Angela Littlejohn was a producer on Kiwi features Show of Hands, Separation City and Apron Strings. Prior to that she spent 15 years in London — including six in production and finance for Channel Four, where she worked on Trainspotting. After returning downunder, Littlejohn was producer on a run of short films, including Cannes Film Festival invitee Fog, and her first feature, 2008's Show of Hands. In 2014 she became Head of Production at Wellington company Pūkeko Pictures, where she has been on the producing team for the relaunch of TV classic Thunderbirds, and Australian-set dystopia Cleverman.
To make a film is an achievement in itself, therefore to make a good film is the greatest accomplishment. Angela Littlejohn
The movie version of Margaret Mahy's first novel for young adults is still set in Christchurch, but the time period is now post-quake. Teenager Laura Chant (newcomer Erana James) encounters a very strange man (Brit actor Timothy Spall, from Mr Turner) and a boy with a secret. The coming of age fantasy has been a longtime passion project for husband and wife team Stuart McKenzie and Miranda Harcourt, who have worked to keep their version as "dark and scary" as the Carnegie Award-winning original. The cast also includes Melanie Lynskey (Heavenly Creatures) and Lucy Lawless.
This telefeature follows the gruelling journey of Archibald Baxter, a pacifist who defied conscription and chose, on moral grounds, not to fight in World War I. The Otago farmer (father of poet James K), was one of 14 Kiwi 'conchies' who were jailed, disenfranchised and shipped to the war in Europe. There Baxter, played by actor Fraser Brown, was tied to a post in freezing conditions, then forced to the Front. The film continues a run of TV movies from company Lippy Features adapted from true events (Tangiwai, Until Proven Innocent). It screened on TV ONE on 22 April 2014.
This docudrama recreates the story of Radio Hauraki: a bunch of rebel DJs whose cause was bringing rock’n’roll to the radios of 60s NZ youth. Their fight for the right to broadcast involved a pirate vessel in the Hauraki Gulf. Director Charlie Haskell films the recreations from the point of view of late DJ Rick Grant, and cuts them together with interviews with the protagonists, animation and Hard Day’s Night-style japes. Based on Adrian Blackburn's book Radio Pirates, the telefilm debuted on TV One on 27 July 2014. It was nominated for a Moa Award for Best TV Feature.
Filmed in New Zealand’s deep south, this feature follows the vicissitudes of Adrian: a sensitive 11-year old haunted by the disappearance of three local children, who befriends mysterious new-in-town Nicole. The adaptation of Sonya Hartnett’s coming of age novel Of A Boy, is the feature debut of Denmark-based Dunedin-born director Daniel Joseph Borgman, following on from his lauded shorts Berik, and Lars and Peter. The creative team behind the 'informal' Danish-NZ co-production included frequent collaborators of directors Lars Von Trier and Thomas Vinterberg.
This TV3 drama series follows the travails of a cop (Oscar Kightley) as he pursues justice on the mean streets of Auckland. Solo parent to a teenage daughter (following his wife’s suicide), Detective Sergeant Harry Anglesea is thrown into a murder investigation and an underworld of P and gang violence. Harry, not a stickler for the rules, marked a rare dramatic turn for Oscar Kightley. Sam Neill plays his policing buddy. NZ Herald reviewer Paul Casserly called it a “great, gritty crime show”. Harry was notable for using unsubtitled Samoan in primetime.
This first episode of this 2013 crime drama begins with a meth-fuelled bank heist gone very wrong. Harry is a Samoan-Kiwi detective (played by Oscar Kightley, a million miles away from Morningside) pursuing justice in South Auckland. Sam Neill, in his first role on a Kiwi TV series, plays Harry’s detective buddy. Off the case, Harry struggles with his teen daughter in the wake of his wife’s suicide. The Chris Dudman-directed series screened for a season on TV3. Broadcaster John Campbell tweeted: “Not remotely suitable for kids. But nor are many excellent things.”
TV movie Rage recreates the 1981 Springbok tour, which saw violent clashes between protestors and police. Ryan O'Kane (Second Hand Wedding) plays the protestor whose girlfriend (Maria Walker) is actually an undercover cop who has infiltrated the anti-tour movement. The script was written by Tom Scott — who protested, in-between writing a humour column in The Listener — and his brother-in-law Grant O'Fee, who was a detective sergeant in Wellington. Rage was nominated for five NZ TV Awards, including Best One-Off Drama, Director (Danny Mulheron) and Actor (O'Kane).
