John Carlaw's career as a writer and director spanned four decades. During 23 years in England he directed for the BBC and Channel 4, and on high profile ITV arts slot The South Bank Show. Shortly before starting over in New Zealand, Carlaw was nominated for a Cable Television award for adaptation The Tell-Tale Heart, starring UK stage legend Steven Berkoff. Carlaw's Kiwi work was almost exclusively in documentary, including docos on Michael King and Ian Mune. He won more awards for Edmund Hillary series View from the Top and Revolution, which chronicled the Rogernomics era. Carlaw passed away in May 2017.  

The careful crafting and striving for excellence has created a series that will be the stand-out documentary series of the year. Producer Denis Harvey on Hillary - A View from the Top
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The Life of Ian

2007, Director - Television

“If this tale is about anything it’s about two words: Kiwi actor.” In this assured, at times offbeat documentary, Ian Mune takes us on a personal tour through his various lives as actor, director, teacher and more. He revisits early theatrical stomping grounds, and talks about how acting with Sam Neill in breakthrough movie Sleeping Dogs taught him “to stop pulling faces”. Mune also reminisces about directing movies comical, terrible and ambitious, and complains about the system of developing local films. There is also rare footage of his performances in 70s TV dramas Derek and Moynihan.

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Piano Man

2005, Director - Television

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Artsville

2005 - 2007, Director - Television

Artsville was a mid-2000s slot that aimed to bring New Zealand art and artists to life via documentary. The subjects ranged from composers and playwrights to comic artists, photographers and an investigation into a life drawing class. Each piece was independently commissioned and varied in duration from hour-long studies to shorter pieces, compiled into a one hour programme for a late-night TV ONE slot. Artsville was later repeated on digital Freeview channel TVNZ6 (now defunct).

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History Man

2004, Director - Television

Historian Michael King's opus was a bridge between Māori and Pākehā; he turned Aotearoa's history into an unprecedented publishing bestseller. History Man traces King's own past, to understand the man and his passion for his work. This doco was commissioned only weeks before King and his wife were tragically killed in a car accident. Nevertheless it is a detailed portrait of a much loved and missed New Zealander. It is another collaboration from this producer/director team, whose subjects include Michael Houstoun, Ian Mune and Barry Crump.

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Hillary on Everest

2003, Director

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Mercury Lane - Series Two, Episode Two

2003, Director - Television

Mercury Lane was a story-driven arts show that generally included a cluster of short documentaries, poetry and musical performances in each hour-long episode. This episode of the Greenstone-produced arts series features Sam Hunt interviewing acclaimed New Zealand poet Alistair Te Ariki Campbell. Campbell discusses his early childhood in the Cook Islands as the child of a Pākehā father and Polynesian mother, and reads a selection of poems. The programme ends with Auckland pianist Tamas Vesmas playing a Debussy prelude at the Auckland Art Gallery.

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Mercury Lane

2001 - 2003, Director - Television

Produced by Greenstone Pictures, Mercury Lane was a story-driven arts show that screened late on Sunday nights on TV One, from 2001 until 2003. Each hour-long episode of this 'front-person free' show included a cluster of short documentaries covering a wide range of subjects including poetry, visual art, music and performance. 

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Hudson and Halls - A Love Story

2001, Subject - Television

They came, they battered, they bickered. Peter Hudson and David Halls were as famous for their on-screen spats as their recipes. The couple ("are we gay? Well we're certainly merry") turned cooking into comedy, and won Entertainer of the Year at the 1981 Feltex Awards. This 73-minute documentary explores their enduring relationship and tragic passing — from memorable early days entertaining dinner guests at home and running a shoe store, through to television fame in NZ and the UK. The interviews include close friends and many of those who worked with them in television.

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Pioneer House - First Episode

2001, Director - Television

In the first episode of this reality series, groundwork is done to allow a 21st century family to live for 10 weeks as their forbears did in 1900. The right house has been found — but the largely unmodernised Grey Lynn worker's cottage still needs an army of workers and consultants to muck in and turn it into a fully functioning home of the era. Meanwhile, the family search has produced the Feyens from Palmerston North. They appear ready for the challenge but the realities of different standards of housework, hygiene, and clothing are slowly dawning.

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Coming Home

1999, Director, Writer, Producer - Television

Coming Home chronicled Kiwi successes abroad, by profiling New Zealanders living and working overseas, then following them back to Aotearoa when they made a return visit. Each episode of the Touchdown Productions series was grouped roughly geographically, with two or three expat New Zealanders featured per episode. Among those reminiscing upon home and opportunity were businesswoman Mary Quin, motor racing legend Steve Millen, journalist Peter Arnett, model Kylie Bax, psychologist John Money, law lecturer Judith Mayhew and singer Patrick Power.

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Coming Home - Roger Donaldson & Steve Millen

1999, Producer, Director - Television

Film director Roger Donaldson and motor racing legend Steve Millen both began making their mark in New Zealand, before making the move to California. The first Coming Home episode sees them at work in the USA, and visiting old haunts in Aotearoa. Donaldson shoots the effects-heavy Dante's Peak and prepares $100 million thriller Thirteen Days, while Millen hits the race track, in-between running his custom car parts company. Later he returns to the farm near Auckland where his need for speed began on the family tractor. Oz/Kiwi Donaldson goes to Auckland and Queenstown.

