Since studying flute then completing a Bachelor of Music in composition, Michelle Scullion has composed for television, film, radio and stage. Her score for Bad Taste, the debut feature from Peter Jackson, was a vital component in the film’s armoury. Her screen work includes Flying Fox and a Freedom Tree, sci-fi thriller Eternity, and many short films, including four directed by Grant Lahood.

I don’t ever see myself stopping quite frankly. I don’t ever see the word retirement. Michelle Scullion, in a 2001 Evening Post interview with Tom Cardy

Eternity

2012, Composer - Film

Shot in Wellington, Hawke’s Bay and Hong Kong, Eternity is a rare homegrown sci-fi feature. In a virtual world, detective Richard Manning (Elliot Travers) must solve a case where the fictional suspects were all in the next room to the murder, while he battles a memory-eroding virus that may have real world consequences. Director Alex Galvin’s good-looking globetrotting whodunnit was rendered on a shoestring budget. Scenes and some post-production was done in Kong Kong, after his first movie When Night Falls impressed Hong Kong-based producer Eric Stark.

Unexpected Happenings

2007, Composer - Short Film

Antonello & the Architect

2007, Composer - Television

The 17th century portrait St Jerome in his Study by Italian painter Antonello da Messina, intrigued Wellington architect Bill Toomath all his life. In 2002 Toomath designed and built a study for his house based on the painting. Toomath discusses this project, his architectural training and practice, and some of his clients. Time-lapse camera footage captures building progress, and the completed studio with replica desk emerges as a portrait of Toomath himself, and a tribute to architecture and ideas. Bill Toomath passed away on 20 March 2014. 

The Tub

2005, Composer - Short Film

Song of the Siren

1997, Composer - Short Film

This short film is one of writer/director Fiona Samuel’s first directorial efforts, and is a stylish and quirky tale of a plain woman with a beautiful voice who is trapped in a difficult life caring for her cranky elderly father. The singer waiting to bloom is beautifully played by actual singer Janet Roddick (Six Volts) in a rare on-screen role, and Desmond Kelly puts in a strong performance as the cantankerous Dad. The film won the Golden Mikeldi at 1997's Bilbao International Festival of Documentary and Short Film.

Chicken

1996, Composer - Film

After a run of hit short films involving creatures on the run, Chicken marked the feature debut of director Grant Lahood. Brit Bryan Marshall stars as Dwight, a fading pop star who fakes his own death as a career move. Meanwhile a crazed fowl rights-activist (Cliff Curtis), angered at Dwight's promotions for fried chicken, plots revenge. Though the romantic black comedy tanked at the box office, the story and performances did receive some positive notice, with Metro reviewer and musician Rick Bryant finding it "very funny ... very enjoyable".

The Orchard

1995, Composer - Short Film

One morning, as kids are stealing apples from an old man’s orchard high above a seaside town, an earthquake hits. No one is hurt, and the townsfolk are non-plussed, but the old man is agitated: he alone is aware of the imminent tsunami and tries to warn the village. Based on a classic Japanese fable, The Orchard was made by one-man band Bob Stenhouse, who had been nominated for an Academy Award the previous decade for pioneer tale The Frog, The Dog and The Devil. Fans of the animator will recognise the lush, luminous hand-drawn style.  

Zucchini Roma - A Life in Theatre

1995, Producer - Short Film

Bitch

1995, Composer - Short Film

Bitch is a tale of "infidelity among friends" which explores trust and romance, and stars three people and a dog. Isabel (Inside Straight's Joanne Simpson) recalls a trio of relationships — one with a man in the middle of discovering he is gay, one with a man who doesn't like the smell of Isabel's pet dog, and the last with her friend Ruth (Carol Smith). Creator Fiona Samuel (TV's Marching Girls) intended the short, one of her earliest as a director, to combine two perspectives: the world as the main character perceives it, and how things might appear to the casual observer. 

Jack Brown Genius

1995, Composer - Film

Jack Brown Genius is the story of an obsessive flight of fancy. The spirit of a thousand year old Monk (Stuart Devenie) inhabits the mind of a contemporary New Zealand inventor (Tim Balme), who is inspired to turn the idea of human-powered flight into reality. Along the way he creates havoc for his pal Dennis (Marton Csokas), steals his girlfriend (Nicola Murphy), incinerates the factory of his Boss, and incurs the wrath of the Boss's financial backer Sylvia (Lisa Chappell). The film won director Tony Hiles a 1996 Film and Television Award. 

Tell Me Who Wins

1994, Composer

Lemming Aid

1994, Composer - Short Film

The Baby Chase

1993, Composer - Television

Matrons of Honour

1992, Composer - Television

The Gift

1992, Composer, Producer, Director - Short Film

The Singing Trophy

1992, Composer - Short Film

A hunter heads home, to add his latest catch to an extensive wall of animal trophies. Then he sets about making some music. But things do not go to plan: with a mouse loose in the building, the chase is on. The third film by Kiwi king of the kooky, director Grant Lahood was nominated for Best Short Film at the Cannes Film Festival, and took away a special technical award. It was also judged best short film at the 1993 NZ Film and Television Awards. The Singing Trophy was filmed at Kahutara Taxidermy museum in the Wairarapa.

Valley of the Stereos

1992, Composer - Short Film

Valley of the Stereos is a comic face-off that starts tinny, but gleefully escalates to bass heavy, as a not-so-zen hippy (Danny Mulheron) gets caught up in a vale-blasting battle with the noisy bogan next door (Murray Keane). Made by many key Peter Jackson collaborators, the near-wordless pump up the volume tale was directed by George Port, shortly before he became founding member of Jackson's famed effects-house Weta Digital. Ironically Weta's computer-generated miracles would help render the stop motion imagery seen in the finale largely a thing of the past.

