David Donaldson is one third of Plan 9, a musical collective whose CV of soundtracks includes short films, 20+ features, and over 130 hours of television. Donaldson and colleagues Janet Roddick and Steve Roche all played in celebrated band Six Volts. Since then they have won multiple soundtrack awards, including for films Predicament and Perfect Strangers. Donaldson also plays in Thrashing Marlin and The Labcoats.
I think coming from a more experimental and sound oriented background has served me well as a soundtrack composer. The lines between music and sound design can be quite blurred and that area of scoring suits my approach to music. David Donaldson
The Great Maiden's Blush hinges on two people from very different backgrounds: a girl-racer in prison for manslaughter (Hope and Wire's Miriama McDowell), who plans to adopt out her baby, and a failed classical pianist (Renee Lyons) whose own baby is due for a risky operation. Each must confront their own secrets in order to move forward. Andrea Bosshard and Shane Loader's acclaimed third movie continues an interest in character-rich stories where "big themes play out in modest circumstances". It won awards for McDowell and Best Self-Funded Film at the 2017 NZ Film Awards.
Boy director Taika Waititi teams up with his Eagle vs Shark star Jemaine Clement to present this bloody comedy about the travails of a flat of vampires. Reality TV-style cameras tag the vamps as they struggle to get into Courtenay Place nightclubs, squabble over chores and face off werewolves. A roster of Kiwi comedic talent (including Jonathan Brugh and Rhys Darby) feature. After winning fangtastic reviews at America's Sundance and SXSW festivals, Shadows won a run of global sales, local success and four Moa awards, including Best Self-Funded Feature.
Edwin Rouper has a habit of annoying people within seconds of meeting them. Cursed with 'Koontz-syndrome', a neurological condition in which temper and confidence dominate, he travels to Hollywood, trying to assemble a team of stars to raise awareness for the Koontz cause. Jason Stutter’s mock-documentary gleefully skirts the borderland between the koontz 'condition', and an expletive with a very similiar sound. Acting newbie Bryce Campbell scored an LA comedy award as Edwin; Raybon Kan, Jeremy Corbett and scribe Nick Ward cameo as sundry wackos.
To create award-winning A Year on Ice Antarctic photographer Anthony Powell spent 10 years (and nine winters) clocking the continent on camera: from the 24-hour darkness of winter to desolate, stunning polar vistas (blazing aurora, freezing ice storms) and the creatures and humans who are based there. Time-lapse imagery — Powell’s speciality — evokes the ever-changing patterns of polar life. Powell’s images have screened on National Geographic, Discovery and in BBC’s Frozen Planet. A Year on Ice has inspired awe and acclaim at film festivals worldwide.
In director Grant Lahood's 2013 Tropfest NZ entry a young boy takes Kiwi ingenuity to the next level by creatively adapting his gumboots to net sporting victory. But it’s a risky move. Sprung marks a return for Lahood to his dialogue free short film beginnings (eg. Cannes award-winner The Singing Trophy, and his debut Snail’s Pace). Like those shorts, Sprung has a devilish sense of humour, and a crisply edited contest of wills. The ode to the courage of the young and the unpredictability of science was scored by veteran film and TV composers Plan 9.
In search of a hideout, gun-totting Gigi (Kate Elliott) and a gang with criminal tendencies end up in hot water after crashing into the lives of a middle class Māori family. To describe the whānau as meat lovers would be euphemistic. Actor/director Danny Mulheron has often gleefully given the finger to political correctness — witness Meet the Feebles, stage farce The Sex Fiend, and TV's Seven Periods with Mr Gormsby. This Gibson Group production marks his in your face cinematic debut. The anarchic result promises cannibalism, comedy — and chef Tem Morrison.
This documentary advocates for the protection of one of the last pristine ecosystems on earth: The Ross Sea. Veteran cameraman Peter Young vividly captures the frozen wilderness — freewheeling penguins, fish and sealions under the aquamarine ice — and interviews scientists concerned at threats posed by commercial fishing (including from New Zealand-owned boats). The film confronts unsuspecting New York diners with the origins of their fish, exposing upmarket ‘Chilean sea bass’ as Antarctic toothfish. Last Ocean won Best Film at the 2013 Reel Earth Film Festival.
PJ (Rangimoana Taylor) has been driving trucks for 35 years. But one day after a medical test, he is told to get off the road. PJ’s worries over becoming instantly useless are exacerbated when his partner Ronnie and Ronnie’s ambitious sister go into business. A tale of love, family, and ordinary people struggling to process the type of news none of us ever needs to hear, Hook, Line and Sinker is the second, semi-improvised feature from longtime collaborators Andrea Bosshard and Shane Loader. The Dominion Post called the result “likeable, admirable and hugely enjoyable”.
