By the time she'd graduated from drama school Toi Whakaari, Chelsie Preston Crayford had won an award for acclaimed short Fog and acted in three feature films, including starring in Home by Christmas as her own grandmother. She has gone on to play a cult member (TV series The Cult) and Katherine Mansfield's lover (telemovie Bliss). She also won awards in Australia for TV thriller The Code and a starring role as a crimelord in the 1920s edition of Underbelly. In 2017 she co-starred in big screen drama The Inland Road. She is the daughter of director Gaylene Preston and musician Jonathan Crayford.
My mum was the director, so it was amazing to be able to work so closely together on a story we both knew so intimately. It was a once in a lifetime experience. Chelsie Preston Crayford on playing her own grandmother in Home by Christmas
Carl (Australian actor David Wenham) and Julie (Sia Trokenheim, from TV series Step Dave) are an estranged couple whose teen daughter Eve has gone missing in India. Their search takes them from Auckland to New Delhi and the Himalayas, where culture clashes and old wounds frustrate their efforts. The film was directed by Indian Pan Nalin (the acclaimed Samsara) and written by Kiwi Dianne Taylor. Known World was the first product of a New Zealand-India co-production treaty. The team of producers includes Kiwis Kristian Eek and Matthew Horrocks.
The first feature from Jackie van Beek was born from the idea of three very different people in a house, after a crisis. The central character is teen runaway Tia, who after a car crash moves in with a family who are connected to the accident. To find their lead actor — newcomer Gloria Popata — writer/director van Beek and casting director Yvette Reid did an epic casting call across Aotearoa. Reid auditioned 340 people. Van Beek is best known as an actor herself, often in comic roles. She directed seven shorts, before The Inland Road was invited to debut at the Berlin Film Festival.
In the 1930s Kiwi-born pilot Jean Batten set off on a series of legendary solo flights. Jean is the tale of a charismatic, determined woman, the mother who stayed close, and the man curious to unravel the person behind the legend. At the 2017 NZ Television Awards, the ambitious telemovie made a clean sweep, including awards for Donna Malane and Paula Boock's script, director Robert Sarkies, lead actor Kate Elliott, and the design team. In the excerpt — which hints at the story's globetrotting sweep — Jean fights heat and storms while attempting to fly from England to Australia.
The first animated feature made and originated in New Zealand, 25 April tells the story of the country's involvement in an ill-fated mission to take a piece of Turkish coastline during World War I. 2700 Kiwis died and ‘ANZAC’ became a symbol of national identity. Director Leanne Pooley mines archive war diaries, and uses graphic novel style recreations from Flux Animation to evoke the the perspective of six participants. 25 April debuted at the 2015 Toronto Film Festival. Alongside the excerpt, a short making of video shows how facial motion capture fed into the film's distinctive look.
Actor/director Taika Waititi teamed up with his Eagle vs Shark star Jemaine Clement for this mockumentary about life for a flat of vampires. Cameras follow the vamps as they struggle to get into Wellington pubs, squabble over chores and face off against werewolves. A roster of Kiwi comedic talent (including Jackie van Beek and lazy vampire Jonathan Brugh) feature. After winning fangtastic reviews at America's Sundance and SXSW festivals, Shadows won a run of global sales and four Moa awards, including Best Self-Funded Feature. It also spawned two TV series, and a live show.
Bliss is a portrait of the artist as a young woman. The award-winning telemovie follows Katherine Mansfield from boredom in Edwardian Wellington to liberation and love affairs in London, where she dares to dream of being a writer. Kate Elliott plays Mansfield as a spirited 19-year-old, hungry for experience. Bliss screened to acclaim in TV One's Sunday Theatre slot in August 2011. Listener reviewer Fiona Rae praised director Fiona Samuel's "excellent" script, and for allowing "her Mansfield to be witty, passionate and outspoken without belabouring the status of women in 1908".
In Gaylene Preston's War Stories, her mother Tui revealed that she had fallen for another man while her husband was off at war. In Home by Christmas, inspired by an audio interview with her father Ed, Preston looks again at her parents' life during wartime. In this behind-the-scenes doco, veteran actor Tony Barry talks about the acting techniques which allowed him to "be, rather than play, Ed"; Preston reveals that Barry's distinctive voice is almost a carbon copy of her father's; and Chelsie Preston Crayford talks about portraying her own grandmother.
