Music has been integral to Kevin Ballantyne’s life since the day he picked up a cornet at age five. The Aucklander has been composing music for 40 years for television, theatre, short films and commercials. Ballantyne wrote music for the iconic Heartland series. His first foray into writing music for the screen was 1977 natural history documentary Red Deer, which won an award at the American Film Festival.
Art is an exciting, meaningful part of life; it’s a powerful reason for being. We see a lot of ugliness around the world that can be eased with art. Keith Ballantyne
When high-powered director of commercials Hugh Chance (Michael Hurst) visits a small backwater town, the 'for sale' sign on the local tavern offers too good a chance to overlook — especially with the chance to create a set of waterfront condos. But the locals don’t take too kindly to this intruder trying to turn their town into a holiday resort. Starring alongside Hurst in this 47 minute teleplay are Michael Galvin and Stephen Lovatt (Being Eve) as two fellow admen, while Meryl Main (Plain Tastes) features as local artist and cafe owner Jess, who earns both Chance’s ire and affections.
Readings from the poems of James K Baxter trace the poet's life through its various New Zealand locations, and provide a biographical voice in this film by Bruce Morrison (co-written with Dr Paul Millar). Baxter's family and friends discuss the man and his work, and the readings and beautifully shot landscapes fill in the gaps. The film won Best Documentary at the 1998 Film and TV Awards. The opening montage, describing "the chugging noise of masturbation from the bedrooms of the bourgeois" of Auckland, is seminal Baxter.
The tagline to director Armagan Ballantyne’s 1996 short film runs, "a lyrical and musical tale of love at the crossroads”. Shot through a blue filter and dialogue free, the impressionistic film follows a trumpet-loving young woman at a Czech railway station, as she’s courted (pashing, dancing to vinyl records) by a young man. After meeting his parents, an invitation to the ball presses her to choose how she rolls. Whistle was selected for the Venice Film Festival in 1996. Ballantyne went on to direct 2009 feature The Strength of Water.
This documentary tells the story of four men men who survived 119 days adrift at sea in an upturned trimaran. John Glennie's boat Rose Noelle capsized in the Pacific in June 1989, and washed up four months later on Great Barrier Island. Director Mark Beesley mixes raw interviews and spare reenactment to convey the physical and emotional ordeal; the quartet were sometimes trapped inside a cramped section of the boat for days on end. The epic survival-at- sea tale won Best Documentary at the 1997 TV Awards. The story was later retold in 2015 telemovie Abandoned.
In this full-length Heartland episode, Gary McCormick heads south to the port town of Lyttelton, where some say you can't claim to be local unless you've been in town all your life. There he looks around a freighter and finds time to talk to a smorgasboard of passionate locals, some of whom wish yuppies from Christchurch would stay home. He visits ex-Seaman's Union President Bill 'Pincher' Martin, who recalls the tense days of the 1951 lockout. Meanwhile cameraman Matt Bowkett captures some evocative footage from the surrounding hills, and among the action of a busy port.
This short film follows the efforts of schoolgirl Nina to recover her red clogs, a cherished birthday gift from her Yugoslavian nana. Nina lost the shoes playing hopscotch at school; she follows muddy footprints to find the thieves, where a playground insult prompts her to question her identity. The story was inspired by first time filmmaker Annalise Patterson's own upbringing, where her family didn't acknowledge either its Māori or 'Dally' heritage. 'Dallies' largely came to New Zealand from the Dalmatian coast of Croatia (formerly a part of Yugoslavia).
Two families spend the day at a deserted beach on the hottest day of the summer in this short film which marks a directing debut for long time producer and production manager Dorthe Scheffmann. While husbands and children occupy themselves, Margie (Donogh Rees) discovers a terrible secret about her friend Anne (Elizabeth Hawthorne) and her marriage. Margie’s explosive reaction shatters the languor created by the overexposed footage in this Hamburg Film Festival prize-winner (which was also selected for competition at Cannes and Telluride).
In this documentary, poet Sam Hunt and raconteur Gary McCormick shake out the ache of descending middle age and hit the road for an old fashioned ‘rock and roll style’ poetry tour. Starting in Invercargill, the longtime mates make their way up the length of the country, sharing stories, anecdotes and of course, poems along the way. Here are two people's poets, one arguably great, the other certainly good, captured in full flight during their prime. The Roaring Forties Tour was nominated for NZ Film and Television Awards in 1996, for its editing and music.
In this full-length episode, Heartland visits the heart of the North Island: the Waimarino district at the foot of Mount Ruapehu. Host Gary McCormick hits town in time for the yearly Waimarino Easter Hunt. In Ohakune he talks to a policeman about a strange case of streaking near the town's famously oversized carrot, visits an equally overized collection of salt and pepper shakers, then sets off on an early morning pig hunt. Vegetarians be warned: many expired members of the animal kingdom make guest appearances.
This show was possibly the most controversial edition of the Heartland series. Gary visits the sometimes maligned working class dormitory suburb, and hits sports fields, local homes and Tupperware parties. In this full-length episode he meets everyone from cheerful league coaches and builders remembering the challenges of getting supplies up the hill, to the woman many would not forget: Chloe Reeves, with her squeaking voice, distinctive fashion sense and tiger slippers. There is also a fleeting glimpse of future All Black Piri Weepu holding a school road safety lollipop.
