Jillian Ewart came to television after spells as both a journalist and publicist.
In the mid 70s Ewart saw an advertisement for a television training course for producers and directors. Places were limited and competition was fierce, but Ewart won a place.
Afterwards Ewart worked initially on children’s programmes for recently arrived second channel South Pacific Television, including directing episodes of Chic-a-boon (starring Chic Littlewood).
In 1978 she began a two year stint producing and directing Pacific Viewpoint, a weekly programme on SPT. “Unthinkable these days, but the researcher and myself were Pākehā,” says Ewart. “I’ve always been grateful for the immersion in Māori culture, and to a lesser extent, Pacific Islands cultures, that working on the program brought me.”
Then came the “wonderful challenge” of producing Kaleidoscope: an arts programme which had recently been given an extended primetime TV One slot - for 90 minutes on Friday nights, 40 weeks a year. The show’s predecessor of the same name had run in a late night slot. While premium overseas content – including landmark Robert Hughes art series The Shock of the New – was part of the mix, local content was increased to more than 20 hours per year.
Kaleidoscope won the Feltex award for Best Speciality Programme for three of the five years that Ewart worked on it. She left the show at the end of 1984.
Kaleidoscope covered arts current affairs, profiles and events coverage. There were also multiple episodes devoted to specific topics, for example NZ architecture. Ewart occasionally travelled overseas with the show, including for the 1984 opening of the Te Māori exhibition in New York, and to follow the NZ Ballet on a tour of China.
Overlapping with Kaleidoscope, Ewart developed the format for the Benson and Hedges Awards for Fashion Design. She went on to produce seven of these live to air events to ratings success.
Ewart was also the originating producer of another series, Holiday, before she left TVNZ in 1987. Initially she ran a book shop; these days Ewart continues to work in the book field, as a specialist writer, publicist and occasional book awards organiser.
Robert Boyd-Bell, New Zealand Television - The First 25 Years (Auckland: Reed Methuen Publishers, 1985)