Television producer and arts fanatic Gemma Gracewood was infected by the creative bug early, thanks partly to parents who introduced her as a child to foreign films, and live performances by Kiwi legends The Front Lawn. She spent school holidays with a grandmother who lived close to the Avalon television centre in Lower Hutt; Gracewood remembers running down Avalon’s corridors on open days, fascinated by the mysterious world that was television.
Gracewood went on to complete a Bachelor in Communication Studies at Auckland University of Technology. Then she spent two years at pioneering Auckland music station Max TV, where she co-created, produced, shot and scripted Max TV’s news bulletin, and hosted a live talk show.
In 1995 Gracewood began a five-year association (although she says "you never really leave") with student radio station 95bFM, a period which saw her overhauling the station’s newsroom, producing Mikey Havoc’s breakfast show, hosting weekday talk show The Wire, and mentoring future on-screen talent — including Jaquie Brown and Jeremy Wells.
Gracewood then relocated to Wellington to join the producing team behind National Radio’s Nine to Noon (she later spent time as an occasional panelist on Nine to Noon’s weekly round-up The Week that Was). While at RNZ she also made documentaries for the long-running Musical Chairs slot, and co-produced New Urban Tales. She continues to produce stories for Music 101.
She went on to spend three years as press secretary and arts adviser to then associate Arts, Culture and Heritage Minister Judith Tizard, while hosting Radio Active 89FM's arts show, Caffeine & Aspirin.
In 2004 Gracewood moved into weekly television, after Wellington company Gibson Group invited her to produce their latest arts series, Frontseat. Hosted by Oliver Driver, the series aimed a broad current affairs scope at the arts, mixing stories, interviews and sometimes heated panel discussions. Over four years and five seasons, Gracewood did everything from organising crew and scripting studio shoots to conducting last-minute interviews with Keri Hulme, and "brokering truces with people we pissed off in the art world".
While at Gibson Group, Gracewood produced quirky doco Flight of the Conchords: A Texan Odyssey with the Conchords duo. The Conchords took cameras along to a key Stateside music festival, shortly before winning wider fame with their own cable TV show. Gracewood was also helping develop varied screen projects for Gibson Group, and publicising some of the dramatic series that made it into production. She had also jumped into drama herself, co-producing 2006 short film Dead Letters. Directed by Paolo Rotondo, the handsomely-mounted WWII-era tale is based on the eponymous short story by Gracewood’s sister Jolisa; Rotondo's script adaptation won a 2006 Air NZ Film Award for best short film script.
In 2007 — the year Women in Film and Television noted her as an emerging producer to watch — Gracewood began work on New Artland, for digital channel TVNZ7. Hosted by Chris Knox, the show followed artists as they created new works of art, aided by a varied cast of farmers, orchestras, BMX riders and tattooists. In Gracewood’s words, New Artland allowed viewers to watch how artists “imagine, how they create, how they fail and ultimately succeed.” She returned for a second season, alternating producer and executive producer credits with Neil Stichbury. Sadly Knox suffered a stroke near the end of filming, with some voice-overs still to be recorded; crew and artists worked hard to find solutions "on screen and in the edit suite", enabling the series to be completed.
Gracewood is a member of the Wellington International Ukulele Orchestra. She has also produced music videos for the group. In 2011 she fronted up on screen to examine the resurgence of the ukulele, as presenter of Artsville documentary Bill Sevesi’s Dream.
Though based these days mainly in New York, Gracewood has kept up the Kiwi connection. She spent time as online publicist for NZ On Screen, and reviews films for Metro magazine. She also documents several Kiwi artists based in NYC (including this interview with director Alison Maclean and this with cinematographer Stuart Dryburgh). Gracewood has made forward movement on a number of projects involving Kiwi kinetic artist Joseph Herscher: she co-directed and produced short film Joseph Gets Dressed, and produced web series Jiwa's Machines.
too much personality website. Accessed 19 October 2015
Ian Pryor, Frontseat Season One Press Kit