, the new Lange Labour government narrowly averts an economic crisis; and under political pressure Prime Minister Lange asserts ‘no nukes’ independence at the risk of spurning the country's traditional allies. In this excerpt, Lange speaks at the Labour Party annual conference, then travels to meet with US political officials and British PM Margaret Thatcher (veteran actress Kate Harcourt).

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Fallout - Part One

1994, As: Joe Ronayne - Television

Written by Tom Scott and Greg McGee, Fallout was an award-winning two-part mini-series about the events leading up to New Zealand's 80s anti-nuclear stand. In this first episode Labour sweeps into power with an anti-nuclear platform. Upon taking office, David Lange (played by Australian actor Mark Mitchell) faces pressure to live up to his campaign rhetoric. In this excerpt, we see the parliamentary cut and thrust leading up to the election, with National MP Marilyn Waring defying Muldoon (Ian Mune) to cross the floor on the Nuclear Free New Zealand bill.

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Bungay on Crime - A Ferry Tale (Part One)

1992, Director - Television

The “disappearance” of American tourist Milton Harris became one of New Zealand’s most bizarre insurance frauds. Barrister and QC Mike Bungay examines this curious case over two episodes from his series exploring notable criminal investigations. Part one focuses on Harris’ apparent loss overboard from the Cook Strait ferry and strange events during his trip to NZ which aroused the suspicions of Lloyds, who were facing a multi-million dollar claim. Police officers recall the arrest for shoplifting which undid Harris, and his peculiar behaviour in custody.

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Absent Without Leave

1992, As: Claude - Film

In 1992 Australian soap star Craig McLachlan (Neighbours) landed in NZ, to tackle one of his only starring roles in a movie to date. McLachlan plays Ed — a WWll soldier who goes AWOL — in a story 74-year-old writer James Edwards drew from his own life. When Ed is shipped overseas with no leave, he feels obliged to make sure that his recently pregnant wife Daisy (Katrina Hobbs) is OK before he departs. But then the days become weeks. For director John Laing the road movie offered a chance to explore changing gender roles, as women discovered life beyond house and family.

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Away Laughing - Series Two, Episode One

1992, Director - Television

Away Laughing was an early sketch comedy show from Wellington company Gibson Group. In this episode from the second series, skaters, spies, panelbeaters and Buck Shelford are the butt of jokes. Kevin Smith and Murray Keane play two Australians mocking New Zealand place names; a trio of firefighters make idiots of themselves in a classroom; ingratiating priest Phineas O'Diddle (Danny Mulheron) arrives at the pub in time to join in on Hori's birthday; and onetime Telecom promo man Gordon McLauchlan interviews two gorillas about Telecom's privatisation.

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Bungay on Crime - A Ferry Tale (Part Two)

1992, Director - Television

The “disappearance” of American tourist Milton Harris was one of NZ’s most bizarre insurance frauds. Barrister and QC Mike Bungay examines the case over two episodes, in his series exploring notable criminal investigations. This second part reveals how Harris staged his apparent loss at sea, the new life he built for himself in rural West Auckland and the way his tangled deception came undone (complete with a suspected parcel bomb and postal fraud). It also features an in-flight interview with Harris, shot during his trip home following deportation.

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Away Laughing

1991 - 1992, Director - Television

Debuting on 6 May 1991, this TV3 comedy show saw sketches tested out before a live (unseen) audience — and dropped from the episode if no one laughed. The performers were a mixture of rising standup comics (Jon Bridges) and theatre talents (Danny Mulheron, Carol Smith), plus late actors Kevin Smith and Peta Rutter. Producer Dave Gibson wanted to avoid satire and politics, in favour of the challenge of broad social comedy. Among the regular sketches were a pair of gormless skateboarders and ingratiating priest Phineas O’Diddle. Another season followed in 1992.