Home by Christmas sees Gaylene Preston returning to the hidden stories of ordinary New Zealanders. Inspired by attempts to get her father Ed to reveal his WWII experiences, this finely-balanced docu-drama moves between three strands: Preston’s father (Goodbye Pork Pie's Tony Barry, in a Qantas award-winning performance) retelling his story; recreations of Ed’s wartime OE; and life for the woman he left behind in Greymouth. The dream cast sees Preston’s own daughter Chelsie Preston Crayford playing Preston's mother Tui, alongside Martin Henderson.
In the first episode of The Cult, headstrong lawyer Michael Lewis (Shortland Street's Renato Bartolomei) joins a volatile group in a Northland house. Each of them has lost a family member or friend to commune Two Gardens, and wants to get them out. Meanwhile, inside Two Gardens, Michael's son is asked to "renounce" his own brother. Created by Kathryn Burnett and Peter Cox, The Cult won Qantas awards for acting, design, music, cinematography, and editing — and was nominated for another four acting awards. Peter Burger (Until Proven Innocent) directs this first episode.
The Cult follows two groups: the members of a commune, who have renounced all contact with the outside world, and a loose-knit team of 'liberators', keen to reestablish contact with commune members they care about. The first prime time drama from Great Southern Film and Television won six of its 11 nominations at the 2010 Qantas Film and Television Awards — including for the acting of Lisa Chappell and Danielle Cormack (as a devious doctor). It was nominated for Best Drama. The moody 13-part thriller was created by Kathryn Burnett and Peter Cox.
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.
A man stands alone in a room, watched by unsmiling faces, before literally falling into the rest of the group. Young women dance in time, their shoes belting out a rhythm on a wooden floor. A strange ritual of falling and rising is played out on a fog-shrouded hill. In this beautifully-lensed dance film, director Warren Green and choreographer Megan Adams take a new approach to showcasing the talents of acting students from drama school Toi Whakaari. The shifting, syncopated soundtrack is by Hamish Walker and David Holmes of Kog Transmissions.
MyStory was the first “mobisode” funded by NZ On Air. It tracks a group of young people in their ‘gap year’ between high school and university as they discover one of their friends has gone missing. The 40 x two-minute episodes screened on C4, and was able to be downloaded daily to 3G phones on the Vodafone network, or watched (as a weekly collection) on the C4 website on Sundays. Created by Gibson Group producer Bevin Linkhorn, the series was directed by Peter Salmon.
QTV is a children's series, designed to bring science alive and make it relevant and interesting to young viewers. Each episode of QTV covers a topic such as forensics, volcanoes, tsunamis, biodiversity, climate change, etc. Q is short for question - the show's tagline is "Question Everything".
One of the most successful television shows shot on Kiwi soil, The Tribe was the brainchild of British-born Raymond Thompson. In a future where the adults have been wiped out by a virus, the children that remain have formed into competing tribes, some of whom live to terrorise. Running five seasons, The Tribe sold to more than 120 territories, and the cast toured performances from the soundtrack for overseas fans. The cast were almost entirely New Zealanders, as were most of the crew. Sequel The New Tomorrow, following descendants of the original characters, screened in 2005.
A Twist in the Tale was one of a series of kidult shows launched by The Tribe creator Raymond Thompson, after he relocated to New Zealand. The anthology series spins from a storyteller (Star Trek's William Shatner) introducing a story (often fantastical) to a group of children, some of whom appear in the tales. The show featured early appearances by many young Kiwi thespians, including Antonia Prebble, Chelsie Preston Crayford, Dwayne Cameron and Michelle Ang. Although the writing team were British, some of the directors and most of the crew were New Zealanders.
Lala Rolls (Children of the Migration) wrote and directed this short film, which gives a view of family life from a child's perspective. A young girl (Chelsie Preston Crayford) is disturbed from sleep by the sound of adults arguing. She tries to shut out this grown-up world by pretending to be "adult" and taking care of the dinner wasting in the kitchen while her parents unwittingly carry on arguing.
Shortland Street is a fast-paced serial drama set in an inner city Auckland hospital. The long-running South Pacific Pictures production is based around the births, deaths and marriages of the hospital's staff and patients. It screens on TVNZ’s TV2 network five days a week. In 2017 the show was set to celebrate its 25th anniversary, making it New Zealand’s longest running drama by far. Characters and lines from the show have entered the culture — starting with “you’re not in Guatemala now, Dr Ropata!” in the very first episode. Mihi Murray writes about Shortland Street here.