Market Forces (short film)

1991, Composer - Short Film

The End

1990, Composer - Short Film

Star of David

1990, Composer - Short Film

The Pancake

1990, Composer - Short Film

Flying Fox in a Freedom Tree

1990, Composer, Composer - Film

On the Samoan island of Sapepe, the rebellious, pranksterish young Pepe (Faifua Amiga) rejects his imported Christianity and declares himself a descendant of the old gods, setting himself on a path of alienation and conflict. In this excerpt, he leads a burglary of his father's store and burns down a church on the streets of Apia. Adapted from two works by Albert Wendt and shot with a local and largely amateur crew, Martyn Sanderson's first feature is emboldened by vivid cinematography and Kingpin-star Amiga's unforced charisma in the lead role.

I Want To Die At Home

1990, Composer

Ruia Taitea: The World is Where We Are

1990, Composer - Film

This documentary looks at the life and work of acclaimed author Patricia Grace. Filmed at home, on marae and in classrooms, Grace discusses her writing process, her Hongoeka Bay upbringing, her children’s books, criticism of her work, and her Māori identity and belonging to the land (a theme of her then-recently successful novel Potiki). In particular she affirms the importance of writing from experience. The film features interviews with publishers and friends, and excerpts from Grace's stories are read and dramatised, including At the River, The Hills and Mutuwhenua.

Snail's Pace

1989, Composer - Short Film

Why did the snail cross the road? The debut short from Grant (Singing Trophy, Lemming Aid) Lahood provides the answer in a four minute time-lapse adventure. With the world whizzing by at 'snail’s pace' (filmed from the snail's temporal — and aural — point of view), the mollusc on a mission faces skaters, high heels and cars in its epic quest for an iceberg lettuce (displayed outside Patel's Dairy in the Wellington suburb of Berhampore). Snail's Pace gained festival screenings and TV sales around the world, and launched Lahood from camerawork into directing.

Crisis: One Man's Fight

1989, Composer - Television

Just days after finding out he had bowel cancer, Wellington actor Peter Vere-Jones invited a film crew to document his journey through the treatment process to the final outcome. This is a highly personal, and at times harrowing, account of a man coming to terms with his mortality. The documentary puts the audience squarely in Vere-Jones' corner. Although much of the doco is filmed inside Wellington Hospital, Vere-Jones' wit and insight paints a picture of a life far beyond those walls.

Bad Taste

1988, Composer - Film

After concocting all manner of outlandish images on 8mm film, Bad Taste was Peter Jackson’s breakthrough; years in the making, it was the first feature to make it from his Pukerua Bay backyard to cinema screens, where it quickly began to rack up sales. An all-male cast of public service Alien Investigation and Detection Service operatives run amok with guns, food, vomit, rockets and misguided enthusiasm, to rid the earth of alien Lord Crumb and his fast-food gang — who want to turn earthlings into hamburgers. Jackson took two acting roles in this ‘splatstick’ sensation.

Good Taste Made Bad Taste

1988, Composer - Short Film

This documentary showcases some of the tricks of the trade used by Peter Jackson in the making of his first feature — the aliens-amok-in-Makara splatter classic, Bad Taste. Compiled following the film's 1988 Cannes market screening, it's framed around an extensive interview with a 25-year-old Jackson at his parents’ Pukerua Bay home. These excerpts offer fascinating insight into his ingenuity: from building a DIY Steadicam, to the making of the infamous sheep-obliterating rocket launcher scene, to PJ musing on the impetus that being an only child provided him. 

Opera in the Outback

1988, Additonal Music - Short Film

Opera in the Outback offers a wry, fly on the wall view of the lead-up to a most unusual event: the first concert by Kiri Te Kanawa in the Australian outback. Kiwi director Stephen Latty and writer Michael Heath realise the people are the story, from affable locals to those preparing for 9000 joyful, sometimes drunken arrivals. The inhabitants of Beltana — population roughly 12 — risk building a new racetrack for visitors less operatically inclined, while Australian National Railways send all the rolling stock they can. Some of the Kiwi film crew were awake for 52 hours, trying to capture it all.

Ka Mate! Ka Mate!

1987, Composer - Short Film

This short film is a re-enactment of events leading to Ngāti Toa leader Te Rauparaha’s ‘Ka Mate’ haka; he composed the chant after evading enemy capture by hiding in a kumara pit. (The haka would become famous after the All Blacks adopted it as a pre-game challenge.) Directed by pioneering filmmaker Barry Barclay in te reo, produced by John O’Shea and written by Tama Poata, the short was made in the lead-up to landmark Māori feature Ngati. Many of the crew were enlisted via a work scheme, aimed at redressing the lack of young Māori working in the screen industry.

The Ray Bradbury Theatre

1989, Subject - Television

Yiorgis

1982, Composer - Short Film

A Grasp of Wind

1982, Composer - Short Film

Pheno was Here

1982, Composer, Composer - Short Film

In this 1982 short film, Harry (Goodbye Pork Pie's Kelly Johnson) and Pheno (Donogh Rees) are bored Wellington rebels on a crime spree: tagging, stealing art and hijacking a bus to the badlands of nearby Makara Beach. It was the era of Muldoon, Springbok Tour protests, spacies and dole queues. The film captures the disillusionment of its youth, especially in the outcome of the duo's pursuit by a tyro cop (Duncan Smith). Johnson was fresh from Pork Pie, and Donogh Rees a young actor on the rise. Director Richard Riddiford went on to helm features Arriving Tuesday and Zilch.