Mark McNeill has been making documentaries for over 20 years. Along the way he has shown a knack for offbeat factual programming, including work with Te Radar and psychologist Nigel Latta. In 1999 McNeill launched company Razor Films. He and Latta went on to reshape The Politically Incorrect Parenting Show for a primetime Australian slot. In 2018 McNeill become the first Kiwi producer to make a series for Netflix.
An incredibly moving story that works on a variety of levels. The documentary is at times a detective story, an historical document and most importantly a testament to the human spirit. 2002 Qantas Media Awards judge Francis Litzinger, on Mark McNeill's documentary Il Magiorre - My Father’s War in Italy
After the passing of a family member, the Bell family discovered a selection of late 19th century photographs tucked away in a closet. Taken by a man named William Partington, the photos documented local Māori around the Whanganui River area, and were subsequently of incredible cultural and financial value. The owners of the photographs opted to sell them at auction. Local iwi on the other hand, felt it important that their whakapapa returned home. Winner of an Aotearoa TV Award, this documentary tells the story of finding compromise when dealing with precious taonga.
Aotearoa is the last big land mass on earth discovered and settled by people (orthodox history suggests Māori arrived around 1280). Directed by Mark McNeill, this Greenstone TV documentary examines controversial evidence put forward to claim an alternative pre-Māori settlement — from cave drawings and carvings, to rock formations and statues. Historians, scientists, museum curators, and amateur archaeologists weigh up the arguments, DNA, carbon, and oral stories of the early Waitaha people, to sift hard fact from mysticism and hope.
Political cartoonist Malcolm Evans tells his father's story of war in this documentary. Major Hilary Evans was exempt from conscription, but chose to fight in World War II. He was a prisoner of war who escaped and lived rough in Italy's hills and mountains, to avoid recapture. Using his father's letters and diaries as well as interviews shot in Italy, Evans builds up a picture of his father, the soldier. Il Magiorre - My Father's War in Italy played as part of the Documentary New Zealand strand on TV One, and was named Best Documentary at the 2002 Qantas Media Awards.
Epitaphs on gravestones are the starting point for presenter Paul Gittins to unravel skeletons in cupboards, lovestruck suicide pacts, and fatal love letters. The series uses compelling personal stories to retell New Zealand history and effectively combines documentary and re-enactment. An actor and history enthusiast, Paul Gittins became a household name on Shortland Street (as Dr Michael McKenna) before he devised this series for Greenstone. Epitaph ran for three series, and won Best Factual Series at the 1999 NZ TV Awards.
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.
Hour-long prime time current affairs slot Assignment replaced TVNZ's long-running Frontline in 1995, after Frontline had won controversy for a couple of its stories. A number of Frontline veterans moved across to the new series, including Susan Wood, Rod Vaughan, and Rob Harley. Vaughan and Harley would both win local media awards for their Assignment investigations. At the 1996 TV Guide New Zealand Film and Television Awards, Assignment was judged Best News and Current Affairs Programme.
This extended episode of First Hand sees a couple at an economic crossroads, and making the decision to move into self-employment. After finding their jobs in Auckland compromised, Alec and Sheena McDonald set out to find and buy their own dairy in a small North Island town. They end up in Awakeri, near Whakatane. The lifestyle transition is far from trouble-free, as the couple must negotiate the worlds of bureaucracy and banking to insure their new business stays afloat. The documentary provides insights into running a small business during a time of economic reform.
Bruce Graham, wife Lynn and son Mark are in the funeral business, serving the people in the Waikato town of Tūākau at their darkest times. This episode of First Hand takes place in the aftermath of local man Athel Parsons' death, from collecting his body to his funeral and cremation. Athel lived alone but was from a large family. He contributed to his town through his love of sports, in particular indoor bowls. As Bruce organises Athel's farewell we learn about both men's lives, and how the most common of events can affect a small community.
Thinking that documentaries would benefit if film crews were much smaller, TVNZ producer Richard Thomas proposed that emerging directors take over much of the filming themselves, using consumer video cameras. Thomas organised camera workshops for First Hand's directors, and overcame opposition that this more intimate style of making documentaries wouldn't meet broadcast standards. The result gave early opportunities to a host of emerging filmmakers, including award-winners Leanne Pooley and Mark McNeill, and production executive Alan Erson.