Renaissance man Fane Flaws has done it all: since joining travelling band Blerta in the early 70s, he has been a musician, painter, and author, as well as director of award-winning music videos, short films and commercials.
It’s all connected in a way: music, painting, film ... they are all different channels. Fane Flaws, in a 1986 Onfilm interview
Funny As traces the history of New Zealand comedy through archive footage, and extensive interviews with local comedy talent. Debuting on TVNZ 1 in July 2019, the five-part series explores how Kiwis "have used comedy to navigate decades of profound cultural change". Funny As touches on everything from live and musical comedy, to pioneers of Kiwi screen humour (e.g. Fred Dagg, Lynn of Tawa) and the hit exports of later years (Flight of the Conchords, Rose Matafeo). The series was made by production/creative agency Augusto, and produced by comedy veteran Paul Horan.
Presented by an animated pencil, but no less authoritative for it, From Len Lye to Gollum traces the history of Kiwi animation from birth in 1929, to the triumphs of the Lord of the Rings trilogy. The interviews and animated footage cover every base, from early pioneers (Len Lye, Disney import John Ewing) to the possibilities opened by computers (Weta Digital, Ian Taylor’s Animation Research). Along the way Euan Frizzell remembers the dog he found hardest to animate and the famous blue pencil; and Andrew Adamson speculates on how ignorance helped keep Shrek fresh.
Don McGlashan’s anthemic plea for safe harbour — written for band The Mutton Birds — won him his first APRA Silver Scroll songwriting award, and began a life of its own. It was used in the soundtrack of a short film (Boy), a movie (Perfect Strangers) and was given all star treatment by Greenpeace. But TVNZ’s use of it on National Party conference footage was a step too far for McGlashan, who took very public offence. Director Fane Flaws places his video — a nominee for an NZ Film and TV Award — in the eye of a mermaid rather than a storm, but plenty of perils await.
This slow burning tale of a domestic appliance with a mind of its own was The Mutton Birds’ only number one hit. The sinister, surreal and partly animated video — the band’s fourth with director Fane Flaws — hints at the short films of Don McGlashan’s other project The Front Lawn. A furtive, nerdy McGlashan takes the lead with Elizabeth McRae (in her prime as Marj on Shortland Street) as his mother; the other Mutton Birds have cameos as a seedy second hand dealer (David Long) and a Salvation Army brass section (Ross Burge and Alan Gregg).
Don McGlashan has never been scared to use New Zealand place names in his songs, and never more so than here on the Mutton Birds’ classic debut. His imagined back story for a man he saw from a bus window one day — a resident of the fabled “half way house, half way down Dominion Road” — is a tale of loss and redemption set on one of Auckland’s busiest arterial routes. Fane Flaws directed the shots of the band, while the colour footage (showing glimpses of forgotten shops and a less multi-cultural streetscape than can be seen today) was shot by Leon Narbey.
This muscular early 90s cover of The Fourmyula’s pastoral 1969 classic comes from the first album by Don McGlashan’s band The Mutton Birds. The award-winning music video was directed by Fane Flaws — the first of six he made with the band (after previously working with McGlashan on The Front Lawn’s Beautiful Things clip). Guest vocalist Jan Hellriegel features amongst the battery of kaleidoscopic and psychedelic digital effects used to evoke the joys of nature. In 2001 the original tune was voted best NZ song in 75 years by songwriters’ association APRA.
The non-violent action preached and practiced by Māori prophets Te Whiti and Tohu at Parihaka in Taranaki forms one of the most compelling episodes of New Zealand’s 19th century history, as they resisted Pākehā confiscation of their land and home. Tim Finn was inspired to write this paean to the pair after reading Dick Scott’s influential book Ask That Mountain. Band Herbs provide the accompaniment. Fane Flaws and cinematographer Alun Bollinger’s video was shot over a night at Auckland Art Gallery and takes Colin McCahon’s striking Parihaka triptych as its centrepiece.
