The trio of documentaries surrounding the religious community of Gloriavale generated huge TV ratings. Amanda Evans is the director and producer behind this mini-TV phenomenon. In her 30 year career she has produced and/ or directed documentaries, reality series and iconic Kiwi kids and arts shows.
Most viewers and critics are so used to getting the black hat/white hat applied to the characters, the setting up of clear antagonists and protagonists in every story, that they find it refreshing to see a different view of the world without an agenda. Amanda Evans
Bill Dobson was one of around 500 New Zealanders to be taken prisoner by the Germans during World War I. His grandsons, filmmakers Grant and Bryce Campbell, use Dobson’s letters home, his sketch book and contemporary photographs to describe his journey. Bill was one of 210 Kiwis captured at French village Méteren, near the Belgian border, during Germany’s 1918 Spring Offensive. Camp conditions were tough, but Dobson filled his time with prolific sketching and performing in the Camp Concert Party. Post-war, Dobson married vaudeville performer Louise Morris.
Christchurch-born Jessie Scott was a rarity in 1914: a qualified doctor in a male dominated profession. But as this Great War Story shows, her bravery overcame even greater hurdles. Joining the Scottish Women’s Hospitals for Foreign Service, Dr Scott treated Serbian and British wounded in the Balkan war against Austria. Left behind during a retreat, she was captured but later released. That didn’t end her war. She went back to the front line, this time serving with Russian forces in Romania. Dr Scott's efforts earned her the Serbian Order of St Sava.
When 150 Niuean men were shipped off to Auckland en route to the Western Front, they had no idea what lay ahead. This Great War Story features the granddaughter of one of them, and the historian who researched his journey. Falaoa Tosene was “volunteered” to the NZ Māori Pioneer Battalion as a labourer. Unfamiliar food, uniforms and boots for men who had never worn shoes were the first shocks. In France, they faced freezing temperatures and disease. Tosene was hospitalised with trench foot. He survived, thanks to a former missionary, but 30 of his comrades died.
Harry Varnham was scarred both physically and mentally by his experience of World War One. In this episode of Great War Stories, his family explain why they believe the trauma of war eventually led him to take his own life decades later. Wounded during the Battle of Messines in Belgium, Varnham returned to the front and was seriously wounded again at Le Quesnoy. He was evacuated to London; he was just 19 when his leg was amputated. Back in New Zealand, Varnham married later in life and had two daughters, but he never overcame the mental scars from his time serving in WWI.
Rizk Alexander found himself in a rare situation during WWI — he was an Ottoman subject who chose to fight for the British Empire. His brief life still holds a fascination for his descendants. From a Syrian Christian family, Alexander had only been in New Zealand three years, when the 17-year-old signed up for war. Hoping to fight the Turkish Ottomans, he instead ended up on the Western Front, proving himself at the Battle of Messines in 1917. Later gassed, Alexander returned to Wellington to recuperate but he never fully recovered, dying in 1924. He was 27.
Captain Thomas Blake was one of about 40 veterinarians to serve New Zealand in the First World War. He accompanied some of the 10,000 Kiwi farm horses sent to the frontlines in the Middle East and, later France. They faced terrible conditions: sand and heat in Sinai, mud and rain in France, and suffered disease and horrific wounds. This Great War Stories episode explores the tight bond between horse and soldier. In the end, only four horses came home. Blake also made history: while in Egypt, he became the first Kiwi to marry while the troops were on active service.
For Kiwi-Chinese soldier Victor Low, World War I was fought mainly underground. Dunedin-born Low was a surveyor attached to the New Zealand Tunnelling Company, which created a network of caverns and tunnels in France before the Battle of Arras in April 1917. The complex was big enough to accommodate 12,000 soldiers and equipment. This episode of Great War Stories uses archive footage and modern laser scanning to map out the tunnels that still exist under the battlefield. Later, Low helped create the famous Bulford Kiwi which sits above Sling Camp in England.
This edition of New Zealand Stories follows a group of Australasian and German medical teams who make an annual charity trip to the Philippines. Over six intensive days they examine and operate on roughly 100 children who can't afford medical care — children for whom a single operation can be life-changing. As Auckland plastic surgeon Tristan de Chalain explains, the treatment typically involves fusing together parts of the lips and/or roof of the mouth which failed to join before birth. In this backgrounder, producer Amanda Evans writes about a mission born from kindness.
