Nick Ward broke into screenwriting with pool comedy Stickmen. An instant Kiwi hit, the film won him a New Zealand Film Award for Best Screenplay in 2001. He went on to originate and co-write hit romance Second-Hand Wedding, then reconvened with Wedding director Paul Murphy for follow-up Love Birds. In 2019 he created black comedy Fresh Eggs with Kim Harrop. Ward has also penned episodes of TV series Outrageous Fortune and Burying Brian, and horror flick The Ferryman.
A screenplay does not magically spring from nowhere. A writer spends long hours crafting it and sweating blood to create it. Nick Ward, in a May 2006 interview with Onfilm
A unique Kiwi story about prepping for death has captured the attention of international media. The BBC, The Guardian and National Geographic have all interviewed elderly members of a build-your-own-coffin club, some of whom feature in this musical short film. Members of the Kiwi Coffin Club don sequins and top hats, while singing about what makes their club tick — death is not to be feared, but instead should be celebrated as a normal part of life. A lyric from this offbeat Loading Doc sums up things succinctly: "It's the final verse but life goes on."
TV3 series Outrageous Fortune had six memorable six seasons. Award-winning prequel Westside takes the West family back to where it all began — to legendary safecracker Ted West (David de Lautour), and his fiery wife Rita (Antonia Prebble from Outrageous). Each episode of series one is set in a particular year of the 1970s. Season two moves to the 1981 Springbok Tour; the third, set in 1982, introduced a teen Cheryl West. Combining romance, crime and West family folklore with real life events, Westside was created by James Griffin and Rachel Lang, the duo behind the original.
In the first episode of comedy drama Step Dave, solo Mum Cara (Sia Trokenheim) finds herself rescued by womanising barman Dave (Jono Kenyon), after a disastrous blind date ends in a sprained ankle. Dave is convinced he's met 'the one'. Cara's daughters and mother in-law (Lisa Harrow) are horrified. And Cara fears there isn't enough time in her busy life for a man who calls her favourite song "ancient". Meanwhile Dave's flatmate is falling for the workmate who has stolen his desk. Created by Kate McDermott, Step Dave screened for two seasons — and was later remade in Russia.
Edwin Rouper has a habit of annoying people within seconds of meeting them. Cursed with 'Koontz-syndrome', a neurological condition in which temper and confidence dominate, he travels to Hollywood, trying to assemble a team of stars to raise awareness for the Koontz cause. Jason Stutter’s mock-documentary gleefully skirts the borderland between the koontz 'condition', and an expletive with a very similiar sound. Acting newbie Bryce Campbell scored an LA comedy award as Edwin; Raybon Kan, Jeremy Corbett and scribe Nick Ward all have cameos as sundry wackos.
Comedian (and rooster) Oscar Kightley fronts this 2013 beginner’s guide to the Chinese zodiac. His mission: to explore the 12 oriental star signs. As the Kiwi population heads towards one in six being of Asian origin, Kightley surveys a cavalcade of contemporary Kiwi personalities for their views on stargazing, from his Harry co-star Sam Neill to lawyer Mai Chen. This excerpt is a potted history of the oriental zodiac, aided by animation; then it's enter the dragon. Made for TV3’s Inside New Zealand documentary strand it was directed by bro’Town creator Elizabeth Mitchell.
Rest for the Wicked showcases an all-star A-team of older Kiwi actors — among them John Bach, Bruce Allpress, and Gloss boss Ilona Rodgers. Gravel-voiced Tony Barry (the man who uttered the immortal line "goodbye pork pie") stars as Murray, a retired detective going undercover in an upmarket rest home. Frank hopes to catch his longtime nemesis (Bach). Instead he finds himself in the company of the randy, and the unexpectedly dead. The "sweet, rather knowing little movie" (Linda Burgess in The Dominion Post) marked the feature debut of advertising veteran Simon Pattison.
Nothing Trivial was a dramedy that kept score on the lives and loves of five friends in a pub quiz team called Sex on a Stick. The cast of City Lifers shifted to the suburbs and nearing middle age was led by Shane Cortese, Tandi Wright, Nicole Whippy, Debbie Newby-Ward and Blair Strang. Created by Rachel Lang and Gavin Strawhan, (the veteran writers behind Go Girls, Maddigan’s Quest, and Mercy Peak) the popular South Pacific Pictures production screened for three seasons on TV ONE. A fan-driven campaign saw NZ On Air fund a tele-movie to wrap up the series.