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Away Laughing - First Episode

1991, Director - Television

This sketch comedy series screened over two years in the early 90s. Many of the Gibson Group show's skits were tested and filmed in a theatre, in front of a paying audience. This first episode sees laughs come from Watties spaghetti and a roll call of emerging comic talent of the era. Danny Mulheron and Hori Ahipene act up, Tim Balme plays Trivial Pursuit, Kevin Smith gets his vernacular on negotiating NZ customs, Peta Rutter crushes on Steve Parr, and Facial DBX comedians Jon Bridges and David Downs are teenage skaters who talk digital watches while wearing day-glo.

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Night of the Red Hunter - Telefeature

1989, Director - Television

This sci-fi telefeature for kids follows the adventures of runaways Peter (Toby Laing) and Maggie (Toni Driscoll), who meet when Maggie’s attempt to get Picnic bars on a five finger discount go awry and "rich brat" Peter is on the lam on a 10-speed. After falling into a grave of golden light at a farm cemetery, they wake up in the house of the strange Piper family. Laing is now trumpeter for Fat Freddys Drop, and a young Kerry Fox appears briefly as a policewoman in the opening. Scripted by veteran Ken Catran, the telefeature was re-cut from a four-part series.

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Erua

1988, Director - Television

Erua tells the story of an intriguing friendship between artist Toss Woollaston (Grant Tilly) and a young Māori boy Erua (Turei Reedy) who modelled for him each Wednesday evening in Greymouth, in the early 60s. Woollaston had seen the boy playing "like one dark bead shaken in a tray of pale ones". The image made him curious to find what Erua was like, and to try to draw "that". Tilly won a 1989 NZ Film and Television Award for his performance; he argued that it was "an awesome responsibility" to play someone who was still alive. Erua also won awards for Best Drama and Screenplay.

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Bert and Maisy

1988, Director - Television

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Peppermint Twist

1987, Director - Television

Peppermint Twist’s pastel-tinted portrait of 60s puberty floated onto NZ screens in 1987 and despite winning a solid teen following, only screened for one series. Set amongst a group of teens in small town Roseville (in reality the outdoors set originally used for Country GP), the show’s stylised look and sound had few Kiwi precedents - though its links to US TV perennial Happy Days are clear. Peppermint made liberal, and increasingly confident use of period music, with each episode named after a pop song of the day.

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Open House - Happy Birthday (First Episode)

1986, As: Martin Evans - Television

Open House revolved around the ups and downs of a drop-in house run by Tony Van Der Berg (Frank Whitten, later Outrageous Fortune's Grandpa Ted). In this first episode there's money trouble, court trouble, domestics, a pregnant teenager and an abandoned baby ... but there's community spirit aplenty as the house's whānau prepares for its first birthday celebration, complete with Scottish brass band and Samoan drums. Tony's first lines to a raving old man on Petone Beach? "Good onya mate!". Features author Emily Perkins as Tony's idealistic stepdaughter.

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Arriving Tuesday

1986, Writer - Film

This Richard Riddiford-directed relationship drama explores the restless homecoming of a Kiwi from her OE. Monica (Judy McIntosh) returns from Europe to sculptor Nick (Peter Hayden), who has stayed behind in Waiuku. She goads him into a road trip north, searching for connection to him and home. At a Dargaville pub they meet Riki (Rawiri Paratene), a charismatic poet who has left the city to find his Ngapuhi roots. Monica is intrigued by Riki's bond to his people and the land, which widens a rift between her and Nick. Caution: this excerpt contains bath tub sax. 

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Open House

1986 - 1987, Director, As: Martin Evans - Television

This 38 episode series revolved around the ups and downs of a community house run by Tony Van Der Berg (Frank Whitten). The series was devised by Liddy Holloway to meet a network call for an Eastenders-style drama that might tackle social issue storylines. It was the first drama series to put a Māori whānau (the Mitchells) at its centre. Despite being well-reviewed, it was perhaps the last gasp of Avalon-produced uncompromisingly local drama (satirised as the ‘Wellington style’), before TV production largely shifted to Auckland to face up to commercial pressures.

