Producer, Director, Executive
Trained at Ilam School of Fine Arts, John McDonald cut his teeth directing at TVNZ in the 80s before producing sport for Sky TV. An OE producing at MTV Asia was followed by roles for Screentime. Since joining Mediaworks (TV3) in 2000, he has led an award-winning run of live coverage (Fight for Life, Rugby World Cup, the NZ Music Awards) and comedy. He is Head of In-House Production at Mediaworks.
On shows such as The X Factor and Dancing with the Stars, it pays to expect the unexpected. Something surprising almost always happens, and how you respond to it either improves or diminishes the broadcast outcome. John McDonald, on the challenges of producing live event television
Well-received comedy panel series 7 Days debuted on TV3 in 2009. The show takes an irreverent look at the past week in the news with such regular segments as “my kid could draw that” and “what’s the taxi driver talking about”. Jeremy Corbett hosts, and there are two teams of regular and guest comedians including Ben Hurley, Jeremy Elwood, Dai Henwood and Paul Ego. Corbett says 7 Days is the comedy show he has always wanted to make.
Based on a UK reality format, Dancing with the Stars sees a line-up of celebrities paired with a professional dance partner, and put through ballroom dance routines. Judges and a public vote eliminate a pair each week. A five time winner of best programme in its category, the show played for five hit seasons on TVNZ, hosted by Jason Gunn and Candy Lane. In 2015 it was relaunched by Great Southern TV for TV3; Dominic Bowden and Sharyn Casey hosted. Dai Henwood and Casey presented the seventh series in 2018. Winners have included Norm Hewitt and and Suzanne Paul.
This Christchurch-based TVNZ science and technology show put science in primetime in the 1980s (notably on Friday nights before Coronation Street). The successor to Science Express, it sought to explain how science was changing everyday NZ life; and reporters (including Jim Hopkins, Liz Grant, Peter Llewellyn and Julie Colquhoun) attempted to engage the public without alienating the scientific community, and vice versa. Its run ended in 1989 when TVNZ decided it couldn't compete with the runaway success of Australian counterpart Beyond 2000.
For this five year global inquiry into "who owns our seeds", director Barry Barclay used the 'marae approach' that he’d honed on TV series Tangata Whenua — canvassing the views of corporates (vying to profit by owning the DNA of major crop seeds), scientists, and farmers in the developing world. Barclay later argued that big business effectively suppressed the resulting film. NZ Herald’s Peter Calder called Miracle "chillingly prescient" in 2006. A 1988 screening helped spur the Wai 262 Treaty claim, for Māori intellectual property rights involving indigenous flora and fauna.
Smash Palace is a Kiwi cinema classic and launched Roger Donaldson's American career. Al Shaw (a brilliant, brooding Bruno Lawrence) is a racing car driver who now runs a wrecker's yard in the shadow of Mount Ruapehu. His French wife Jacqui is unhappy there and leaves him, taking up with Al's best mate. When she restricts Al's access to his young daughter, his frustration explodes and he goes bush with the girl, desperate not to lose her too. "There's no road back" runs the tagline. New Yorker critic Pauline Kael called the film "amazingly accomplished".