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Charlotte Purdy

Director, Producer

Charlotte Purdy argues that the most important skill she brings to her screen work is storytelling. "Every project on television needs a different style of storytelling, going from magazine or reality styles to current affairs, journalism and documentaries. You have to continually come up with new story ideas, which is really hard work.”

Hard work and tenacity have seen Purdy forge a diverse career tackling stories on screen, spanning consumer affairs to current affairs, from identity-swapping reality TV to Antarctic disaster heroism.  

Having missing a slot for a Bachelor of Communications degree, Purdy attended Auckland's South Seas Film and Television School, after a short film her friends were involved in piqued her curiosity about filmmaking. Her graduating short documentary, Hookers, Whore and High Heels, won a place at the 1996 New Zealand International Film Festival and was Purdy’s industry calling card.   

She went door-knocking and was hired as an assistant by legendary producer Caterina De Nave, then TV3's Head of Drama. De Nave mentored Purdy and encouraged her to make her own projects. Purdy "kept developing my own proposals and submitting them to Creative NZ in order to try and get another arts grant. Although it’s a long and arduous process I was always developing and putting forward ideas.”

After doing PA jobs she did a television OE in the United Kingdom (including a gig as a researcher for BBC show Top of the Pops Plus). On returning to New Zealand, Purdy worked her way to directing magazine-style pieces for shows like My House, My Castle, and Going Going Gone.

While freelancing she founded her production company, Rogue Productions and pitched and produced her own shows. Purdy got the idea for Rogue reality series The Big Experiment after trying out her friends wheelchair, and realising other people were treating her differently when she was in it. "It grew from there really —  then we went a little crazy and thought 'what about changing someone's skin?' Using makeup and prosthetics, a builder became a woman, or a Pākehā became Asian etc. The Big Experiment was nominated for Best Reality Series at the 2006 Air New Zealand Screen Awards, and the format sold internationally. 

Other Rogue productions include documentary The 200kg Kid (following an obese 15-year-old’s gastric surgery), reality show The Palace (which follows a hip hop dance crew led by globetrotting choreographer Parris Goebel), and TV3's cinema show Reel Late with Kate (presented by Kate Rodgers). Passing on lessons to future film students, Purdy has written of the importance of creating one's own opportunities. "Always keep on knocking on doors because I think it does separate out those who will go on to make their own programmes. Young graduates need to realise this, because you just have to keep on going at it out there.”

Purdy’s experience wrangling productions was utilised during a decade in the fast-turnaround world of current affairs. She spent five years producing for 60 Minutes on TV3, followed by stints on Sunday and 20/20. “On a show like 60 Minutes it can be quite stressful," says Purdy. "You have to find the talent and of course your next programme must be ready to go on air in three weeks. They don’t really care if your story falls over or your talent didn’t come through.”

In 2014 Purdy co-directed award-winning docudrama Erebus: Operation Overdue. Purdy’s uncle Gordon Brooks was an engineer on the fateful Antarctic flight. Her cousin Virginia was at a memorial service for the victims and was moved by Inspector Greg Gilpin’s recollections of the rescue effort. It gave Purdy an idea for a different take on the Erebus disaster. 

Rather than focus on the controversy of what caused the crash in 1979, Purdy honoured the heroism of the rescuers (mostly young policemen) involved in the recovery effort. She collaborated with director Peter Burger (Field Punishment No. 1), with Burger handling dramatisations of the crash scene, and Purdy overseeing interviews with the rescuers. 

Operation Overdue screened to acclaim in July 2014, before renting well on iTunes. Wrote Sarah Lang in the Herald on Sunday: "This important and absorbing watch helps us comprehend — and says a long overdue thank you.” The NZ Herald's Colin Hogg was moved to tissues: “a hellish story told hellishly well, and grim without being ghoulish.”

Operation Overdue was the big winner at the 2014 Documentary Edge Festival, taking out Best New Zealand Feature, Directing (shared with Peter Burger), Editing and Cinematography. At the 2014 Rialto NZ Film Awards, Purdy and Burger were nominated for Best Director, Documentary and Television Feature. 

Purdy turned to the All Blacks for inspiration with 2019 film By the Balls, which she co-directed alongside Erebus editor Simon Coldrick. The feature-length TV documentary looks back at the late 1980s, when politics (including apartheid in South Africa) divided the men in black. By the Balls premiered at the 2019 New Zealand International Film Festival.

Profile updated on 13 November 2020

Source include
Charlotte Purdy
Rogue Productions website. Accessed 13 November 2020
'Charlotte Purdy' (broken link) South Seas Film and Television School website. Accessed 28 October 2017 
Erebus: Operation Overdue website. Accessed 25 June 2019 
Colin Hogg, ‘Colin Hogg: Erebus doco grim but great’ (Review of Erebus: Operation Overdue) - The NZ Herald, 15 July 2014
Sarah Lang, ‘Erebus: Life after picking up the pieces’ (Review of Erebus: Operation Overdue) - Herald on Sunday, 13 July 2014
Unknown writer, 'Outside the comfort zone' - The Dominion Post (TV Week  liftout), 23 August 2005, page 4