Simon Raby made his first feature at the age of only 16. Later he became a freelance camera/sound man, and began collaborating with director Niki Caro. They worked on five projects together. Raby has also collaborated extensively with director Scott Reynolds (The Ugly). His cinematography credits cross the gamut, from to drama (Orphans & Kingdoms) to documentary (The Forgotten General) to fantasy (Mortal Engines). Raby balances his work as a cinematographer with occasional directing gigs — including arts show The Gravy, drama series Interrogation, and second unit work on Matt Damon sci-fi film Elysium.
Scott and I share a love of 1970s Hollywood and we went out of our way to find a colour stock that had been used in the 1970s ... I think we were the last film ever to shoot with it. Simon Raby, on filming 1998 Scott Reynolds thriller Heaven
Mortal Engines is set in a post-apocalyptic world where cities roam the landscape, devouring everything in their path. Tom (Robert Sheehan, from TV's Misfits) lives in London, a 'predator' city built on digger-like tracks. After encountering a mysterious fugitive with murder in mind, he finds himself touching bare earth for the first time. Showcasing the eye-opening imagery of Weta Digital, Mortal Engines is based on a book by Brit Philip Reeve. It marks the first feature directed by Christian Rivers (short film Feeder). The Weta veteran began as a storyboard artist for Peter Jackson.
Annie Goldson’s documentary examines the story of Kim Dotcom, the German-born hacker turned internet mogul who is holed up in a New Zealand mansion fighting extradition to the United States. In the US he’s wanted for alleged infringement of copyright laws committed by Megaupload, the online storage hub he founded. Goldson mines archive material (including the NZ police raid of his mansion) and interviews, to explore intellectual property, privacy, profit and piracy in the digital age. The film won rave reviews after its world premiere at multimedia festival South by Southwest.
Four-year-old Dahlia Hitchcock lives by this mantra: When you die, you don’t do anything; when you’re alive you play. Behind her cheeky grin is a brave wee girl who endures several daily “bum pricks” to treat her Type 1 diabetes. Her father, director Joe Hitchcock, made this 2016 Loading Doc to bring awareness to Type 1 diabetes, which has no known cause or cure. The same year as they made this, Hitchcock and producer Morgan Leigh Stewart completed another short film — action comedy Stick To Your Gun.
Designed to provide viewers with a “perfect storm” of gore, guitars, girls and comedy, Deathgasm is the tale of a two young heavy metallers who accidentally summon up a demon. Blazing a bloody trail at festivals across the US, the film was born from the Make My Movie Project. Four hundred pitches for a low budget Kiwi horror movie led ultimately to one winner, a tale inspired by the metal and movie-mad youth of digital effects man turned director Jason Lei Howden. After debuting at US festival SXSW, Deathgasm won enthusiastic reviews and festival slots in Sydney and NZ.
This documentary follows Auckland-based, Italian-born pianist Flavio Villani as he prepares to play Sergei Rachmaninoff’s demanding Piano Concerto No. 2 in Italy — his debut performance as a soloist with an orchestra. Director Rebecca Tansley, who funded much of the documentary herself, tails Villani from four months before the recital that will challenge the prodigal son to affirm his career choice and sexuality, in front of his Italian ex-military father. When it debuted at the 2015 Auckland Film Festival, Crossing Rachmaninoff won a standing ovation.
Jane Sherning Warren’s satirical portrait of the artist as a young woman was one of a series of short films exploring life on the colourful K Road strip. Jaded Arlette (Morgan Albrecht) endures a barrage of art-speak as her posse saunters from her Artspace exhibition opening to Verona Cafe. When the ridiculous art theory of her partner leaves truth far behind, she challenges his cred, and a chase ensues. A drag queen with a pool cue comes to her rescue, and she (and the audience) get an unexpected lesson in how people's identity is a performance.
