Country Calendar veteran Frank Torley described Colin Follas as, "gregarious, enthusiastic, and above all a great mate." Joy Clark, who worked with him for many years in television, found him compassionate and caring for his crew. Farming guru Clive Dalton said Follas was "brilliant in front of a camera. They called him 'One Shot Follas' — he always got it right first time."
From the mid 60s onwards, Follas spent decades making programmes with a rural bent. In the late 80s he began diversifying into other topics, after setting up company Tiger Films.
Born in Northland in 1940, Follas grew up on a dairy farm near Palmerston North. After time as a stock agent he started as a rural broadcaster in 1962. The curly-haired reporter showed his talents early by co-writing (with Hildred Carlisle) radio play The Golden Cups, a sendup of shearing contests. In 1966 he joined the Hamilton-based reporting team on new television show Country Calendar, under the show's presenter and producer Fred Barnes.
In the same period Follas organised a voice test for his former stock workmate, future Country Calendar producer Frank Torley. Torley's first broadcasting gig was as Follas's assistant. Follas often joked he'd taught Torley everything he knew about broadcasting.
By the 70s, Country Calendar was moving from its farm magazine-style beginnings to a more gentle, observational approach, serving an even wider audience than those on the land. The gate was open for a specialist show serving farmers; in the mid 70s Follas began presenting, and co-producing (with Pene Thomas) Farming Today.
In 1982 his communication skills were recognised with the first BE Talboys award from the NZ Guild of Agricultural Journalists. By now Farming Today had morphed into midday Sunday show Ag Report. Again Follas secured funding from the Ministry of Agriculture and Fisheries. When the show was canned Follas was offered a job producing Landward, a weekly farming programme for BBC Scotland. Before leaving with his wife Doreen for a season in Aberdein, he told a Kiwi newspaper it seemed "extraordinary at a time when TVNZ is cutting programmes to get rid of one of the very few productions that was funded from outside."
In the late 80s Follas began adding added varied feathers to his cap when he launched Tiger Films and Video Television Resources in Auckland. Later editor Ken Booth became a partner, followed by soundman Neil Newcombe. Tiger made a range of business videos and advertorials, including short cooking slots with Jo Seagar and Allyson Gofton. Alongside polishing these projects, his post-production company VTR also did post-production on Shortland Street.
Producer George Andrews, who would write Colin's obituary, argued that his rural broadcasting background was a factor in the state broadcaster never commissioning him to make programmes. But he was recognised from other quarters of the industry. Follas twice won the TVNZ/Marketing Magazine Awards, including one for the Dairy Board sponsored Farming with Pictures. Follas distributed this video newsletter to 14,000 dairy farmers, every quarter for eight years until 2001.
The daily drive through Otara en route to offices in Newmarket convinced Follas that TV ought to deal more seriously with the Treaty of Waitangi. His "persuasive powers" (wrote Andrews) eventually resulted in Journeys: Nga Tapuae, a mixture of information and drama. This three-parter was sponsored by the Legal Services Board. After initially being rejected for prime time on TVNZ, episode Nga Tohu: Signatures was later broadcast on Waitangi Day, alongside distribution in schools and libraries. It scooped NZ Television awards for director Andrew Bancroft, and three of the cast.
Follas died on Boxing Day 2003 after an eight year battle with cancer. Colleagues from television, marketing and advertising mixed at the funeral, held in the expansive gardens of the family's Whitford, Auckland home.
In 2009 Colin's Brit-based nephew Mat Follas won BBC series Masterchef, and later returned as a judge on the show.
Infofind - Radio New Zealand Library
George Andrew, 'Obituary – Colin Follas' (Long Version) – Onfilm magazine, February 2004
Roy Burke, 'Rural broadcaster a lateral thinker' (Obituary) - Waikato Times, 10 January 2004
Martha Mckenzie-Minifie, 'Kiwi cook is Brit's Masterchef' – NZ Herald, 1 March 2009