Armed with his trusty ray gun and protected by his pith helmet Lord Broadforce's exotic species search on an alien planet is going swimmingly — until the dame gets colonial angst. The short is based on the sci-fi world of Dr Grordbort created by Weta Workshop's Greg Broadmore (designer on District 9), in which Victorian steampunk meets alien trophy hunting. The live action-CGI film was created over 22 weeks by 11 students of the Media Design School's 3D animation programme, under the direction of James Cunningham. Broadmore followed with a Grordbort video game in 2018.
Director Paul Murphy follows Second Hand Wedding with a romance featuring comedian Rhys Darby, songs by Queen and ... a duck. Darby plays heartbroken nice guy Doug: after a close encounter with a native duck (a paradise shelduck) with emotional problems, he enlists expert help from a sassy animal specialist (played by Brit Sally Hawkins, a Golden Globe-winner for feature Happy-Go-Lucky). True to rom-com form, love ensues ... eventually. NZ Herald reviewer Russell Baillie called Love Birds “an endearingly funny, if sugar-coated local romantic comedy”.
Auckland's home of stand-up comedy, The Classic theatre in Queen Street, is the subject of this "behind the scenes" mockumentary TV series. Anchored by MC Brendhan Lovegrove, episodes follow a night's performances; onstage routines are intercut with action from the green room and front of house. The line between reality and self-deprecatory fiction is blurry, with the participants happy to send themselves up. Show biz glamour is in short supply and, at times, it's preferable to look just about anywhere except the screen. A second series screened in 2012.
This live-action CGI short attempts to find the answer as to why UFO sightings have been in decline recently. The truth is indeed out there, but in this sci-fi spoof, it turns out to be the result of alien bureaucratic cover-ups, outsourcing and an unorthodox use of space probes. The film was made by students in the 3D Productions course that director James Cunningham teaches at Media Design School — a one day green screen shoot, 14 weeks of post-production. Written by Nick Ward, First Contact won selection to computer graphics conference SIGGRAPH 2011.
Host and MC Brendhan Lovegrove goes behind the scenes of Pro Night at The Classic comedy theatre in Auckland in the first episode of this accomplished mockumentary series. Irene Pink, Andre King and Ben Hurley are the evening's performers. Backstage, barely concealed jealousies and rivalries simmer in a less than salubrious green room. Meanwhile, Brendon Pongia, from TVNZ's Good Morning show, is in the audience and pulses quicken at the prospect of an off-peak network TV interview. No-one is safe and beware for moments of excruciating viewing.
In the first episode of The Cult, headstrong lawyer Michael Lewis (Shortland Street's Renato Bartolomei) joins a volatile group in a Northland house. Each of them has lost a family member or friend to commune Two Gardens, and wants to get them out. Meanwhile, inside Two Gardens, Michael's son is asked to "renounce" his own brother. Created by Kathryn Burnett and Peter Cox, The Cult won Qantas awards for acting, design, music, cinematography, and editing — and was nominated for another four acting awards. Peter Burger (Until Proven Innocent) directs this first episode.
Das Tub kickstarted an award-winning run of CGI short films for Media Design School students working under their 3D animation tutor, director James Cunningham. Part live-action, part CGI, its tale of a German U-boat crew facing danger under the ocean pays homage to submarine classic Das Boot — before a Pythonesque twist which features a cameo from writer Nick Ward. Short, sharp and lovingly rendered, the film won 'best short short' at the 2011 Aspen Shortsfest, while Cunningham (Poppy, Infection) took Best Director at the Honolulu Film Awards.
In this six part TV One series, suburban Mum Jodie (Jodie Dorday) accidentially kills her ex-rock singer husband Brian (Shane Cortese) and is convinced by her friends to bury the body. The comedy drama was devised by Maxine Fleming and Gavin Strawhan, and produced for Eyeworks Touchdown by screen legends Julie Christie and Robin Scholes (Once Were Warriors). Scholes was onboard to develop drama at the production company renowned for its popular factual television. It was the first NZ television drama to use high definition cameras. A planned sequel was never made.
