Chris Graham studied filmmaking in New York before returning to NZ and forging a reputation through distinctive promos for well known Aotearoa musicians (Scribe, Trinity Roots). He made his feature film debut with comedy hit Sione's Wedding (2006), closely followed by horror movie The Ferryman.
I have a fascination for differing mediums within film. I enjoy the concise storytelling and the precision of making commercials while I also still love the freeform of making music videos from remarkable local music. Chris Graham
Tu (real-life hip hop champ Tia Maipi) has six weeks to show the talent that will win him a spot in an international dance group. As the high octane trailer for Born to Dance makes clear, that doesn’t leave much time to muck around. The first movie directed by actor Tammy Davis (Outrageous Fortune) features music by P-Money, and choreography by Manurewa’s own world champ hip hop sensation Parris Goebel (who helped choreograph J. Lo’s 2012 tour). The cast includes Stan Walker and American Kherington Payne (Fame). Playwright Hone Kouka is one of the writing team.
This 2014 documentary celebrates Māori Television’s first decade. It begins by backgrounding campaigns that led to the channel (despite many naysayers). Interviews with key figures convey the channel's kaupapa – preserving the past and te reo, while eyeing the future. A wide-ranging survey of innovative programming showcases the positive depictions of Māoridom, from fresh Waitangi, Anzac Day, basketball and 2011 Rugby World Cup coverage, to Te Ao Māori takes on genres like current affairs and reality TV (eg Native Affairs, Homai Te Pakipaki, Kai Time on the Road, Code, and more).
In the five years since Sione's Wedding, the Duckrocker quartet have experienced marriage, children, Australians and the good lord. Then their minister reunites them on a quest to find Bolo (Dave Fane) — once their driver and conscience, now MIA. The sequel to the break-through PI-Kiwi hit reunites the original cast, and adds in a dodgy minister (Kirk Torrance) and a new director (Outrageous Fortune's Simon Bennett). On the burden of following Wedding, Stuff reviewer Steve Kilgallon adjudged: "seen on its own merits, it [Sione's 2] proves worth the wait".
Chart-topper 'Brother' is about Smashproof's South Auckland neighbourhood, and how the hip hop trio want it to change — crime and violence are not the only options. It's an urgent message, delivered via a powerful, Tui award-winning drive-by video from music video director Chris Graham. The clip made it into mainstream news media for a scene bluntly inspired by a high profile incident, where a businessman stabbed a young tagger. Singer-songwriter Gin Wigmore features during the chorus. 'Brother' broke local chart records, after spending eleven weeks at number one.
This 'making of' film goes behind the scenes of the music video for Smashproof's hit song Brother. Chris Graham's promo won Best Music Video at the 2009 Vodafone New Zealand Music Awards. The 10 minute film includes interviews with Smashproof, talking about the consciousness-raising song (a "metaphor for South Auckland"). Meanwhile director Chris Graham discusses the concept of cruising the streets in an invisible car — the idea "came from Sid's opening lyric: 'I've got my hand on the windowsill looking out at the world'..." — and how it was executed.
The promo for F.R.E.S.H. ("Forever Rhyming Eternally Saving Hip hop") is set 'Somewhere in Canterbury' and sets off a breakneck clip: around 100 cuts in the first 60 seconds. The costuming, set changes and colour palette are dynamic; the nods to Scribe’s mainland hometown are many. How many times do you hear the director namechecked in a song? Not many. Chris Graham's sense of pace, timing and cheeky lightheartedness — there's even a coconuts-as-horse-hooves rhythm section — propel the hip hop crusader and his horsemen into the stratosphere.
A group of young tourists charter a yacht and go cruising in the South Pacific. In a dense fog, they come across an old, sick Greek man on a sinking boat and rescue him. They have no idea of how evil he is and how brutal their night is to become. Thanks to the special weapon he is holding, this man has the power to inhabit other people's bodies. The Ferryman approaches - he's after the old Greek as the path to the afterlife is close and there is a payment to be made.
Sione's Wedding is a feel-good feature comedy about four 30-something guys who must each find a girlfriend before their best friend Sione's wedding — or be left out in the cold. Through the efforts of these bumbling blokes to get the girl(s), the film brought to life the colour and humour of the urban Samoan community in Auckland, the world's largest Polynesian city. A breakthrough PI-Kiwi film, Sione's broke box office records when it opened in cinemas throughout New Zealand in March 2006. Actor Oscar Kightley co-wrote the script with James Griffin.
Director Chris Graham planned an ambitious video for this song, but budget and scheduling got in the way. When Graham heard TrinityRoots were disbanding, he pitched the idea of a live video at their farewell concert in the Wellington Town Hall. Mixing in footage of land and sea, the result honours one of their anthems and captures a glimpse of the original line-up in their soulful, impassioned element. TrinityRoots regrouped in 2010, but this video preserves the final moments of their first incarnation; when their one waka was turning into three.
