After starting her screen career in the advertising department at TVNZ, Kathryn Quirk has gone on to a run of management positions in television, including Rights Manager at TVNZ, Channel Manager for pay channel TVNZ Heartland, and General Manager of MTV New Zealand.
Quirk says she "grew up in television" — she got her first screen job at age 18. Things could easily have gone in another direction. Born and raised in Palmerston North, she sang in operatic society musicals, and had designs on a career in radio. Later she auditioned unsuccessfully to replace Phillip Schofield as host of teen music show Shazam! (although Quirk says she has no idea what she was thinking at the time).
After a year in a government administration job, she joined Television New Zealand in Auckland in 1981, initially in the advertising department. Quirk was part of a team arranging when ads would screen on television, using giant booking sheets that made her feel like they were "presiding over some kind of fiefdom. But they were good times — I felt like I worked in Disneyland".
Soon she switched to presentation, then promotions — the department that fashioned ads for the shows themselves. By 1994 Quirk was Head of Presentation, managing 30 staff across New Zealand. There had been stints outside TVNZ before she moved into management; a brief excursion at an ad agency, and a year line producing Communicado show Business World (Communicado dynamo Neil Roberts hired her, without there actually being a job available).
She got further experience of the blunt end of making TV, after production managing ambitious live show Variety Spectacular: A Night with the Stars. A run-in with the sometimes testy Howard Morrison saw Morrison enquiring of Quirk's boss who "that forthright woman" was. When Morrison and his entourage went AWOL during rehearsals, director Malcolm Kemp asked her how she'd managed to lose "40 f**king Māori".
In the late 90s Quirk spent a fevered year as General Manager of the first, short-lived version of channel MTV New Zealand. Following two years as Presentation Manager for TV2, and a stint selling mail order giftware, she headed north to Kerikeri, and set up her own design store and art gallery (though she kept her toes in television, helping out on TV3's 2003 rebrand and later consulting to TVNZ).
By 2004 she was back in Auckland, for a two year stint at funding agency NZ On Air. Some of the time was spent as Acting TV Manager, managing funding applications and a $68 million budget. Then she rejoined TVNZ as a business analyst, and in late 2007 became TVNZ's Rights Manager. Over the next two years she worked on TVNZ's rights strategy, and a new process for commissioning of local programmes in a multi-platform environment.
In 2009 Quirk went freelance. Over the next four years she took on a variety of roles — although many involved a TV screen; she did time as Channel Manager for TVNZ Heartland, TVNZ's first pay TV channel (where she produced screen history slot From the Archives: Five Decades), led the broadcast and production operations of adman Greg Partington's new The Shopping Channel, and managed production at Image Centre's production company On Digital.
In August 2016 Quirk became Content Director at NZ On Screen, taking over from another screen veteran, Irene Gardiner. "To have my years of experience in the screen sector find their place is awesome," says Quirk. "To have a job where my age works in my favour is doubly good."
'NZ On Screen appoints Kathryn Quirk as new content director' (Press release) Loaded 1 August 20156. Accessed 18 January 2016
'About TVNZ Heartland'. TVNZ website. Accessed 18 January 2016