Since landing a national theatre award in 2007 while at high school in Christchurch, Pana Hema-Taylor has become a New Zealand screen regular, thanks to roles in features The Most Fun You Can Have Dying (as best friend to the main character) and The Dead Lands. There have also been recurring roles on television: in shows The Brokenwood Mysteries, Dirty Laundry, and Westside — as a petty criminal who ends up moonlighting as a Springbok tour protestor — and in cable series Spartacus. In 2017 he starred in TV movie Resolve as Chris Crean, who died after providing evidence on a gang attack just outside his house.
I felt like we kicked it off straight away. There was a big connection between me and Matt (Whelan) ... That stuff counts you know, it really shows on screen. Pana Hema-Taylor on working with actor Matt Whelan, on movie The Most Fun You Can Have Dying
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.
A prequel to classic TV3 series Outrageous Fortune, Westside travels back in time to meet young Rita (Antonia Prebble), Ted (David de Lautour) and their son Wolf West, on the make in West Auckland. This first episode opens with Ted leaving Mt Eden prison, then sets him on a safe-cracking plot that is aided by the 1974 Commonwealth Games. Prebble played Loretta West in Outrageous, and first took on the role of Rita in flashbacks from season four. Devised by Outrageous creators James Griffin and Rachel Lang, Westside won acclaim: "all the hallmarks of a classic", said Stuff.
Action movie The Dead Lands joins the short list of screen tales set in Aotearoa, before the pākehā. James Rolleston (star of Boy) plays Hongi, the son of a Māori chief. After the massacre of his tribe, Hongi sets out into the forbidden Dead Lands, hoping to enlist the help of a legendary warrior (Lawrence Makoare). The Anglo-Kiwi co-production marked new screen territory for director Toa Fraser (No. 2) and writer Glenn Standring (fantasy Perfect Creature). After debuting at the 2014 Toronto Film Festival, The Dead Lands topped the Kiwi box office and won three Moa awards.
Described by co-star Neill Rea as the "little show that could", The Brokenwood Mysteries has screened in over 15 countries and and involved a long run of fictional murders. Each episode of the Prime TV crime drama is a stand-alone 90 minute murder mystery, set in a small Kiwi town. Neill Rea (Scarfies) stars as veteran detective Mike Shepherd, who works alongside Detective Kristin Sims (played by Fern Sutherland from The Almighty Johnsons). Backing up the pair are Detective Sam Breen (Nic Sampson from Funny Girls) and Russian pathologist Gina Kadinsky (Cristina Ionda).
When fishermen reel in a dead body in small town Brokenwood, Detective Mike Shepherd can't help but crack a joke: "I love a catch. Probably the one they wish had got away." In this excerpt from very first episode 'Blood & Water', new cop in town Shepherd (Neill Rea of Scarfies fame) pairs up with Detective Kristin Sims (Fern Sutherland from The Almighty Johnsons) to try to figure out what happened to drunk ol' Nate Dunn (Chris Sherwood). The detectives became a permanent team as the Prime TV series continued, working on deaths that plague the area.
In this odd couple tale set in the American west, Cohen Holloway (Until Proven Innocent, Boy) plays an outlaw who abducts an upper class Brit. Calamity ensues when the hardman fails to have his wicked way with her. The self-funded film screened at the Santa Barbara Film Festival, winning praise from critic Leonard Maltin. While Utu took the Western genre and applied it to NZ's colonial history, Good for Nothing mines South Island scenery for the first 'Pavlova Western'. Long-time Weta staffer Mike Wallis directs; and the rousing score is by composer John Psathas.
Young, confident and good-looking, Michael (Matt Whelan from Go Girls) discovers he has only a short time to live. Rather than undergo pricey experimental cancer treatment, he steals the cash and absconds to Hong Kong and Europe, determined to enjoy the life that remains. But heedless OE hedonism is complicated when he meets Sylvie (Roxane Mesquida, star of A Ma Soeur) and goes cross-continental with her. Based on Steven Gannaway novel Seraphim Blues, Kirstin Marcon’s first feature combines down under filming with a guerilla-style winter shoot across Europe.
After success with short films (This is Her, Redemption) director Katie Wolfe made the transition to longer length story-telling with this 2010 drama. With This is Her writer Kate McDermott she adapted the Witi Ihimaera novel about a 40-something man confronting his double life, and the impact that his coming out as gay has on his wife, kids, and whānau. A key change was turning the book’s Pākehā protagonist to a successful Māori businessman (Calvin Tuteao). It screened on TV One on 23 January 2010 and at festivals internationally (where it was entitled Kawa).
Soul songstress Hollie Smith looks gorgeous in a fierce kind of way, in this clip directed by Preston McNeil. Auckland bars Hotel DeBrett and Sale St gleam, and there are clowns, stylish assassins and a mysterious crime. Not to mention celebrity cameos galore — including Danielle Cormack, future Westside actor Pana Hema-Taylor, and music TV hosts Shavaughn Ruakere, Nick Dwyer and Helena McAlpine. Topping it all off: surely the longest credits sequence in the history of Kiwi music videos.
Taika Waititi's blockbuster second movie revolves around an imaginative 11-year-old East Coast boy (James Rolleston) trying to make sense of his world — and the return of his just-out-of-jail father (Waititi). Intended as a "painful comedy of growing up", Boy mixes poignancy with trademark whimsy and visual inventiveness. The film was shot in the Bay of Plenty area where Waititi partly grew up. A winner in its section at the 2010 Berlin Film Festival, Boy soon became the most successful local release on its home soil (at least until the arrival of Waititi's 2016 hit Hunt for the Wilderpeople).