Known for his many live tours as a poet, debater and speaker, Kiwi legend Gary McCormick has made a host of appearances on New Zealand television. His work on the talk show McCormick and long-running series Heartland helped make him television's most popular presenter in a 1999 newspaper poll.
I like to improvise. Gary McCormick
Using interviews, reenactments and archive images, each episode of Screentime series Descent from Disaster examines a major New Zealand disaster — what happened, and what was learnt. Presenters were chosen for their connection to each topic. Sailor Andrew Fagan outlines the 1894 wreck of the SS Wairarapa off Great Barrier Island; weatherman and pilot Jim Hickey looks at a 1948 Ruapehu plane crash; Leigh Hart asks his miner father about the 1967 explosion at the Strongman mine. The first season of seven episodes screened in 2013. Another six followed in 2015.
Sam Hunt is New Zealand’s best known and most visible contemporary poet; and, in an archive excerpt from this feature length documentary, Ginette McDonald calls him “the most impersonated man in New Zealand”. Director Tim Rose, who has known Hunt since he was a boy, decided too little was known about him beyond his flamboyant, public persona. So Rose spent four years making this documentary — mixing a wealth of archive material with interviews with Hunt, and those who know him best, and new footage of him reading his work and performing with David Kilgour.
Reluctant Revolutionary mines a wealth of then new interviews to trace David Lange's rise from pudgy doctor's son to lawyer, to Prime Minister leading the country through radical change. Along the way, writer/director Tom Scott asks how a man as gifted as Lange allowed his government to collapse around him after only five years in office. The film includes rare input from National leader Jim McLay (who praises Lange's wit at university), Rogernomics architect Roger Douglas, and the first television interview with Lange's second wife Margaret Pope.
Shot on the run in 1998, My Name is Jane is built around the biggest deadline a filmmaker could face: the death of its subject. With a history of cancer in her family, musician and cancer sufferer Jane Devine proposed a film to director Amanda Robertshawe: one in which the personable Devine takes us through the process of making peace with her own passing — and the impossible task of preparing a son for life without her. The resulting documentary, surely among our most affecting hours of television, won repeat screenings and international plaudits.
This high-rating 1999 documentary follows Gary McCormick to Ireland to investigate "those strands which tie" Kiwis to the Emerald Isle, from Dublin to the north, where his forebears originated in the 1870s. He meets locals, (musicians, tinkers, playwrights, scuba divers) and Kiwi expats, and talks The Troubles, Celtic Tigers, and why Irish emigrated to Aotearoa. Irish Connection was another collaboration between McCormick and director Bruce Morrison (Heartland, Raglan by the Sea). Companion title The London Connection saw McCormick examining Kiwi links to London.
This 1999 documentary see presenter Gary McCormick exploring the lives of New Zealand expats living in London. London Kiwis – including MTV Europe head Brent Hansen, Angel at My Table actor Kerry Fox, chef Peter Gordon, house-boaters Karyn Hay and Andrew Fagan, and drunk backpackers at The Church – reflect on their overseas experience and the meaning of home. Produced alongside a companion documentary on Kiwis in Ireland, London Connection was a further collaboration between McCormick, director Bruce Morrison and producer William Grieve (Heartland).
Heartland host Gary McCormick hunkers down in the Catlins ("New Zealand the way it used to be"), the wild southern coast stretching between Invercargill and Balclutha. After watching the action at school sports day, he discovers a rural community revolving around family, church and pub. Interviewees include a Metallica-loving teenager who has just bought his second car, for cruising; and spoon collector Kitty 'Granny' Burgess. He also visits a rugged Long Point farm to check out rare yellow-eyed penguins (hoiho), who look very punk during moulting season.
In this full-length Heartland episode, Gary McCormick heads south to the port town of Lyttelton, where some say you can't claim to be local unless you've been in town all your life. There he looks around a freighter and finds time to talk to a smorgasboard of passionate locals, some of whom wish yuppies from Christchurch would stay home. He visits ex-Seaman's Union President Bill 'Pincher' Martin, who recalls the tense days of the 1951 lockout. Meanwhile cameraman Matt Bowkett captures some evocative footage from the surrounding hills, and among the action of a busy port.
A jandal-shod journey through Kiwi pop culture. Kiwiana takes a light-hearted look at the fashion, art, architecture, attitudes, and icons (Buzzy Bees, Edmonds, Swanndri, Pavlova etc) we call our own. Directed by Shirley Horrocks, and shot by Leon Narbey, it featured personalities Gary McCormick, Ginette McDonald, John Clarke, Peter Jackson, and others. Screening at a time (1996) when New Zealanders were just beginning to appreciate these neglected everyday objects as ‘collectibles,' it rated highly, and inspired a sequel, Kiwi As.