Director Chris Graham toys with black and white in this performance-based clip, which accompanies possibly New Zealand's best-known remix. Graham shoots Scribe and company in colour, but apart from skin tones makes every ‘colour’ used either black or white: including the hoodies, caps, milk bottles ... and the dog. Film speed is tweaked to the beat, and the result is monochrome magic. Scribe is joined by a crusading crew of Kiwi hip hop luminaries (Savage, P-Money, David Dallas/Con Psy). 'Not Many' originally topped the charts as half of a double A-side, alongside 'Stand Up'.
After his hard-hitting debut single 'Stand Up' and the hit remix of 'Not Many', Scribe took a gentler approach on the third single from his five times platinum debut album. Rolling clouds open the music video, which trades bombastic beats and ominous synth tones for gentler piano. The chart-topping hook, originally written for Che Fu, was sung by Scribe himself after encouragement from collaborator P-Money. Photos from Scribe’s childhood appear on screen while he raps about the struggle to realise his potential, before glimpses of 'making of' footage from previous videos.
Shot on location, this gleeful clip could double as a travel promo for beautiful Samoa. In the absence of special effects, the video radiates warmth and sincerity, aided by remarkably slick editing and a cheeky sense of humour. Director Chris Graham also helmed clips for hip hop classics 'Brother' and 'Not Many'.
Procrastination and denial taken to absurd lengths hammer home a point about global warming in this technically ambitious black comedy. A family living in a gully are too wrapped up in their own worlds to heed impending doom. Daughter Mary (seven-year-old Paige Shand-Haami) is the only one who sees the future. Water was shot over 14 days — with cast and crew spending 10 of them waist deep in water — on a set in a Wellington swimming pool. It was directed by Chris Graham, and partly funded from a SPADA Young Filmmaker Award won by producer Karl Zohrab.
Scribe's first single ‘Stand Up’ conquered the charts, paired as a double A-side with soon to be signature tune ‘Not Many’. But where ‘Not Many’ is a statement of personal intent, ‘Stand Up’ flies the flag for Kiwi hip hop: the video features many of the fellow musicians namechecked in the song. Shot in a basement below Auckland's Real Groovy Records in black and white (except for the ‘Not Many’ sections), Chris Graham's NZ Music Award-winning video offers an energetic, confrontational performance from Scribe, who took another five NZ Music Awards in the same year.
This energetic, good-natured clip takes hip hop to the farm, with King Kapisi donning a black singlet and making some dangerous moves both in the shearing shed, and with a lethal weapon constructed from a pair of jandals. The clip is loaded with cameos: aside from musical help from Che Fu, the first minute sees appearances by legendary All Blacks Michael Jones and Peter Fatialofa, while among the eel hunters are Oscar Kightley and Nathan Rarere. All this, and a bonus sequence where the crew attempt to freestyle on the theme of 'gidday'.
Director Chris Graham delivers five minutes of cars, comedy and eye candy in this slick who's who of the 2003 Kiwi scene. Featuring DJ Sir-Vere, VJ Jane Yee, ex sports star Matthew Ridge and Paul Holmes (well actually he was a no show — but his understudy made an appearance), the clip succeeded in planting a relatively unknown hip hop artist squarely on the front page. The result was the biggest selling Kiwi single of the year (it went platinum, and spent five weeks at number one). Named Best Video at the 2005 NZ Music Awards, it cost at least $50,000 to make.
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.
Notable music video and feature film director Chris Graham (Sione's Wedding, Scribe) made his drama debut with this short film, which finds a bus driver and his passengers lost in their own thoughts on a rainy Wellington night. As they ruminate on incidents in their lives, ranging from confused and sad through to contented and joyous, the driver’s thousand yard stare portends a quiet desperation of his own. Shot in black and white, the largely wordless Bus Stop finds a group of people sharing an experience but completely alone (yes, even pre-iPhone) in their own worlds.
Wellington dub/roots act Rhombus won fans with this video for the brassy, bouncy, self referential first single from their debut album ‘Bass Player’. Director Chris Graham pays fulsome tribute to classic road movie Goodbye Pork Pie (complete with cameo from the film’s star, original 'Blondini' Kelly Johnson). There are also appearances from a number of Wellington musical heavyweights, including Fat Freddy’s Drop, Trinity Roots (with a snatch of ‘Little Things’) and MC Rizzla, also known as Tiki Taane (who features on the original track).
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.
This (mostly) black and white video stars late great actor Wi Kuki Kaa (Ngāti, Utu). The concept is simple but impactful: a close-up on Kaa's eye leads the viewer in and out of a series of memories. In combination with Kaa's performance — seated on a veranda, as family activities take place around him — Chris Graham's video works superbly to convey the essence of the song. The cinematography is by Adam Clark (Boy, the Oscar-nominated Two Cars, One Night). Julian Arahanga (Broken English) appears among the moving celebration of whānau and community.