Greenies meet The Castle in this 2014 film from first-time feature director Anton Steel. The Z-Nail Gang tells the story of locals joining to fight plans to dig an opencast goldmine in nearby bush — using nails in car tyres, Santa suits and a rap song, instead of monkey wrenches. The making of this down-home take on eco-activism was also a grassroots effort, with the film made by harnessing community support in the Bay of Plenty town of Te Puke. At the 2014 NZ Film Awards it was nominated for Best Self-Funded Film, and Best Supporting Actress (Vanessa Rare).
Described by writer/director Paolo Rotondo as a “drama about how adults need kids as much as kids need adults”, Orphans & Kingdoms follows three teens on the run, who break into a holiday home to hide out. Then the owner (Colin Moy, who played the brother of the main character in In My Father’s Den) arrives home, followed by the police. Shot on Waiheke Island, the low-budget Escalator film had a sell-out world premiere at the 2014 Auckland Film Festival, before winning a Moa award for best editing. Best known as an actor, Rotondo won awards for writing short film Dead Letters.
Director Karl Zohrab’s docudrama makes the case for World War I military leader Major General Sir Andrew Russell to be resurrected in Kiwi popular memory alongside the likes of Freyberg. Based on Jock Vennell's biography, the film spans Russell’s life from his Hawke’s Bay childhood to Gallipoli and the Western Front — where the New Zealand Division commander was acknowledged for his tactical nous — to the latent effect of his war experience. It screened on The History Channel for Anzac Day 2014. Colin Moy (In My Father’s Den) plays Russell in battlefield dramatisations.
This documentary sees Dean Spanley director Toa Fraser and producer Matthew Metcalfe swap dialogue for dance. Based on The Royal NZ Ballet's acclaimed 2012 production of Giselle, the movie features American Ballet Theatre star Gillian Murphy as the dance-mad villager, wooed by a prince in disguise. Inspired by concert film The Last Waltz, a Leon Narbey-led camera team filmed the performance, with scenes of the lead dancers in Shanghai and New York counterpointing the onstage action. Following its Kiwi festival debut, Giselle screened at the 2013 Toronto Film Festival.
Real Pasifik is a roving celebration of Pacific food and culture. Inspired by chef Robert Oliver’s acclaimed cookbook Me’a Kai, the show follows Oliver as he travels across the Pacific, aiming to inspire resort chefs to showcase indigenous cuisine. In this opening episode of the first series, Oliver heads to the Cook Islands where he visits a marae for a kai blessing, before tasting goat and taro from an an umu (earth oven). He goes lagoon spear fishing, samples pink potato salad (aka ‘mayonnaise’) and serves up a banquet of locally-cooked food to assembled VIPs.
Based on a novel by the late Ronald Hugh Morrieson — whose stories painted hometown Taranaki as a hotbed of colourful characters and dodgy dealings — Predicament is a prohibition-era tale of blackmail, anxiety and criminal partnerships. Awkward teen Cedric (Hayden Frost) meets two oddball misfits (played by Conchord Jemaine Clement and Australian comedian Heath 'Chopper' Franklin), and becomes entangled in a plot to blackmail adulterous couples caught in the act. Jason Stutter's film went on to win six Aotearoa Film Awards in 2011.
This episode of The Gravy takes an in-depth look at art in prisons. Host Warren Maxwell interviews inmates who have embraced painting or carving while serving time in Mt Eden, Paremoremo and Rimutaka prisons. At Rimutaka, art tutor Paul Bradley points out that art is a vehicle for change both for prisoners and the art audience, and former prisoners talk about how art has changed their lives for the better. Outside the walls, Warren visits at a caged exhibit of musical instruments at Artspace in Auckland and plays a few bars on the flute.