Ethical entrepreneur, medical pioneer and inaugural New Zealander of the Year, Sir Ray Avery traverses his life, work and beliefs in this episode from a TV One documentary series about spirituality. English-born Avery is a passionate and entertaining raconteur as he recounts his “overnight success story” which took 18 years and saw him overcome a childhood of neglect and abuse. His highly successful company has no permanent employees but has touched hundreds of thousands of lives with low cost, life saving medical devices manufactured in developing nations.
This series of 25 half-hour documentaries for TV One explored diversity in New Zealand and beyond, including across ethnicity, gender and religion. Among the locations are quake-ravaged Christchurch, New Plymouth's Womad festival, a firefighters’ contest in Australia and slums in Manila. Subjects include a Malaysian-born plastic surgeon, Wellington 'Supergrans' helping council tenants, a prison choir, a Burmese expatriate awaiting heart surgery and a Sudanese artist. Three production companies contributed episodes: Pacific Screen, Melting Pot, and Paua Productions.
This documentary follows the fight to save Christchurch’s “other” earthquake damaged cathedral, the Roman Catholic basilica. A team led by a heritage consultant and a structural engineer struggles to keep pace with fresh damage inflicted on the basilica by ongoing quakes. Drones and a Defence Force robot aid investigations into the interior of the now dangerous building. There are hard questions about the venture’s costs. But, as parishioners tell their stories, there’s also reminders that the basilica isn’t just an architectural treasure — it has been the heart of a community.
As the Operations Manager for Womad (World Of Music, Arts and Dance) in New Plymouth, Chris Herlihy performs the essential but often mundane jobs that make this large-scale outdoor event an annual success story. This half-hour documentary follows Herlihy and his crew as he oversees the pop-up city that is Womad 2011 — from looking after VIPs and fixing ticket problems, to mopping up the loos. New Plymouth has fully embraced Womad. Herlihy's love for the festival and his colleagues shines through as he power walks around the beautiful Brooklands Park site.
Economist and philanthropist Gareth Morgan is typically forthright as he explains his atheism in this episode from the TV One series about spirituality. Morgan walked away from a Reserve Bank job to live in a bus (from where he eventually founded his company Infometrics). He talks candidly about childhood operations for a cleft lip and his decision to give away the millions earned from his investment in Trade Me (founded by his son Sam) but is less than charitable in his views on accountants. Note: Morgan does not worship Bastet (the Egyptian goddess of cats).
This documentary follows three amateur historians into the heart of the Libyan Sahara as they track the path of ‘T Patrol’, a unit of World War II’s legendary Long Range Desert Group, which included a number of Kiwis. The LRDG braved extreme heat and desert conditions to launch surprise raids deep behind enemy lines in converted Chevrolets. In this excerpt the history hunters make their way to Murzuk, the scene of a raid on an Italian air base. Alongside the only known footage of the desert group in action, surviving members of the patrol recall events, and the LRDG’s ethos.
This episode from The Living Room is presented by Wellington band TrinityRoots. First stop is a dans paleis, where competitors (including Fat Freddys' DJ Mu) tweak samples in a battle for the MPC heavyweight title. Then Dunedin artist Phil Frost tours his studio, talks skulls and bones and skate video Tulgonia Two (where broken ankles are the price of filming mad tricks). Poet Cameron Hockly takes his words to Te Awamutu's streets; and mainlander Peter King lathe cuts bespoke records for clients from the Beastie Boys to Trinity Roots (whose True LP is cut here).
Wellington band The Black Seeds present the debut episode in this TV series profiling creative Kiwi culture. They begin by going behind the scenes on their action-packed music video Hey Son (with Bret McKenzie donning a Captain Cook meets Freddie Mercury number). There’s an early profile of Auckland graffiti/ streetwear artist Misery (complete with cycle interview, and cameo from artist Elliot 'Askew' O'Donnell), London-based Ta Moko artist Te Rangitu Netana talks about life away from home, and tattooing Robbie Williams; and there’s a piece about skateboarding mag Manual.