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Hillary: A View from the Top

1997, Director - Television

After befriending Sir Edmund Hillary over Irish whiskey, Tom Scott won Hillary’s endorsement to document his life story for TVNZ. In this four-part series Scott bags the storied peaks of ‘Sir Ed’s’ adventuring and humanitarian career, but also visits the lesser-known tragedies and struggles that the “surprisingly shy” that Hillary has faced; from gangly student and beekeeper to the man who Scott calls “an icon, benchmark and metaphor in his own lifetime”. View from the Top screened in September-October 1997, and won Best Factual Series at the 1998 TV Guide Awards. 

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Hillary: A View from the Top - The Early Years

1997, Director - Television

These excerpts from part one of Tom Scott’s award-winning series on the life of Edmund Hillary look at his early years. Ed reflects on his youth as a gangly Auckland Grammar student, beekeeping, and a school trip to Ruapehu that sparked a “fiery enthusiasm” for alpine adventure. Coupled with a young man’s frustration with his “miserable, uninteresting life”, this passion for the hills soon led to a solo ascent of Mount Tapue-o-Uenuku as an RNZAF cadet — famously climbed on a weekend’s leave from Woodbourne base— and a 1947 ascent of Mount Cook, with his mentor Harry Ayres.

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The Game of Our Lives

1996, Director - Television

This four-part series from 1996 presents the game of rugby as a mirror for New Zealand social history. Written by Finlay Macdonald, it sets out to explain how rugby became such an intrinsic part of New Zealand's identity. Each episode visits iconic paddocks (from schools to stadiums) and players (from amateurs Nepia, Meads, and Shelford, to professional star Lomu); and observers muse on the influence of the inflated pig's bladder on Kiwi culture, including historian Jock Phillips, writer Ian Cross and journalist TP Mclean.

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Revolution - 2, The Grand Illusion

1996, Director, Writer - Television

Award-winning series Revolution examined sweeping changes in 1980s New Zealand society. This second episode argues that in its first term in office, the Labour Government promoted neoliberal reform via illusory ideas of consensus and fairness, while PM David Lange mined goodwill from its indie anti-nuclear policy (famously in an Oxford Union debate, see third clip). The interviews include key figures in politics, the public service and business: an age of easy lending and yuppie excess is recalled, while those in rural areas recount the downside of job losses.

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Revolution - 4, The New Country

1996, Director, Writer - Television

Four-part series Revolution examined radical changes in New Zealand society in the 1980s and 1990s. This final episode sums things up, after examining "the second wave" of neoliberal reform when National took power in 1990, shortly after Telecom was sold to American interests. Incoming finance minister Ruth "mother of all budgets" Richardson oversaw a reduction of welfare payments, a shake-up of the health system, and a curbing of union powers. Richardson: "in a human sense I understood that [community outrage], but that wasn't going to deflect me".

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Revolution - 1, Fortress New Zealand

1996, Writer, Director - Television

Documentary series Revolution mapped the social and economic changes in New Zealand society in the 1980s and early 1990s. This first episode focuses on NZ's radical transformation from a heavily regulated welfare state to a petri dish for free market ideology. It includes interviews with key political and business figures of the day, who reveal how the dire economic situation by the end of Robert Muldoon's reign made it relatively easy for Roger Douglas to implement extreme reform. Revolution won Best Factual Series at the 1997 Film and TV Awards.

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Revolution - 3, The Great Divide

1996, Director, Writer - Television

Four-part series Revolution examined sweeping changes in New Zealand society that began in the 1980s. This third episode looks at the lurch of the Kiwi stock market from boom to bust in 1987, and the growing philosophical divide between the “head boys”: PM David Lange and finance minister Roger 'Rogernomics' Douglas. Within two months of the October 1987 stock market crash, $21 billion was lost from the value of NZ shares. Lange and Douglas give accounts of how their differing views on steering the NZ economy eventually resulted in both their resignations.

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The Game of Our Lives - Home and Away

1996, Director - Television

This four-part series explores New Zealand social history through rugby, from the first rugby club in 1870 to the 1995 World Cup. In this episode commentators muse on the roots of rugby in a settler society, in "a man's country". Rugby's unique connection with Māori, from Tom Ellison and the Natives’ tour to a Te Aute College haka, is explored; as well as the national identity-defining 1905 Originals’ tour, and the relationship between footy and the battlefield. As the Finlay Macdonald-penned narration reflects: “Maybe it's just a game, but it's the game of our lives”.

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Arson

1994, Director - Television

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The Traders

1994, Director - Television

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Wahine - The Untold Story

1993, Director - Television

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The Tell-Tale Heart (UK teleplay)

1991, Director - Television

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South of Watford

1987, Producer - Television

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Playing Shakespeare

1982, Director - Television

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The South Bank Show

1992, Director - Television

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Look Here

1981, Director - Television

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Hudson and Halls

1976, Director - Television

They came, they battered, they bickered. Peter Hudson and David Halls were as famous for their on-screen spats as they were for their recipes. The couple ("are we gay - well we're certainly merry") turned cooking into comedy. Their self-titled show ran for a decade on New Zealand TV and it attracted a cult following when they moved the show to the UK. The duo won Entertainer of the Year at the 1981 Feltex Awards. Microwaves, little roasted nuts and great dollops of innuendo: the sometimes fusty genre of TV culinary demonstration would never be the same.

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The London Weekend Show

1979, Director - Television