In this first episode of the six part comedy drama, a suburban Mum (Jodie Dorday from movie Via Satellite) reaches the end of her tether with her washed-up rock singer husband Brian (Shane Cortese), and he comes to the end of his life — atop a broken bong. After her three closest friends convince her she’ll face a murder rap, Jodie makes a fateful decision to dispose of the body. The show marked a move into drama for reality TV supremos Eyeworks Touchdown. "Think Sex and the City meets Desperate Housewives in an Outrageous Fortune kind of way." wrote Listener critic Diana Wichtel.
A classic case of the little movie that could, Second-Hand Wedding is a feel-good tale of garage sales, and the ties that bind. Worried that her mother’s zeal for bargains might ruin her big day, Cheryl (Holly Shanahan) delays unveiling her wedding plans. When Mum (Geraldine Brophy) finds out the information second-hand, she does not react well. Both actors won NZ Film and TV Awards for their work, and the Kapiti Coast-set film was a bonafide Kiwi hit: breaking out from its independently made origins into the all-time Top 10 for NZ films at the local box office.
A group of young tourists charter a yacht and go cruising in the South Pacific. In a dense fog, they come across an old, sick Greek man on a sinking boat and rescue him. They have no idea of how evil he is and how brutal their night is to become. Thanks to the special weapon he is holding, this man has the power to inhabit other people's bodies. The Ferryman approaches - he's after the old Greek as the path to the afterlife is close and there is a payment to be made.
After her husband is jailed, matriarch Cheryl West (Robyn Malcolm) decides the time has come to set her family on the straight and narrow. But can the Wests change old habits? So begins the six-series long saga of the Westie dynasty. Hugely popular at home (beloved by public, critics and awards-nights alike), and imitated overseas, Outrageous Fortune has been a flag-bearer for TV3 and contemporary NZ telly drama; the series proved — in all its grow-your-own glory — that genre TV in NZ could be so much more than overseas stories pasted to a local setting.
Prime time show Matthew and Marc’s Rocky Road took the former rugby-playing duo of Matthew Ridge and Marc Ellis (Fresh-up in the Deep End) and sent them to various corners of the globe. Each series or instalment went somewhere new —including the United Kingdom, South America, Russia, Japan and India — where the duo took in the local culture in the form of a physical challenge, which generally saw the loser subjected to humiliation, ridicule and usually pain. For their Rocky Road to Athens series, the pair crossed Europe in the lead-up to the 2004 Athens Olympics.
The Strip centres around 30-something Melissa (Luanne Gordon), who sheds a legal career to set up a male strip revue. Created by Alan Brash, The Strip played to a certain demographic's desire for ogling naked men (warmed up by 1987 play Ladies Night and 1997 film The Full Monty), but with a focus on female characters, as Melissa juggles business with raising a teenage daughter. Taking cues from Ally McBeal (with fantasy sequences to match) the Gibson Group tale of g-strings, feminism and red light romance screened for two series on TV3 and sold internationally.
The Big Art Trip was a TVNZ arts series that took the form of a road trip around New Zealand visiting artists in their homes or studios. The series featured two presenters — design writer and art historian Douglas Lloyd Jenkins teamed with screenwriter Nick Ward in the first series, and with musician Fiona McDonald in the second. Ward and McDonald were very much the neophytes — the everyperson asking questions on behalf of the audience that allowed Lloyd Jenkins to background, contextualize and explain what was being seen, heard and experienced.
Three friends tour the Wellington pub scene, playing pool with ever-increasing stakes. Then they enter a tournament run by vicious crime boss ‘Daddy'. Narrator Kirk Torrance (Outrageous Fortune) guides us through their mission to pocket the money. Hamish Rothwell's only feature to date was a Kiwi take on the UK urban underbelly genre (Lock, Stock etc). "Smart, stylish and effortlessly entertaining" (Dominion Post) the film was a hit with young males and won several 2001 NZ Film and TV Awards (including best director, script, and actor). It sold to over 30 countries.