This episode of the series profiling creative Kiwi culture is presented by hip-hop diva Ladi6, her partner Parkes, and cousins Scribe and Matthias Luafutu. Verse 2, her act at the time (before her solo success) is profiled in her hometown of Christchurch — and Luafatu's journey from prison to drama school is explored (with glimpses of Scribe on the brink of his hugely successful recording career). Other segments visit the air guitar champs and find director Brendan Donovan in New York where he made his debut short with Six Million Dollar Man Lee Majors.
This early episode from the award-winning arts series drops in on the Urale sisters — directors Sima and Makerita and publicist Maila — in the living room of their Lyall Bay fale. The prolific Samoan-Kiwi siblings visit local haunts, discuss work, and brother Bill (aka King Kapisi) is mentioned in dispatches. Other Kiwi creatives featured include 'nu jazz' practitioner Mark de Clive-Lowe playing at Cargo in London; designer Ross Stevens building his challenging Happy Valley shipping container conversion; and Cannons Creek beatbox king Dougie B breaking it down.
A magazine show with an edge, The Living Room did for arts television production what Radio With Pictures did for NZ music — it ripped open the venetian blinds, rearranged the plastic-covered cushions, and shone the sun on Aotearoa’s homegrown creative culture. Often letting the subjects film and present their own stories, it was produced for three series by Wellington’s Sticky Pictures, who also made follow-up arts showcase The Gravy. These excerpts from the first series show a calvacade of local talent, including an early Flight of the Conchords screen outing.
Presented by Alison Parr, this 1997 TVNZ arts series focused on New Zealand literature and writers; it featured studio interviews with authors. The Write Stuff was made by Pinnacle Productions — Amanda Evans, Pamela Meekings-Stewart and Di Oliver-Zahl — who were also behind contemporary arts series For Arts Sake. There were 26 30-minute episodes. Those interviewed included Emily Perkins, Bill Manhire, Sonja Davies, Barbara Else, Kate de Goldi, and Marilyn Duckworth. The Write Stuff screened on TV One.
This edition of the mid 1990s TV One arts series sees host Alison Parr interviewing literary rising star Emily Perkins, then 26, while the expat author is visiting from London. Perkins talks about her time at drama school, her debut short story collection Not Her Real Name (whose Generation X life stories won international notice), and nerves about her upcoming first novel. The episode opens with poet Bill Manhire talking about book Mutes and Earthquakes, which anthologised the work and processes of his Victoria University creative writing programme. Perkins was a graduate.
This excerpt from the 22nd episode of Kiwi literature series The Write Stuff features unionist and peace campaigner Sonja Davies (1923 - 2005). Davies had just released Marching On, the follow-up to her acclaimed 1984 autobiography Bread & Roses. Presenter Alison Parr asks Davies about her experience in Parliament, as well as personal tragedy and gardening. Davies reflects on achieving change, her dislike for the aggression of the debating chamber, and the values her grandparents taught her: "compassion and responsibility, caring for others more than you care for yourself …"
Arts magazine series For Arts Sake screened on TV ONE for two hours on Sunday mornings for 22 weeks in 1996. This segment on dancer/choreographer Mary Jane O'Reilly marks the launch of her new company Auckland Ballet. The founder of the celebrated Limbs Dance Company talks about still being involved in dance in her mid-40s, the formation of her new company, the similarities and differences between ballet and contemporary dance, and her move into making dance films. The item also features excerpts from some of O'Reilly's dance works.
Arts magazine series For Arts Sake screened on TV One for two hours on Sunday mornings for 22 weeks in 1996. This segment on dancer and choreographer Michael Parmenter features an in-depth interview with Parmenter (by series presenter Alison Parr) and excerpts from his dance works. Parmenter talks about his creative influences, his tough upbringing in conservative Invercargill, the tensions caused by being gay and in the Brethren Church when he was younger, and the impact of his illnesses (HIV and cancer) on his life and dance career.
Arts magazine series For Arts Sake screened on TV One for two hours on Sunday mornings for 22 weeks in 1996. This segment features the acclaimed Hone Kouka play Waiora - The Homeland, about a Māori family struggling to deal with their move from traditional rural ways to city life in 1960s New Zealand. The item includes excerpts from the play, and interviews with playwright Kouka, director Murray Lynch, and cast members Rawiri Paratene, Nancy Brunning and Mick Rose. The play and this story feature both English and te reo Māori.