In this full-length episode Gary McCormick arrives in Ruatahuna, heartland of the Tūhoe people, the so-called ‘children of the mist'. The episode focuses on preparations and staging of the annual Tūhoe Festival. McCormick interviews local and national figures who express their feelings about their Tūhoe heritage. The grievances of the past are highlighted, along with pride and hope for the future. This episode goes beyond the affable romanticism of much of the series to examine the uncomfortable edge of race relations in New Zealand.
In this documentary, poet Sam Hunt and raconteur Gary McCormick shake out the ache of descending middle age and hit the road for an old fashioned ‘rock and roll style’ poetry tour. Starting in Invercargill, the longtime mates make their way up the length of the country, sharing stories, anecdotes and of course, poems along the way. Here are two people's poets, one arguably great, the other certainly good, captured in full flight during their prime. The Roaring Forties Tour was nominated for NZ Film and Television Awards in 1996, for its editing and music.
Heartland host Gary McCormick visits Fendalton, Christchurch — which has a reputation as one of the country's more well-to-do and refined suburbs, and is one of the older residential districts of the city. McCormick takes tea and sandwiches on the lawn with elderly resident (and possessor of some archetypal 'rounded vowels') Bessie Seymour Parker; visits grand homesteads and English country gardens; and meets some private school teenagers, as Fendalton lives up to its 'posh' — some might say 'snobby' — reputation.
Heartland host Gary McCormick discovers the scenic and rustic charms of Glenorchy, near Queenstown. McCormick meets Rosie Grant, who has lived in the same cottage since 1916, and shares her home with 17 cats; checks out Paradise House, the first guest accommodation in the area, now owned by Dave Miller; and plans to have a day at the races. But the film crew's plans go awry when the settlement suffers serious flooding, and stories of sand-bagging, stock rescue and property recovery replace the more typical Heartland fare.
The Aupōuri Peninsula - in Maui's legend, the tail of the fish - runs along the top of the North Island, edged on one side by Ninety Mile Beach. In Te Hapua, the most northerly community on the mainland, Gary McCormick helps out at the marae as preparations begin for a cultural festival for the district's primary schools. The students will perform kapa haka, Dalmatian dances and take-offs of Shortland Street. This Heartland episode evocatively melds footage of children practising and performing, with oyster farmers catching fish for the hangi.
In this full-length episode, Heartland visits the heart of the North Island: the Waimarino district at the foot of Mount Ruapehu. Host Gary McCormick hits town in time for the yearly Waimarino Easter Hunt. In Ohakune he talks to a policeman about a strange case of streaking near the town's famously oversized carrot, visits an equally overized collection of salt and pepper shakers, then sets off on an early morning pig hunt. Vegetarians be warned: many expired members of the animal kingdom make guest appearances.
This show was possibly the most controversial edition of the Heartland series. Gary visits the sometimes maligned working class dormitory suburb, and hits sports fields, local homes and Tupperware parties. In this full-length episode he meets everyone from cheerful league coaches and builders remembering the challenges of getting supplies up the hill, to the woman many would not forget: Chloe Reeves, with her squeaking voice, distinctive fashion sense and tiger slippers. There is also a fleeting glimpse of future All Black Piri Weepu holding a school road safety lollipop.
Heartland host Gary McCormick visits South Island town Omarama, which is "about as remote as you can get in New Zealand, as it sits in the centre of the South Island at its widest point." McCormick talks to sheep farmers battling pest rabbits and the invasive weed Heiracium Hawkweed, checks out a fishing competition, and attends the Omarama Rodeo. At the rodeo he meets the Church family of rodeo riding brothers, listens to a spot of yodelling, and takes in the children's sheep riding display.
Gary McCormick travels to the furthest corner of New Zealand and hangs out with fishermen, farmers, and ghosts. He reads the weather report on the islands' radio station (where the forecast is more rain); explores the vibrant nightlife, endures a Ministerial speech at the opening of a new wharf facility, and goes hunting at night for a local delicacy: weka. This instalment of the series is notable for some especially beautiful location photography by Swami Hansa.
"Space — big hills, snow-capped, blue skies ... that's the Maniototo, Central Otago." So says local poet Ross McMillan, describing the landscape that inspires much of his work. The Maniototo plain has also inspired writing from James K Baxter, Janet Frame, and Gary McCormick, the host of this full-length Heartland episode. McCormick finds a strong sense of community amidst the poetry of isolation: whether in the shearing shed, the sports field or the ice-skating rink. He also talks to local high-schoolers, some resigned to having to leave the area to find work.
Heartland was a long-running series where, in each episode, affable presenter Gary McCormick explored a Kiwi community. Location and local legend are relayed as McCormick (or occasionally Annie Whittle, Maggie Barry, or Kerre McIvor) interacts with the natives, most famously, tiger slipper-shod Chloe of Wainuiomata. The popular, award-winning series, was inspired by a collaboration — Raglan by the Sea — between McCormick and director Bruce Morrison; it connected mostly-urban Kiwis with faraway corners of the country, and a homely sense of shared identity.