This episode of Sticky Pictures' show "about creative people, made by creative people" is hosted by TrinityRoots singer Warren Maxwell. Dominic Hoey (aka MC Tourettes) charts his journey from drumming in "really shitty" punk bands as a teen, to being published in national poetry journal Landfall; artist Liyen Chong talks to Ross Liew about her Malaysian heritage, and its influence on her intricate, complex artwork (including miniature prints made from hair); and the show joins animal-rights activist turned stencil artist Pete Howard on a late night postering mission.
Kōrero Mai used a soap opera (Ākina) as a platform to teach conversational te reo Māori. In this fifth season opening episode, Tini (Stephanie Martin) and Quinn (Kawariki Morgan) deal with the aftermath of the previous season's climactic car crash. Presenter Piripi Taylor introduces phrases like 'Ana e tā' (yeah man!). This season of the award-winning Māori TV show had 120 episodes, screening from Monday to Wednesday, then repeated. The directors are actors Rawiri Paratene (Whale Rider) and Rachel House (Hunt for the Wilderpeople), and cinematographer Simon Raby.
Qantas-nominated 'dramedy' Rude Awakenings revolved around the conflict between two neighbouring families, living in the Auckland suburb of Ponsonby. Rush family matriarch Dimity (Danielle Cormack) has her eyes on climbing the property ladder, by acquiring the house next door (occupied by solo Dad Arthur and his teenage daughters). Created by Garth Maxwell (movie Jack Be Nimble), the 2007 series was produced by Michele Fantl for TV One. The Listener’s Diana Wichtel welcomed it as a rare contemporary satire on New Zealand television, but it only ran for a single season.
Created by superhero fan Stephen J Campbell, this light-hearted adventure series follows teen Ben Wilson (Carl Dixon) who discovers his father and grandad have done time as superheroes. Still getting to grips with the basics of being one himself, Ben enlists family and friends to help fight assorted villians. The show ran for three seasons, and spawned web series The Wired Chronicles and Origins. Nominated for awards in Rome and New Zealand, it picked up one in Korea. The eclectic cast included the tried (David McPhail) and the new (Hannah Marshall from Packed to the Rafters).
The Gravy was made for TVNZ by Sticky Pictures. The award-winning arts series was described as a “30 minute tour through creative Aotearoa” — usually featuring three stories per episode, but with every fourth show showcasing one subject. Conceived as “a show about creative people made by creative people, both in front of the camera and behind”, it featured presenters who were practising artists: photographer/graphic artist Ross Liew, musician Warren Maxwell, and writer Gabe McDonnell. In total, roughly 170 artists were profiled across The Gravy's 52 episodes.
In this episode of Sticky Pictures' award-winning arts series, presenter Ross Liew turns the camera on his own craft as commercial illustrator / covert street artist, working alongside his partner Hayley King aka Flox. We then travel to the outer reaches of cyberspace (in reality, Lower Hutt) where Disasteradio explains his synth-pop formula of "cool beats, sweet riffs and awesome oxide". Lastly, it's the comic art of Robyn Kenealy, who constructs bizarre psychodramas involving her celebrity idols — namely Roddy McDowell and 90s heartthrob Jonathan Brandis.
Near the end of his life, renowned English composer Edward Elgar composed some of the greatest music of his career. This film examines the idea that Elgar's deeply emotional Cello Concerto in E Minor was provoked by memories of his first great love, Helen Weaver, who emigrated downunder after their relationship ended. After learning that Weaver's son had been killed fighting in France, Elgar was moved to write a war requiem. The award-nominated film mixed interviews, dramatisations, and a performance of the concerto by cellist Lynn Harrell and the NZ Symphony Orchestra.
Set in Central Otago in the drought-parched summer of 1975, gay-themed feature film 50 Ways of Saying Fabulous follows a chubby 12-year-old named Billy (Andrew Paterson) as he embarks on a challenging journey of sexual discovery. Adapting Graeme Aitken's novel, writer/director Stewart Main (Desperate Remedies) depicts a boy escaping into fantasy from the drudgery of farming duties — and learning about himself, his sexuality, and dealing with change. 50 Ways won a Special Jury Award at Italy's Turin International Gay and Lesbian Film Festival in 2005.
