Brit-born but long based in New Zealand, April Phillips has acted on television and film, and written a number of award-winning short films. She both wrote and starred in shorts Letter for Hope and Utu Pihikete, then stepped up to directing with 2016's REM. The horror tale won screenings and awards at a number of global film festivals. Phillips has a Masters in Scriptwriting from Victoria University's International Institute of Modern Letters. Her extensive CV of theatre work includes ensemble drama Motel. Her comic play STiFF has had seasons in Auckland, London and Melbourne.
It’s fun and fascinating to step back in time and feel what it was like to live in pioneering times that were physically arduous, often lonely, and at times frightening. April Phillips, on writing and starring in colonial-era short film Utu Pihikete
Short film Letter for Hope is about a chance encounter of the best kind, at a point when there isn't much hope around. April Phillips (who also wrote the script) plays Jane, who must face the revelation that her pregnancy will be terminal. While trying to process the news, she encounters an old man (veteran actor Don Langridge) whose kindness and humanity will help in surprising ways. The self-funded short competed at multiple film festivals in the United States, and won an Honourable Mention at the 2014 Sarasota Film Festival.
A colonial widow, recently arrived in New Zealand from England, answers an advertisement from a stoic settler for a wife. They agree to an arrangement. Later Mrs Brown forms an attachment to their Māori servant girl Atawhai, and slowly learns the secret behind her presence. Written by playwright April Phillips (who also plays Mrs Brown) this short film was directed by Christchurch theatre director Craig Hutchison. It was filmed at Wellington's Nairn Street Cottage. ‘Utu Pihikete’ was a derogatory term for half-caste children meaning “paid for in biscuits”.
Shot in Wellington, Hawke’s Bay and Hong Kong, Eternity is a rare homegrown sci-fi feature. In a virtual world, detective Richard Manning (Elliot Travers) must solve a case where the fictional suspects were all in the next room to the murder, while he battles a memory-eroding virus that may have real world consequences. Director Alex Galvin’s good-looking globetrotting whodunnit was rendered on a shoestring budget. Scenes and some post-production was done in Kong Kong, after his first movie When Night Falls impressed Hong Kong-based producer Eric Stark.
Scriptwriter Philippa Boyens has described Alice Sebold's bestselling book The Lovely Bones as "brutal, surprising, gorgeous". A tale of murder and how the victim's family and friends try to deal with it, the story is told from the perspective of the victim — 14-year-old Susie Salmon. For the movie adaptation. Peter Jackson and his Weta FX team engaged in more Heavenly Creatures style world-building, rendering an afterlife for Susie that "alters and shifts" with her mood. Time praised the film's "gravity and grace", plus Saoirse Ronan's BAFTA-nominated performance as Susie.
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.
Duggan stars John Bach as brooding Detective Inspector Duggan, attempting to solve murders amid the tranquillity of the Marlborough Sounds. New Zealand's answer to Inspector Morse, the show was conceived by Marion McLeod, and scripted by Donna Malane and Ken Duncum. Eleven episodes of the Gibson Group series were made, following on from introductory tele-features Death in Paradise and Sins of the Father. The turquoise waters of The Sounds make for an evocative setting in this sharp, classy Kiwi whodunit. Rachel Davies writes here about Duggan's birth.
This series centred on a weekly TV current affairs programme in mid-90s Wellington. Katie Wolfe stars as stroppy journalist Amanda Robbins: lured back from Australia for her tabloid style in an effort to boost the show's ratings. Tackling timely storylines and shot ‘handheld’ in the NYPD Blue-inspired style, the TV3 series was well reviewed but faced its own ratings struggles (a later series screened on TV One). It was Gibson Group’s second foray into producing a TV drama series, after Shark in the Park. A pre-Lord of the Rings Fran Walsh was a series writer.
After turning "Jeez Wayne" into a national catchphrase with the sketch show A Week of It, comedy duo David McPhail and Jon Gadsby (plus third writer AK Grant) followed with McPhail & Gadsby, which aired on TVNZ for seven seasons — plus a reprise in 1998 and 1999. After a sometimes controversial debut season in which each episode was devoted to a specific theme (religion, sex etc), the show settled into a steady diet of political satire, spoofs and impersonations of public figures — including McPhail's famous caricature of PM Robert 'Piggy' Muldoon.