In this full-length Heartland episode, Gary McCormick travels to New Zealand's southernmost community: the town of Oban on Stewart Island's Half Moon Bay. Another gently discursive ramble through time and geography is held together by a focus on the island's annual Festival of The Sea, and appearances by a range of locals from fishermen to conservationists. The highlight of this marine mardi gras is the drag competition ‘Miss Catch of the Day', where hairy blokes dress like sheilas and walk on stage. Thankfully Gary keeps his pants on.
One shaggy dog, dozens of humans, and a smorgasbord of Kiwi scenery: viewers were glued to the screen for this TV One promotional campaign, which began screening in August 1991. The six-part promo followed a lovable sydney silky poodle cross travelling the country by car, train and paw. En route, roughly 50 Kiwis make blink and you'll miss it appearances: including sporting figures, local townspeople, and 20+ TV personalities (see backgrounder for more info, and clues on who is who). The popular promos were directed by Lee Tamahori, before he made Once Were Warriors.
Originally conceived as a TV series, Gaylene Preston's comedy was a local hit, uplifting recession-era audiences with its tale of resourceful misfits. Ruby (Yvonne Lawley), an 83-year-old trying to dodge a retirement home, rents a room to Rata (Vanessa Rare in her screen debut) — a solo mum with sidelines in music and benefit fraud. Rata's son is into shoplifting, while Simon Barnett plays a hapless yuppie wannabe. Marginalised by the deregulated economy of the 80s and living on their wits, they may just find common cause despite themselves, in this tale from writer Graeme Tetley.
This 1989 chat show saw Gary McCormick invite guests onto his sofa for a cuppa. First up is WWF wrestler Don 'The Rock' Muraco. Unfazed by being called an ugly baby, the Hawaiian warns the kids to not try his wrestling moves (or crystal meth) at home and demonstrates a hold on the host. He's joined by actor Ian Watkin who talks about being a coaster, Blerta and cricket fandom. The show was directed by Bruce Morrison (Heartland) and produced by Finola Dwyer (Oscar-nominated for An Education); who teamed with McCormick on the acclaimed Raglan by the Sea doco.
For two series in 1989, poet, raconteur, broadcaster and surfer Gary McCormick honed his Heartland rapport and took on that most vexed of NZ television formats — the chat show — with help from the director Bruce Morrison and producer Finola Dwyer (Oscar nominated for An Education) with whom he had made the acclaimed Raglan by the Sea doco. The Kiwiana set purported to recreate McCormick’s Gisborne house (complete with a green vinyl La-Z-boy) to make guests — who ranged from Wayne Shelford, to Don ‘The Rock’ Muraco, Eva Rickard, and PJ O’Rourke — feel at home.
This long-running travel show took armchair tourists across New Zealand and the globe. Each episode normally featured three to four stories, presented by a range of presenters. Over the years the travel guides included Gary McCormick, Annie Whittle, Lucy Lawless (who departed for global fame on Xena), cricket legend Jeremy Coney, Kevin Milne and Hannah Wallis (both from Fair Go), and future newsreader Suzy Clarkson (née Aiken). In the 1990s Holiday began adding sponsors names to its title; for a brief period some stories were sourced from Australian show Holiday.
Gary McCormick heads west to Raglan, to ask "What goes on here? Why do people live here? What do they do?". To find out he goes surfing on the famous left-hand point break, hangs with hippies and Dave McArtney, catches Midge Marsden and the Mudsharks at the Harbour View Hotel, and discusses land rights with kaumatua Sam Kereopa. The recipe — McCormick as genial small town anthropologist discovering the locals — earned this a 1989 LIFTA award, and inspired long-running series Heartland. McArtney composed the soundtrack; Finola Dwyer (An Education) produces.
Artists Prepare was a series of six programmes made by the NFU and screened in the Kaleidoscope programme on TV2 during July and August 1980. It featured prominent performance-based artists of the time with each episode exploring their particular creative process and performances of their work. The subjects were: Limbs Dance Company, composer Chris Cree Brown, mime artists Robert and Jane Bennett, songwriter-singer David Ngatae, poets Sam Hunt and Gary McCormick and singer Malcolm McNeill.
Artists Prepare was an National Film Unit series that featured prominent performance-based artists of the time. The edition follows poets Sam Hunt and Gary McCormick (the "John Travolta of New Zealand poetry") on tour in the Nelson region as they give poetry readings, talk to high school girls, drink whiskey, and muse about poetry and life — while Minstrel, Hunt's dog, lies patiently under bar tables. Ultra-tight stovepipe jeans, rock-star scarves, scenes in a milk bar and out on the open road in a Valiant evoke a time when poetry and heartthrob weren't antonyms.