Haunting Douglas is a documentary portrait of dancer and choreographer Douglas Wright. It weaves interviews with footage of past performances, and extracts from his autobiography; from drug addiction and illness, to determination and triumph on the New York stage with the Paul Taylor Dance Company. Award-winning director Leanne Pooley captures Wright's resilience: "I need to make things to feel that I can cope with whatever reality is. For me, dancing, performing for people, is the ultimate mystery and the ultimate joy." Wright passed away in November 2018.
The Fellowship of the Ring was the film that brought Peter Jackson's talents to a mass international audience. A year after its release, the first instalment of his adaptation of Tolkien's beloved tale of heroic hobbits was the seventh most successful film of all-time. Critic David Ansen (Newsweek) was one of many to praise the fan-appeasing Frodo-centric take, for its "high-flying risks: it wears its earnestness, and its heart, on its muddy, blood-streaking sleeve." At 2002's Academy Awards, Weta maestro Richard Taylor became the first Kiwi to win two Oscars on one night.
This is the third documentary made about the remarkable life of Shelly West (Michelle Belesarius) who was crippled by rheumatoid arthritis as a child and blind since she was 20. After giving birth against medical odds, Shelley, and husband Dion, bring their new daughter Michela home; but they find parenting fraught with money worries and, for Shelly, the ongoing challenge of bonding with her daughter. To augment their finances, she writes a book and takes up public speaking — but a steadily weakening heart requires potentially life threatening surgery.
A light-hearted short film from director Peter Salmon, starring veteran performer Mark Clare (Clare achieved fame as the bungy jumper in the classic 1992 Instant Kiwi ad and is the singer for legendary NZ band The Newmatics). Here Clare plays a real estate agent with a penchant for song and dance who discovers he can make music by jumping on the creaky floorboards of an old villa. But wait, there's a punch line to this quirky little comedy that Roald Dahl would be proud of: a sinister surprise lies in wait beneath the floorboards.
In the debut feature from writer/director Scott Reynolds, serial killer Simon (Paolo Rotondo) has been locked up for the last five years, and is being interviewed by psychologist Karen Schumaker (Rebecca Hobbs). Narrated flashbacks reveal Simon's past, the demons and bad treatment in his present, and the potential for more killing. The Ugly won rave reviews, awards at fantasy festivals in Italy and Portugal, and over 30 international sales: Variety called the film "a tricky, stylish horror", praising it's suspense, visuals, and casting. The Listener's Philip Matthews found it "genuinely creepy".
This is the second of three documentaries made about Shelly West (Michelle Belesarius) who was crippled as a child by rheumatoid arthritis and blind from age 19. Against all odds — and medical advice — Shelly is pregnant; but she is all determination as doctors work through how her “tiny, twisted, little frame” will cope with the demands of pregnancy. An audience of 600,000 watched this doco with its compelling scenes as the cameras kept rolling while Shelly nearly died during childbirth, and her newborn daughter was whisked away to intensive care.
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).
In the second episode of Harry Sinclair’s late night TV3 micro-series, Liz (Danielle Cormack) and Neil (Joel Tobeck) watch the sun rise from a Karangahape road carpark; but, romantic as this could be, it seems Neil has no more chance of keeping up with Liz than her less than inspiring boyfriend Ant (Ian Hughes). Meanwhile, back at home, Ant is making scones and entertaining some random visitors — larger than life drag queens (and K Road identities) Buckwheat and Bertha. But baking is a step too far for a hungover Liz ... and her mother is on the phone.