The first single for short-lived Wellington band The Holidaymakers was a cover of a little-known song by American Bill Withers. It spent six weeks at number one and was the biggest-selling single in New Zealand in 1988. On a low budget director Fane Flaws created a beautifully lit video that captures the song’s infectious brightness and warmth. With a collection of lamps the only concession to props or special effects, nothing detracts from the compelling performances by vocalists Peter Marshall and Mara Finau. Sweet Lovers won Best Video at the 1988 NZ Music Awards.
By 1987, TVNZ’s music video show Radio with Pictures was 12 years old — and producer (and future MTV Europe boss) Brent Hansen was looking to inject into the show some of the visual style now being exhibited by MTV. So he approached artist and musician Fane Flaws, and gave him carte blanche to create a new opening sequence. Animation was a new field for Flaws; but using the Eastern tinged, koto-driven composition ‘Calamity’ (by his former Crocodiles band mate Peter Dasent) as his theme music, Flaws created a unique and strikingly surreal piece that won two awards.
This classic soft drink advert saw a supergroup of 80s music talent cooling off ... in a steamy L&P factory. The industrial-strength line-up — When the Cats Away’s Margaret Urlich and a blink or you'll miss her Annie Crummer; Ardijah’s Ryan and Betty-Anne Monga; Erana Clark, Peter Morgan, and DD Smash drummer Peter Warren — belt out a 60s Motown song (produced here by Murray Grindlay). Fane Flaws plays a supervisor loosened up by “the thirst quencher”. ‘Heatwave’ was a hit single in late 1987, with the group named ‘80 in the Shade’. The ad was named the year's best.
This follow-up to 1984 Narcs hit ‘Heart and Soul’ marked the first single off the trio’s second album. Recorded with US engineer Tim Kramer, 'Diamonds on China' got to 15 on the New Zealand charts. Influenced by Brit pop band Go West, 'Diamonds' is full of punchy guitar and synthesizers. Prolific music video director Fane Flaws showcases massed horns, street racing video games, his own distinctive illustrations, and drumsticks hitting the skins "like diamonds on china". Flaws' efforts resulted in one of his first accolades: Video of the Year at the 1985 NZ Music Awards.
Band Spats demonstrated they could write a catchy song with 'New Wave Goodbye'. But it needed the addition of singer Jenny Morris, a name change to The Crocodiles and a track called 'Tears' for the public to really sit up and take notice. In the video, drummer Bruno Lawrence hangs around next to a shady lamp post while Morris passes by, and the band's bubblegum coloured costumes positively shine against an all white set. After reaching number 17 on the NZ singles charts, 'Tears' won the APRA Silver Scroll songwriting award for 1980.
Possibly channelling the final rooftop concert by The Beatles (a number of The Crocodiles were big Beatles fans), this up-on-the roof video was self-produced by The Crocodiles. It marked Fane Flaws first directing credit — made, with fine business sense, for a song that was never released as a single. The location was near Parliament, with the high shots coming from an unauthorised trip to the top of a nearby Government high-rise. Vocalist Jenny Morris and drummer Bruno Lawrence play ill-matched lovers — as they would do in the video for breakthrough Crocodiles hit 'Tears'.
This infectious clip marks one of the only Kiwi music videos to have been made independently of state television in the 1970s. Spats toured their eclectic brand of music from Blerta's old bus, before finding fame after morphing into The Crocodiles. In this track vocalist Fane Flaws demonstrates a TV screen can make a valid performance tool, the band demonstrate their moves, and regular Spats accomplices Limbs Dance Company add some moves of their own. The video was directed by Geoff Murphy, with help from Spats. 'New Wave Goodbye' ended up on Crocodiles album Tears.
Wild Man is the missing link between 1970s musical legends Blerta, and the burgeoning of Blerta trumpeter Geoff Murphy as a director whose talents knew few bounds. The Blerta ensemble relocated to the mud-soaked West Coast to create this tale of pioneer con men and silent movie style pratfalls. Bruno Lawrence and Ian Watkin arrange a fight — and betting — in each town they arrive in, while Bruno channels his inner wild man from under a leopard skin. Wild Man was released in cinemas alongside John Clarke and Geoff Murphy’s Fred Dagg comedy Dagg Day Afternoon.