Arts magazine series For Arts Sake screened on TV ONE for two hours on Sunday mornings for 22 weeks in 1996. The show featured a range of artists including dancer/choreographers Michael Parmenter and Mary Jane O'Reilly, playwright Hone Kouka, sculptor Michael Parekowhai, painter Graham Sydney, photographer Ans Westra, and animator and sculptor Len Lye. Former TV current affairs journalist Alison Parr was the show's presenter and interviewer. Each week's programme had a theme represented by local stories and interviews, as well as international items.
In this excerpt from the 1996 TV One arts series, presenter Alison Parr interviews the NZ Film Commission's longtime marketing director Lindsay Shelton about the international success of Kiwi films. Shelton attributes the recent popularity of Once Were Warriors and Heavenly Creatures to Kiwi stories being different and new — "everything in our films was unexpected". Roger Donaldson, Geoff Murphy, Jane Campion and Peter Jackson are mentioned, with special note of Jackson's "confidence and wish" to stay in New Zealand's "tiny as well as fragile" film industry.
Parliament’s art collection is showcased in this excerpt from the mid 90s arts series. Curator Jane Vial and Parliamentary Services Deputy Manager Beth Bowen are tour guides to some of the paintings and objects making up a then 1000 strong collection, which began in the 1870s. They include gifted works, like a portrait of the first Northern Māori MP Ihaka Te Tai Hakuene, and commissioned works from artists. Artworks are shown from John Drawbridge, Cliff Whiting, Robin Kahukiwa, and Guy Ngan (whose large-scale hangings adorn The Beehive’s Banquet Hall).
Sunday was one of a number of magazine-style shows to screen on TVNZ, in a weekend morning slot. It was hosted by Radio New Zealand presenter Kathryn Asare, who the previous year had been drafted in to present a similar show, 10AM. Liz Gunn (Breakfast) later took over the reins. Many of the items on Sunday had an arts bent, including pieces on designer/producer Logan Brewer, and La Sagrada Família architect Mark Burry. Sunday is not to be confused with the long-running TVNZ current affairs show of the same name.
Beloved by 70s and 80s era Kiwi kids, Spot On mixed educational items and entertainment. For the final episode, broadcast live on Christmas Day 1988, guest host Bob Parker celebrates the show’s 15 years by tracking down almost every Spot On presenter. There are also clips of fondly remembered sketches and adventures, set to pop hits of the day. The roll call of presenters includes Phil Keoghan, Ian Taylor, Danny Watson, Erin Dunleavy, Ole Maiava, Helen McGowan and the late Marcus Turner. Spot On won Best Children’s Programme at the 1988 Listener Film and TV awards.
Long-running afternoon show The Video Dispatch presented current affairs for younger viewers. Legend has it some politicians also used it to get a handle on the news. Topics ranged from poverty to a DIY polytech computer called ‘Poly’. The show's first presenter was Dick Weir, who in 1983 handed the reins to Lloyd Scott (best known at the time as Barry Crump's hapless pal in a series of Toyota ads). Rodney Bryant replaced Scott in 1987. Among the show's many reporters were Michele A'Court, Kerre McIvor (nee Woodham), and Bill Ralston. The title sequence will tickle nostalgia for 80s kids.
Launched in February 1974, Spot On was an award-winning education-focused magazine programme for children. Presenters who got their break on the beloved show included Ian Taylor, Danny Watson, Phil Keoghan and Ole Maiava. Keoghan went on to global fame as host of The Amazing Race; Taylor now heads up Taylormade Productions and Animation Research Ltd. The show was created by Murray Hutchinson. Producer Michael Stedman later became head of the Natural History Unit. Peter Jackson and Robert Sarkies entered Spot On’s annual Young Filmmaker competition.
Play School was an iconic educational programme for pre-school children, which was first produced in Auckland from 1972, then Dunedin from 1975. The format included songs, a story, craft, a calendar, a clock and a look outside Play School via the shaped windows. But the toys, Big Ted, Little Ted, Jemima, Humpty and Manu, were the real stars of the show. The title sequence ("Here's a house ...") and music were a call to action recognised by generations of Kiwis. Presenters included actors Rawiri Paratene and Theresa Healey, Russell Smith and future MP Jacqui Hay.