Director Paul Murphy follows Second Hand Wedding with a romance featuring comedian Rhys Darby, songs by Queen and ... a duck. Darby plays heartbroken nice guy Doug: after a close encounter with a native duck (a paradise shelduck) with emotional problems, he enlists expert help from a sassy animal specialist (played by Brit Sally Hawkins, a Golden Globe-winner for feature Happy-Go-Lucky). True to rom-com form, love ensues ... eventually. NZ Herald reviewer Russell Baillie called Love Birds “an endearingly funny, if sugar-coated local romantic comedy”.
Featuring a rare star turn by stand-up comedian Raybon Kan (who also co-wrote the script), Diagnosis: Death is a genre-stretching tale of oddball nurses, haunted hospitals and bedside romance. Kan plays a cynical teacher sharing a hospital ward with a young student (Jessica Grace Smith), after both are diagnosed with cancer. Trapped in the ward during an experimental drug trial, the duo investigate a strange case of haunting. Shot specifically for DVD, Jason Stutter's second feature also features cameos by Conchords Jemaine Clement, Bret McKenzie, and Rhys Darby.
This documentary is a portrait of Wellington art-dealer Peter McLeavey, who spent over 40 years running his influential Cuba Street gallery. In the Leon Narbey-shot film, McLeavey talks about his life: a roving North Island railway childhood, an early love of art, discovering his New Zealand identity while living in London, and returning home to run over 500 plus exhibitions, initially from his flat — including key showcases of artists such as Toss Woollaston, Gordon Walters, and Colin McCahon.
Scriptwriter Philippa Boyens has described Alice Sebold's bestselling book The Lovely Bones as "brutal, surprising, gorgeous". A tale of murder and how the victim's family and friends deal with it, the story is told from the perspective of the victim — 14-year-old Susie Salmon. For the adaptation Peter Jackson and his Weta FX team engaged in more Heavenly world-building, rendering an afterlife for Susie that "alters and shifts" with her mood. Time praised the film's "gravity and grace", plus Saoirse Ronan's BAFTA-nominated performance as Susie.
A classic case of the little movie that could, Second-Hand Wedding is a feel-good tale of garage sales, and the ties that bind. Worried that her mother’s zeal for bargains might ruin her big day, Cheryl (Holly Shanahan) delays unveiling her wedding plans. When Mum (Geraldine Brophy) finds out the information second-hand, she does not react well. Both actors won NZ Film and TV Awards for their work, and the Kapiti Coast-set film was a bonafide Kiwi hit: breaking out from its independently made origins into the all-time Top 10 for NZ films at the local box office.
30 Arthur Street was a Wellington musical institution. For more than 18 years the building was used as rehearsal space and studio, in which time 20 plus albums and nine feature film scores were partly or wholly recorded there. Directed by Plan 9 composer David Donaldson, this impressionistic doco chronicles some of the building's musical history, plus its destruction to make way for a bypass. Amongst the musicians featured are Toby Laing from Fat Freddys Drop, drummer Anthony Donaldson, and ex-Mutton Bird David Long.
This documentary follows a 32-strong "mob of veterans" (the oldest is 95) on their trip to unveil a war memorial in London's Hyde Park. The memorial honours New Zealand's service in war alongside Britain. The ceremony took place on November 11th 2006, with attendees including Prime Ministers Helen Clark and Tony Blair, The Queen and ... Dave Dobbyn. For many of the elderly vets it is effectively their second OE; they remember war stories and lost mates, flirt with journalists and endure the pitfalls of airport drudgery and jet-lag.
The Hawke’s Bay earthquake was New Zealand’s worst civil disaster. Over 250 people died following the 7.8 quake on 3 February 1931. In this full-length documentary, director Gaylene Preston (Hope and Wire) gathers eyewitness accounts from survivors, including kuia Hana Lyola Cotter, who recounts joining the rescue effort as a teen, poet Lauris Edmond, and a student from Greenmeadows Seminary. Included is eye-opening newsreel footage of the damage. Earthquake was nominated for Best Popular Documentary at the 2006 Qantas TV Awards; it won best sound at the NZ Screen Awards.
The ‘OE’ is a Kiwi rite of passage, but for those travelling in a Kombi van, the trip can feel “like mixed flatting in a space the size of a ping-pong table” (Peter Calder). In Kombi Nation, Sal sets off to tour Europe with her older sister and friend; they’re joined by a dodgy male and a TV crew, recording the shenanigans. Shot guerilla style after workshopping with the young cast, Grant Lahood’s well-reviewed second feature anticipated the rise of observational ‘reality TV’, but its release was hindered by the collapse of production company Kahukura Films.