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Worzel Gummidge Down Under

1987, As Commissionaire Gilbert - Television

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Cuckoo Land - The Neighbour (Episode Two)

1985, As: Rattycliffe - Television

Petunia and her daughters Patch and Polly have moved into their decidedly unconventional dream house in the second episode of this surreal children's fantasy drama written by Margaret Mahy and directed by Yvonne McKay. Their idyllic new life of music making is soon shattered by their home handyman neighbour from hell Branchy (Grant Tilly). But he has problems of his own with the unwelcome arrival of his three long lost, grasping and perpetually hungry sons. Special guest Jon Gadsby contributes an energetic performance as pie magnate Chicken Licken.

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Heart of the High Country

1985, As: Prosecutor - Television

Heart of the High Country saw NZ and the mother country getting into bed together, on and off the screen. The rags/riches/rags tale chronicles 18 years for Ceci (Valerie Gogan), a working class Brit who arrives in the South Island and fends off a series of mean-tempered pioneer males — and one long unrequited love. The Sam Pillsbury-directed mini-series played in primetime on ITV in the UK, and was funded by England’s Central TV and TVNZ. It shares storytelling DNA with earlier TV movie It’s Lizzie to Those Close; Brit Elizabeth Gowans scripted both.

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Country GP - Tim's Commie Dad

1984, As: George Brooks - Television

The Country GP (Lani Tupu) takes a back seat in an episode set in the first week of 1950, which centres around the arrival in Mason’s Valley of the parents of local teacher Tim Bryant (Duncan Smith). The discovery that Tim’s father Sid (played by Vigil scriptwriter Graeme Tetley) is a unionist and paid up member of the Communist Party shatters the township’s apparently relaxed way of life. Sid has come to warn his son of difficult times ahead that could see him back in prison, but his presence inflames some of the locals and leads to a questioning of the true meaning of freedom.

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Country GP

1984 - 1985, As: Constable George Brooks - Television

Country GP was a major 80s drama series that charted the post-war years 1945 to 1950 in a rural central South Island town. Using fast-turnaround techniques that anticipated later series like Shortland Street, 66 episodes of Country GP were shot in 18 months at a specially built set in Whiteman’s Valley, Lower Hutt. It was groundbreaking as the first NZ series to cast a Samoan in a title role (Lani Tupu as Dr David Miller); but it also provided a nostalgic look back to an apparently kinder, gentler time than mid-80s New Zealand with its major social reforms and upheavals.

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Inside Straight

1984, As: Brian - Television

Shot on location in Wellington, often after dark, Inside Straight helped usher in a new era of Kiwi TV dramas, far from the rural backblocks. This Minder-esque portrait of Wellington’s underworld was inspired by writer Keith Aberdein’s experiences as a taxi-driver and all night cafe worker. Phillip Gordon (soon to win fame as a conman in Came a Hot Friday) stars as the former fisherman, learning the ways of the city from veteran taxi driver Roy Billing. A solid but unspectacular rater over 10 episodes, the show was scuttled by the launch of trucker’s tale Roche.

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McPhail and Gadsby - Best of Series Five

1983, As: Various Roles - Television

After turning “Jeez Wayne” into a national catchphrase with their hit series A Week of It, comedy duo David McPhail and Jon Gadsby continued their TV dream run with the sketch comedy show McPhail and Gadsby. This 'Best of' from the Feltex Award-winning fifth season includes these highlights: 'pronouncing things proper with Jim Knox'; 'This Is Your Life with Robert Muldoon' (featuring McPhail’s infamous caricature of the then Prime Minister); Lynn Waldegrave’s popular impersonation of music show host Karyn Hay; and a Goodnight Kiwi take-off in 'Goodnight from the Beehive'.

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Bad Blood

1982, As: George Lindsay - Film

This feature tells the true story of the notorious 1941 manhunt for Stanley Graham. The West Coast farmer went bush after a shooting spree that followed police pressure to have him hand over his firearms. Seven men were ultimately killed. Written by Kiwi-born Andrew Brown (from Harold Willis’ book), Bad Blood was made during the tax break era for UK TV, but was released in NZ cinemas. Directed by Brit Mike Newell (Four Weddings and a Funeral), it won strong reviews. Aussie legend Jack Thompson and compatriot Carol Burns star as the isolated Bonnie and Clyde coasters.