Jess Feast is a documentary maker whose work covers everything from Berlin and ballet to the Flight of the Conchords. Cowboys & Communists examined cultural conflicts in post-cold war Berlin via a US-themed bar and residents of the tower block it’s housed in. 2013 breakout hit Gardening with Soul follows a year in the life of a vivacious nonagenarian nun and won the Best Documentary Moa (NZ Film) award.
Now is the time to record these stories. For me it was important to record a story that I had never heard before.[...] And a lot of Germans had never heard it. Jess Feast, on Cowboys and Communists
Gardening with Soul follows four seasons in the life of irresistible gardening nun Sister Loyola Galvin. Director Jess Feast (Cowboys and Communists) unearths sage gems from the nonagenarian on everything from compost to Catholic Church sex abuse scandals. The cycles of Wellington’s weather are charted via its influence on Loyola’s Island Bay garden, from the 2011 snow to flax-drunk tui. Feast worked with editor Annie Collins to piece together a paean to a life lived with zest and compassion. Soul won the Best Documentary at the 2013 Moa (NZ Film) Awards.
In this episode of The Gravy Warren Maxwell employs the services of Wellington architect Gerald Melling. En route the Liverpudlian recalls his path down under, via underground publishing and scandal in 60s Toronto to designing punchy, idiosyncratic Kiwi buildings. These include the Signal Box house (Home New Zealand 2008 House of the Year) which lets the brake off the metaphorical possibilities of its Masterton location. Gabe McDonnell then looks at Richard Meros' obsession with Helen Clark, and its 'adaptation' for theatre by young lover/playwright Arthur Meek.
Jess Feast's debut feature documentary centres around the hip Berlin burlesque joint, White Trash Fast Food, and explores life in post-wall East Berlin: a place where libertines and die-hard communists co-exist but not always harmoniously. The Cowboy is Wally, an artist and chef, who escaped LA to live a life of freedom in Berlin. The Communist is Horst, an intelligent ex-journalist who lives upstairs from White Trash, and mourns for the old regime. Won Best Documentary by a young filmmaker at the Kassel Documentary Festival, 2007.
The Gravy was made for TVNZ by Sticky Pictures. The award-winning arts series was described as a “30 minute tour through creative Aotearoa” — usually featuring three stories per episode, but with every fourth show showcasing one subject. Conceived as “a show about creative people made by creative people, both in front of the camera and behind”, it featured presenters who were practising artists: photographer/graphic artist Ross Liew, musician Warren Maxwell, and writer Gabe McDonnell. In total, roughly 170 artists were profiled across The Gravy's 52 episodes.
Launching in 2005, Artsville was a long-running documentary slot showcasing New Zealand art and artists. The subjects ranged from painters and comic artists, to theatre and dance companies. Pieces varied from hour-long documentaries to multiple items compiled together, all for a late night slot on TV One. Among the directors commissioned were Mark Albiston (award-winner Magical World of Misery), Shirley Horrocks (Questions for Mr Reynolds) and Andrew Bancroft (Book to Box Office). Artsville was repeated on Freeview channel TVNZ6 (now defunct).
These excerpts from arts show The Living Room mark an early screen appearance for "jungle folk comedy duo" Flight of the Conchords. Starting in Wellington and building to performances at the 2002 Edinburgh Festival Fringe, the item sees longtime colleague Taika Waititi playing the duo's wisetalking manager, pre Rhys Darby. After meeting Jonah Lomu at the airport, dreams of fame face cramped digs and the intense competition of Edinburgh. The duo handle things with their droll resolve. The following year the Conchords were nominated for a Perrier Award, en route to stardom.
A magazine show with an edge, The Living Room did for arts television production what Radio With Pictures did for NZ music — it ripped open the venetian blinds, rearranged the plastic-covered cushions, and shone the sun on Aotearoa’s homegrown creative culture. Often letting the subjects film and present their own stories, it was produced for three series by Wellington’s Sticky Pictures, who also made follow-up arts showcase The Gravy. These excerpts from the first series show a calvacade of local talent, including an early Flight of the Conchords screen outing.
Each episode of Going Going Gone introduces sellers as they head to auction, and then sees if buyers agree with their valuations when the items go under the hammer. This opening episode heads to Turners for a classic car auction, and follows a woman selling off her antique family furniture, as her heirlooms are assessed then presented for sale by auctioneer James Parkinson. The show ends with a teaser: the arrival of a bejewelled solid gold bull at Webb’s auction house. The long-running popular factual show was made by Greenstone Productions for TVNZ.
Irreverent 90s youth show hosts Mikey Havoc and Jeremy ‘Newsboy’ Wells went on the road in this hit series. Down south they infamously outed Gore as the “gay capital of New Zealand”. While many viewers had a laugh at the Auckland duo’s lampooning of small town conservatism, some took the bait and were not amused by Newsboy's “gay man’s Gore” moniker, preferring to tout the town’s trout fishing, line-dancing and country music. The mischievous pair also visit Dunedin, Fox Glacier and Queenstown, where they 'promote' attractions and meet base jumper Chuck Berry.
Havoc and Newsboy took the malarky of their 90s youth show on the road in this 1999 series. This episode sees the pair talking intelligence. In Wellington they spy on Keith Quinn, simulate an earthquake and hang out outside Defence HQ with journalist Nicky Hager, to talk SIS surveillance and silver protective curtains. The intrepid duo follow Hager's leads to "the most secret place in New Zealand": the Waihopai intelligence base near Blenheim. “We went and did a dance, trespassed and left our masks on the front gate”. On the ferry en route, Newsboy pays homage to song 'Montego Bay'.