One night at the pub Melanie (Rachel Blake) meets a handsome stranger (Sam Neill) and accepts his invitation to go back to his place. When they board his boat she finds out that this 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 fairytale, Melanie's feelings change from anger and fear - to desire.
Director Jason Stutter's endearing martial arts parody (and cult classic in the making) was filmed on a shoestring on the mean streets of Wellington. Sam Manu stars as the Tongan Ninja, while Jemaine Clement (Flight of the Conchords), who co-wrote the script, chews the scenery as his arch nemesis, the anonymously named Action Fighter. The film plays for laughs - think B movie accents and bad post-dubbing - and hangs off a flimsy plot involving an evil crime syndicate's hostile takeover of a Chinese restaurant.
The Fellowship of the Ring was the film that brought Peter Jackson's talents to a mass international audience. A year after its release, the first instalment of his adaptation of Tolkien's beloved tale of heroic hobbits was the seventh most successful film of all-time. Critic David Ansen (Newsweek) was one of many to praise the fan-appeasing Frodo-centric take, for its "high-flying risks: it wears its earnestness, and its heart, on its muddy, blood-streaking sleeve." At 2002's Academy Awards, Weta maestro Richard Taylor became the first Kiwi to win two Oscars on one night.
Billy Williams (Cliff Curtis) is enthusiastic and likable, but a bit hopeless. When the driving force behind the Waimatua School 75th Jubilee is killed in an accident, Billy takes over - determined to prove himself. Meanwhile, the arrival of ex-international rugby player Max Seddon (Kevin Smith) forces his wife Pauline (Theresa Healey) to question the choices she has made in her life. This affectionate comedy about small-town NZ life was the first feature directed by actor Michael Hurst, most well-known for his role on the TV series Hercules.
“In the dark and scary depths of a subway, one young man finds fear has a new name: FIZZ.” Jemaine Clement (pre-Flight of the Conchords fame) is the young man who faces up to a sentient soda machine in this short from Jason Stutter. Made for $2000 and filmed over two wintry Wellington nights, Fizz screened at festivals including Locarno, New York, and Clermont-Ferrand. Stutter would successfully repeat the combo of dark wit and dangerous appliance in his Careful with that … series; Clement starred in Stutter’s debut feature Tongan Ninja (2002).
Saving Grace sees spiky street kid Grace (Kirsty Hamilton) get taken in by enigmatic carpenter, Gerald (Jim Moriarty). As Grace falls under (much older) Gerald's spell, she's flummoxed by his claim that he is the messiah. Could Gerald be Jesus of Cuba Street or is he a delusional dole bludger? The screenplay was adapted by Duncan Sarkies (Scarfies) from his stage play. Botes' dramatic feature debut converted fewer viewers than his earlier work, the classic hoodwinker Forgotten Silver; although critic Nicholas Reid welcomed an NZ film that offered "style and brains".
Shoes is a refugee's story told with rhythm and shoes. A woman seeking shelter in a new country arrives at a railway station troubled by turbulent thoughts of her past. Walking past a shop window, she sees some familiar-looking, worn-out shoes which trigger more memories. Pairs of dancing shoes eloquently recreate her journey from dance hall to war zone. Directed by Sally Rodwell, founding member of alternative theatre troupe Red Mole, Shoes screened at international festivals including Montreal and Hof.
Someone Else’s Country looks critically at the radical economic changes implemented by the 1984 Labour Government - where privatisation of state assets was part of a wider agenda that sought to remake New Zealand as a model free market state. The trickle-down ‘Rogernomics’ rhetoric warned of no gain without pain, and here the theory is counterpointed by the social effects (redundant workers, Post Office closures). Made by Alister Barry in 1996 when the effects were raw, the film draws extensively on archive footage and interviews with key “witnesses to history”.
An epic documentary chronicling the extraordinary, unbelievable life of pioneer Kiwi filmmaker Colin McKenzie. Or is it? The first clue that none of this story is true is that the film begins (the opening 10 minutes is excerpted here) with Peter Jackson leading the viewer down a garden path. Much that is absurd and unlikely follows, leading to a curiously emotional climax. The screening of Forgotten Silver memorably stirred up NZ audiences, and it screened at international film festivals such as Cannes and Venice, where it won a special critics' prize.
A young man suffering from mounting sexual frustration (Skitz regular Michael Sengelow) wakes up one day to find incredibly strange things happening between his legs. A comic fable about personal gardening, male organs, and finding the perfect partner, Prickle marked the directorial debut of one-time actor Murray Keane. Keane would showcase his talent for comedy again, when he directed episodes of Outrageous Fortune and Diplomatic Immunity.