This is the first four minute episode of the late-night TV3 micro-series, written and directed by Harry Sinclair. As wannabe air hostess Liz (Danielle Cormack) and her aspiring scriptwriter boyfriend Ant (Ian Hughes) are getting ready for a night-out, the hapless Ant seems oblivious to the fact that he’s wearing out his welcome — and the hairbrush remedy for his 'itchy mouth' does little to heighten his allure. Meanwhile, Neil (Joel Tobeck) ponders one of the great male mysteries. The soundtrack is 'Into You', courtesy of Flying Nun act The JPS Experience.
This short, written and directed by Christine Parker (Channelling Baby) takes an allegorical look at the creative process. A writer (Rima Te Wiata) has a korero with a trickster spirit guide Hinekaro (voiced by Rena Owen), and conjures worlds from the words she inks on a page. In her imaginative struggles she’s visited by a ruru owl and her younger self, and other creatures are brought strikingly to life via special effects (beetles from a book, an eel hiding in a toilet bowl). Hinekaro was adapted from a 1991 short story by Booker Prize-winner Keri Hulme.
In this award-winning Montana Sunday Theatre drama, Cliff Curtis plays Jim, a grungy rocker who can’t (and doesn’t want to) commit to a straight life with his misguidedly hopeful girlfriend Sina (Sarah Smuts-Kennedy). A night of emotional turmoil in the city ensues as Sina does her best to avoid the reality of her situation (as well as home invasion and Jim’s dodgy manager). Fiona Samuel's darkly funny script and top-notch casting underpin this look at the not-so-delicate nature of relationships amongst a group of Generation X Aucklanders.
A plain tale about the swollen secretions of suburban love. In middle class Auckland vulnerable passions break the surface as Laura (Meryl Main from Highwater) aggressively pursues love and acceptance, finding something very like it right next door. For director Niki Caro this one-hour drama was a watershed in her career. It was her ultimate drama production before embarking on a feature film career; it screened as part of the Montana Theatre series on TV One in 1995. Plain Tastes features Marton Csokas and Kate Harcourt. Producer Owen Hughes writes about Plain Tastes here.
Directed by Annie Goldson (Brother Number One), this 1995 TV documentary explores the story of Cecil Holmes, who won Cold War notoriety in 1948 when he was smeared as a communist agent, while working as a director for the National Film Unit. This excerpt — the opening 10 minutes — revisits the infamous snatching of Holmes' satchel outside Parliament, his Palmerston North upbringing, war service, and the founding of the Government's National Film Unit. There are excerpts from a 1980 interview where Holmes describes his inspirations (including UK film Night Mail).
The feature film Topless Women Talk about Their Lives evolved out of this late night, low budget, TV3 micro-series about the lives, loves and travails of a group of 20-something Aucklanders. It was written and directed by former Front Lawn member Harry Sinclair with a cast including Danielle Cormack and Joel Tobeck. Each four minute episode was shot over a weekend with actors not sighting scripts until just before the camera rolled. Music from Flying Nun bands featured prominently; the women remained fully clothed despite the tantalising titular promise.
Whale Rider director Niki Caro’s fourth short film is comprised of six vignettes — each focusing on a different elderly man. With minimal supporting cast (Joel Tobeck has a cameo as a competence-challenged waiter), the men talk mainly to themselves or the camera. Shot on Super 8mm (with graphics from an overhead projector), Old Bastards attempts to “subvert our kindly and slightly condescending view of old men”; its dark alternative view instead paints the aging male as vigorously intolerant, lecherous, impotent, trapped or just lost.
Four-part series Standing in the Sunshine charted the journey of Kiwi women over a century from September 1893, when New Zealand became the first country to grant women the right to vote in parliamentary elections. This third episode, directed by Melanie Rodriga, looks at women over a century of work — plus education, equal pay, family, art, and Māori life. Interviews are mixed with archive material – including a mid-80s 'girls can do anything' promotion – and reenactments of quotes by Kiwi feminist pioneers. Writer Sandra Coney also authored a tie-in book for the series.
