John Reid studied social sciences at Canterbury University and made a number of shorts - including 1967's Something of Course, which screened at a student festival attended by Pacific Films head John O'Shea.
Reid worked as a junior sociology lecturer, and acted in early teleplay A Game for Five Players, based on a real-life case where a gay man was murdered in Hagley Park. In 1972 he moved north to Wellington.
Reid joined O'Shea's Pacific Films, where he would direct everything from pieces on the restoration of wharenui, to wallpaper promo films featuring Pat Evison playing a bossy mother-in-law. He also presented an early Wahine documentary for NFU director Sam Pillsbury. Alongside acting on stage, Reid has also been seen occasionally on screen: he appears as a soldier in tele-play Coming and Going, and co-starred in Paul Maunder's feature-length drama, One of Those People Who Live in the World, playing husband to a woman dealing with mental illness.
When Roger Donaldson was called overseas, Reid minded business at Donaldson's commercials company. As a result, he got the gig to direct a wine commercial which went on to win a Venice Silver Lion for commercials.
Commissioned by the Queen Elizabeth II Arts Council to write a report on the state of the independent film industry, Reid made a case for the establishment of a local film commission. By 1978, soon after directing a behind-the-scenes doco on breakthrough Kiwi feature Sleeping Dogs, he was directing his own big-screen debut: Middle Age Spread, one of the first features to receive funding from the newly-established NZ Film Commission.
Reid had been part of the co-op of actor/directors at Wellington's Circa Theatre when Roger Hall's play first debuted (Reid played the role of well-meaning accountant Robert). For the feature version, he retained many of the original cast, including the star, Circa stalwart Grant Tilly, as adulterous school principal Colin. Middle Age Spread was shot in just four weeks of 10-hour days, using a crew made up of many future industry legends.
The Listener praised the results as "engrossing". Variety praised Reid for having "created a film that is not just a pale adaptation of the play. ... [Reid] has a keen eye for the visual gag." Middle Age Spread was the first New Zealand feature to screen on the BBC.
Reid would reteam with scriptwriter Keith Aberdein and actors Grant Tilly and Dorothy McKegg for his second feature. Carry Me Back (1982) is a shaggy dog comedy about two farmers caught up in misadventures, after their father unexpectedly expires during a trip to the capital. Tilly and Goodbye Pork Pie's Kelly Johnson played the farmers trying to sneak their father's body back home. Australian critic David Stratton praised all three actors, adding "Good comedy is rare these days, and so John Reid's appearance on the film scene is more than welcome."
From the late 70s, Reid was busy with television, commercials and film projects. Prior to Middle Age Spread he had begun writing a documentary on the history of New Zealand theatre, which morphed into something very different: colourful Sam Neill quasi-documentary Red Mole on the Road.
In 1984 Reid was unexpectedly invited to France, when producer John O'Shea invited him to take over direction of Leave All Fair, two weeks before filming was due to begin. After rushed rewrites around the script table, Reid increased the then and now element of the plotline, about John Middleton Murry and his relationship with Katherine Mansfield.
Euro stars John Gielgud and Jane Birkin (Birkin playing two roles, one as Katherine Mansfield) won minor foreign festival awards for their work. Critics were divided between "triumph" and "cliche" over the results, though Variety weighed in that it was a class act, "as gentle and nuanced as Mansfield's own writings".
1994's The Last Tattoo (original title Taking Liberties) mixed American actors (Rod Steiger, Tony Goldwyn) and locals (Kerry Fox, John Bach) in a convoluted tale of murder and prostitution involving American servicemen down under, during WWII. Bach and Peter Hambleton won NZ Film and TV awards for their work, as did cinematographer John Blick.
After Tattoo, Reid spent most of the 90s working in television and commercials (for companies Silverscreen and Flying Fish). When Canadian writer/producer Raymond Thompson set up production company Cloud 9 in New Zealand in the mid 90s, Reid was tapped to helm episodes of a number of kidult adventure series, including A Twist in the Tale and multiple episodes of international-seller The Tribe. Reid also directed for Gibson Group detective series Duggan, plus 12 episodes of hit show The Strip.
Reid went on to become head tutor at Wellington's NZ Film and Television School, where among other things he produced the school's graduation films. Reid is also a past president of the Screen Directors Guild.
Lynn Bryan, 'Reid's a practical chap...'(Interview) - Sunday Times, 1 July 1979
Tom McWilliams, Review of Leave All Fair - Listener, 1 February 1986
Mike Nicolaidi, 'Middle Age Spread' (Review) - Variety, 31 December 1978
Variety staff, 'Leave All Fair' (Review) - Variety, 31 December 1984