Riddled with old military tunnels, Auckland’s North Head has long been the focus of speculation. In this documentary Philip Alpers explores theories that a hidden tunnel network contains tonnes of decaying ammunition — and two old Boeing airplanes. Archeologist Dave Veart sets about finding the truth. The man responsible for closing the tunnels says there's nothing there; others recall seeing a plane. Filmmaker John Earnshaw is convinced of its existence. Earnshaw would spend years battling the crown in court, over claims of a breached agreement to search North Head.
Heartland was a long-running series where, in each episode, affable presenter Gary McCormick explored a Kiwi community. Location and local legend are relayed as McCormick (or occasionally Annie Whittle, Maggie Barry, or Kerre McIvor) interacts with the natives, most famously, tiger slipper-shod Chloe of Wainuiomata. The popular, award-winning series, was inspired by a collaboration — Raglan by the Sea — between McCormick and director Bruce Morrison; it connected mostly-urban Kiwis with faraway corners of the country, and a homely sense of shared identity.
Future Shortland Streeter Craig Parker features in this tale centred on a group of young teens fascinated by radio-controlled car racing. Screening as a TV series, Hotshotz was also recut into this telefilm. The "swift and slick" tale (The Listener) sees the teens setting out to foil a criminal gang, as a kidnapping sets the scene for espionage and counterfeiting. In scenes that echo modern-day drone use, a remote controlled model helicopter equipped with a camera plays a key role in the story’s resolution. Veteran writer Ken Catran contributed to a title that sold in 25 territories.
Astronomy-obsessed worrier Richard meets part-Italian Johnny, a man whose idea of a holiday involves breaking into the nearest bach. Pitched at gay and straight alike, the pair's lighthearted but occasionally troubled romance featured extensive footage of central Auckland circa 1988 (courtesy of director Garth Maxwell’s own central Queen Street digs), plus images of space — for Richard a place of both beauty and potential disaster. Beyond Gravity won local theatrical screenings, and a scriptwriting award in France. This excerpt features the opening 10 minutes of the 48 minute film.
A talkback radio operator (Lucy Sheehan) is forced to stand in for the regular host when he walks out because of a personal crisis. In between trying to answer calls, organize a replacement and discuss odd topics with a succession of callers, the flustered operator makes a surprising connection with another lost soul. Auckland's urban soul is captured with distinctive assurance in this neglected 48-minute drama from director Alison Maclean — who wrote the script with Geoff Chapple.
"I do hope your pimples don't let you down on the big night." 14-year old Steve is caught between creatures he does not fully understand: two parents with very different ideas about the suit he should wear to his first school dance. Meanwhile everywhere he seems to look, images of men are taking control of his imagination. In Stewart Main's comical coming of age story Steve escapes his parents' good wishes, to discover his true desires. They aren't quite what his no-nonsense father had in mind.
Auckland artist Richard Killeen is profiled in this 1983 episode of a series about notable painters and sculptors made for TVNZ. Killeen moved from realism in his early paintings to working with more abstract shapes. By the late 70s, he had abandoned canvas and frame altogether — cutting shapes out of aluminium and grouping them in works somewhere between painting and sculpture. Killeen talks about the evolution of his work, his process and inspirations, and the importance of his environment in suburban Epsom.
Dunedin-based painter Jeffrey Harris is profiled in this episode from an early 80s arts series made for TVNZ. Harris talks about his quest for intensity and impact; and how violence both attracts and repulses him. He also discusses two of his influences at the time — the surrounding landscape (particularly the wilds of Otago Peninsula and Seacliffe, and the older parts of Dunedin) and the photographs, ranging from family portraits to newspaper pictures, that provided the figures that populated his expressionistic works.
Sculptor (and Arts Foundation Icon) Greer Twiss is profiled in this episode of the early 80s series about notable artists, made for TVNZ. Twiss talks about his career and significant works, including the much loved Karangahape Rocks: an early, large scale bronze made at the limits of his ability at the time which twice caused him serious injury. His fascination with rendering functional everyday items — tools, wineglasses and rulers — as decorative sculptures is explored, along with his preference for working at home in the midst of his family life.
Sculptor Neil Dawson — who later created major public art works including The Chalice in Cathedral Square and Ferns in Wellington’s Civic Square — is profiled in this episode from an arts series made for TVNZ. Dawson is just as enthusiastic and engaged building a tree house for his son as he is preparing an exhibition of his work. These pieces are small and deceptively simple as they explore texture and optical illusion, but his larger ambitions are also roused by a space on Auckland’s Victoria Street.
Tony Fomison, one of NZ’s leading painters, is profiled in this 1981 episode of a series about notable artists, made for TVNZ. Interviewed by Hamish Keith, Fomison is an engaging but diffident subject — describing his often dark, brooding works as “illustrations of dreams”, but also ascribing human emotions to them. His powerful attraction to Pacific cultures is explored; it culminated in this Pākehā son of a working-class Christchurch family getting a pe’a (the traditional Samoan body tattoo). Tony Fomison died in 1990.
Introduced to New Zealand in 1851, red deer soon became controversial residents: sport for hunters, but despised by farmers and conservationists for the damage they caused. First targeted by government cullers in the 1930s, by the 60s they were shot by commercial operators for venison export. Directed by Bruce Morrison and Keith Hunter, this award-winning documentary catches up with the hunt in the 70s, when deer for farming – dramatically caught alive, from helicopters – was a multi-million dollar gold rush. Different versions of the film were made for overseas markets.