Christmas Eve 1953: Cricketer Bob Blair (Ryan O'Kane) is in South Africa, days away from batting for New Zealand. His fiancée Nerissa Love (Maddigan's Quest's Rose McIver) is boarding an ill-fated train, which in this excerpt will plunge into the Whangaehu River at Tangiwai, in the country's worst rail disaster. The Dominion Post's Linda Burgess found this TV movie retelling of the tragic romance "first-rate", noting "consistently excellent" performances from O'Kane, McIver, and Miranda Harcourt as Nerissa's wary mother. Tangiwai won four NZ TV awards, including best cinematography.
Separation City is a comedy-drama about the complications that ensue as two marriages collapse. Men's groups and midlife crises in contemporary Wellington make up the world in which the multi-national cast explores, in screenwriter Tom Scott's words, "biology and human nature". This feature marks the first solo film script by political cartoonist Scott, who honed his writing skills on a run of TV projects during the two-decade journey to bring the film to the screen. Successful commercials director, Australian-based Kiwi Paul Middleditch, directs.
In Samoan-born director Sima Urale's first feature, two mothers from very different Aotearoa cultures find the courage to confront the secrets of the past, in order to set their sons free. Hard-working Lorna runs an old-fashioned cake shop and lives with her unemployed son. For Anita, star of an Indian cooking show, things come to a head when her son decides to meet her estranged sister Tara, who runs a no-frills curry house. Apron Strings debuted in the Discovery Section of the 2008 Toronto Film Festival. It won four Qantas awards, including for actors Jennifer Ludlam and Scott Wills.
The second feature film directed by writer Anthony McCarten (Ladies' Night) is a small tale with some big themes. Set in a New Plymouth car yard, the film chronicles an endurance contest in which a car will be awarded to the person who manages to keep their hands on it the longest. As night falls, solo mother Jess (Melanie Lynskey) finds herself fending off the attentions of an obstinate competitor (Craig Hall), with a much harsher vision of the world than hers. Inspired by similar real-life contests, McCarten based the film on his novel Endurance.
Ricky is shy and has an overbearing father. He and extroverted misfit Telly (Chelsie Preston Crayford) slip out into the night, commandeering Ricky's father's fishing boat and heading out into the freedom of the fog. Peter Salmon's short film highlights oppression, boredom and sex in a small New Zealand town. Fog was shot in Ngawi, an isolated fishing village on the Wairarapa coastline. It was invited to 20 international film festivals, including the Critics' Week section at Cannes. At the 2007 NZ Screen Awards, Chelsie Preston Crayford was awarded for Best Performance in a Short Film.
Set in gritty backstreets somewhere in downtown Auckland, this short film follows the vicissitudes of Evan, a teenager whose life changes when he skips school and meets a beautiful and troubled stranger. Directed by Michael Duignan (A New Way Home) and produced by Rachel Gardner (Apron Strings, A Show of Hands), Truant is a convincing portrayal of that potent mixture of curiosity and desperation peculiar to adolescence. Truant screened at a number of festivals including the prestigious short film festival in Clermont-Ferrand, France, and the London Film Festival.
Six Māori Battalion soldiers camped in Italian ruins wait for night to fall. In the silence, the bros-in-arms distract themselves with jokes. A tohu (sign) brings them back to reality, and they gather to say a karakia before returning to the fray. Director Taika Waititi describes the soldiers as young men with "a special bond, strengthened by their character, their culture and each other." Shot in the rubble of the old Wellington Hospital, Tama Tū won international acclaim. Invited to over 40 international festivals, its many awards included honourable mentions at Sundance and Berlin.
This short film follows 14-year-old George (Norissa Taia) who has to find her own way to celebrate her birthday when everyone else forgets it. But solace comes from an unexpected place. The film marked director Reina Webster-Iti’s thesis project for her Master of Fine Arts degree at New York University’s Tisch School of the Arts (the Fulbright scholar was the first Kiwi to study film directing there). Little Things won a Special Mention at the 2005 Berlin Film Festival, while young actor Norissa Taia was nominated for an NZ Screen Award. The casting is by Whale Rider's Diana Rowan.