Although best known as co-creator of teen titles Reservoir Hill and Girl vs Boy, David Stubbs has worked on everything from nature documentaries to music videos, plus a great many commercials.
Wellington-born Stubbs began his screen career in the early 80s, as an assistant to veteran producer Pat Cox, before spending time in the production and art departments of various Wellington production companies.
In the late 80s he began training as an editor at government filmmaking body the National Film Unit. There he worked on a range of documentaries, including one of the NFU’s final titles, Antarctic documentary Irresistible Forces. Stubbs made his directorial debut with 1987's Running for Empties. This short film about Wellington's last milk-run sold to multiple territories.
In the 90s Stubbs went freelance again, and began directing a range of commercial and corporate projects — plus The Monkey King, a short film for UNICEF filmed in Beijing. Baggy Trousers and Alright Now, two music videos he made for hip hop outfit Dark Tower, were both nominated for Best Music Video of the year. Among the many advertisements Stubbs directed was a campaign for website Scoop that saw him featured in the prestigious UK Shots Reel, which showcased the world’s best commercials and music videos.
Stubbs' company Mr X (which he set up with Tim Chang in the 90s) was followed by Krafthaus Films in 2002, which Stubbs continues to run. Krafthaus has garnered many awards working on a range of commercial projects, from advertisements to corporate and multi-media videos.
In the late 90s he wrote two Creative NZ-funded short films. Helmut and Gretel, the tale of a Kiwi couple who pretend to be German after dark, played in a number of European festivals. In 2008 he got in the directing chair for dramatic short The Handover, starring Gareth Reeves and Loren Taylor as ex romantic partners dabbling in no longer being apart. The film was invited to compete at the Chicago International Film Festival.
Although Stubbs continues to make commercials through Krafthaus, The Handover signalled a move into drama. In 2009 he teamed with actor turned director Thomas Robins to form sister company KHF Media, which concentrates on drama projects (including Stubbs-produced TV movie Catching the Black Widow), plus the occasional documentary.
Knowing that TVNZ was looking for a show to debut on the web, the two cooked up Reservoir Hill, sharing double duties as producer and director. The result: an international Emmy for their first project together.
Reservoir Hill revolves around a teenager (Beth Chote) who discovers she is the dead ringer of a student who has gone missing. The web series was unusual in that viewers were able to text in advice which affected the plotline. Each episode was made on a tight schedule, with scripts signed off by Thursday, then filmed and put online at 5pm the following Monday.
Reservoir Hill won a 2010 International Emmy for Best Digital Programme for Children and Young People, a Qantas award for Best Children’s/Youth Programme. Stubbs and Robins were nominated as Best Director of a Drama or Comedy. The eight web episodes were also compiled into a TV movie. A second series, subtitled Everyone Lies, was also Emmy-nominated.
Stubbs and Robins followed Reservoir Hill with the more light-hearted Girl vs Boy, which incorporates mystery elements into its tale of a relationship breakup that divides a seaside community. The pair began shooting the third and final season of their quirky romantic comedy early in 2014.
In 2017 Stubbs won the New Zealand Film Award for Best Documentary Director. The winning film, Belief: The Possession of Janet Moses, was about a young mother in Wainuomata who was accidentally killed during an attempted exorcism by her family. The production mixed interviews and reenactments; it went on to get nominations both for Best Documentary (at the Film Awards) and Best Feature Drama (at the 2017 NZ Television Awards).
Stubbs made his big screen debut with musical Daffodils. Based on Rochelle Bright's acclaimed stage musical inspired by the story of her own parents, the romance features classic pop songs by everyone from Dave Dobbyn to Chris Knox. Released in March 2019, Daffodils stars Kiwis Rose McIver, George Mason (Home and Away) and singer Kimbra.
Profile updated on 17 May 2019
KHF Media website. Accessed 7 November 2018
Krafthaus website. Accessed 7 November 2018
James Croot, 'Daffodils: Crowded House, Bic Runga songs feature in New Zealand's first-ever movie-musical'. Stuff website. Loaded 1 November 2018. Accessed 7 November 2018
Evelyn Saunders and Marcus Gillezeau, 'Reservoir Hill - A Case Study with David Stubbs & Thomas Robins'