A trio of future Kiwi screen stars smoke, smoulder, steal — and worse — in Scott Reynolds' serpentine short noir. Kane (Marton Csokas) and his Zambesi-clad woman on the side (Danielle Cormack) set about ripping off Kane’s rich wife (Jennifer Ward-Lealand) with bloody results. Writer/director Scott Reynolds and longtime partner in crime, cinematographer Simon Raby, serve notice of their talents — and inspirations — with heady lighting, deliberately shonky back projection, and opening titles right out of Hitchcock. Muso Greg Johnson supplies the horns.
This documentary follows two young people with significant disabilities — Miles Roelants and Shelly West (real name Michelle Belesarius) — as they move into a flat together and face considerable challenges. Shelly is blind with rheumatoid arthritis, and Miles has spina bifida. The film provoked public debate at the time of screening about disabled peoples' right to live ‘normal’ lives. This was the first of several documentaries about Belesarius including the high-rating Shelly Has A Baby and Mum, Dad and Michela. She died in 2010.
While beachcombing, April (Hester Joyce) discovers an injured man and claims him as her own. She must keep him a secret, and alive, in a makeshift community called Paradise. But Paradise is under threat and the other residents are slowly moving on. Fiercely protective of the broken man in her bed, April cannot leave, nor can she stay. For April there is nowhere to go but up. Directed by Niki Caro (Whale Rider), Sure To Rise competed for the Palme d’Or at the 1994 Cannes Film Festival. Producer Owen Hughes writes here about where the film's rise led its director.
See What I Mean is a documentary about people with a hearing impairment, and those who identify as deaf. It tells the stories of a family who were all born deaf, and a journalist who began to lose her hearing in her twenties. It features footage of deaf community events including rugby, an education meeting and socialising at the Deaf Club. This was the documentary that first presented the idea of 'Deaf Culture' on New Zealand television, relating it to protest activities by the American deaf community. The film was directed by Shirley Horrocks (Kiwiana, The New Oceania).
Filmmaker Scott Reynolds demonstrated early that familiar genres - the thriller, the serial killer tale - can provide rich showcases for invention and a distinctive style. His first short is an impressive calling card, showing just what can be done with minimal material: essentially one actor (a young Marton Csokas), a mysterious package, and the possibility the package is a bomb. A warning: the finale arguably takes the 'Macguffin' trickery to its logical conclusion. The M1nute was selected for the London Film Festival, and Oberhausen in Germany.
Miles (Joel Tobeck) is 16. His family are falling apart and he's got a crush on his cousin. An imminent royal visit offends his mother's political sensibilities and his father is spending time with a female neighbour. Christmas is coming and the twins have murder on their minds. Director Niki (Whale Rider) Caro's survey of the everyday eccentricities of family was nominated for best TV drama scipt and director at the 1994 NZ Film and TV Awards. The film was one of three half-hour dramas commissioned by TVNZ under the series title Another Country. Producer Owen Hughes writes about it here.
This documentary tracks severely disabled Miles Roelants from his 21st birthday through a year that culminates in him meeting his hero, actor Michael J Fox, in Los Angeles. Roelants was born with spina bifida and his own interviews with his parents and siblings candidly confront the challenges faced by families with a disabled child. Also featured is Shelly West (real name Michelle Belesarius) who is blind with rheumatoid arthritis; despite that she is planning a trip to Italy. Miles Turns 21 was the first of a series of documentaries featuring the pair.
This documentary backgrounds the process of turning Murray Ball's comic strip into New Zealand's first animated feature. Who will voice the iconic Dog? Pat Cox, the original producer, stays off-screen; but there are interviews with perfectionist Footrot creator Murray Ball, fellow Manawatu scribe Tom Scott and John Clarke, who argues he narrowly beat Meryl Streep to provide the voice of Wal. Amongst the making of footage, the late Mike Hopkins (who won Oscar glory on Lord of the Rings) lends his feet to the sound effects. Tony Hiles writes about the making of the film here.