For Auckland-born, Christchurch-based Grant Hindin Miller, scriptwriting has been just one facet of a busy creative life. The onetime teacher has written novels, poetry, six albums of music, and the scripts for three feature films. Two of them were wartime stories: the French-set A Soldier’s Tale (adapted from the novel by MK Joseph) and Gallipoli drama Chunuk Bair (inspired by the acclaimed Maurice Shadbolt play). He also wrote Depression-era odd couple tale Starlight Hotel (based on Hindin Miller's own novel, The Dream Monger).
I consider Grant one of the best story-tellers in New Zealand. And we worked on the script until we came up with what I think is one of the best film stories to ever come out of this country. Starlight Hotel director Sam Pillsbury
This feature dramatises an ill-fated offensive that Kiwi soldiers undertook during World War I’s Gallipoli campaign. On 8 August 1915 the Wellington Battalion briefly seized Chunuk Bair, a pivotal peak overlooking the Dardanelles; they suffered huge losses. The film pitches the attack as a formative New Zealand nationhood moment, with Kiwi guts and resilience countered by inept, careless British generals, as much as their Turkish foes. Filmed on an Avalon set and the Wainuiomata coast, the story was based on Maurice Shadbolt’s classic play Once On Chunuk Bair.
In the wake of the Allied invasion of Normandy, US soldier Saul (Usual Suspect Gabriel Byrne) meets Belle, alleged to be a Nazi collaborator. He offers to stay in her cottage as Résistance accusers circle. The tragic tale of moral ambiguity during wartime was adapted from a novel by Kiwi MK Joseph. Filmed in France in 1988, director Larry Parr’s feature debut was troubled by the withdrawal of a French partner and bankruptcy of the US distributor; after film festival showings it screened on NZ television in 1995. French actor Marianne Basler won a 1992 NZ Film Award as Belle.
This Depression-era road movie tails teen runaway Kate (Greer Robson) as she tags along with World War I veteran Patrick (Aussie actor Peter Phelps) — also on the run after assaulting a repo man. The odd couple relationship grudgingly evolves as they narrowly escape the law, while crossing the southern badlands. Director Sam Pillsbury's film won wide praise; LA Times critic Kevin Thomas called it "pure enchantment". Robson's Listener award-winning turn followed her breakthrough role in Smash Palace. The film was nominated for another eight awards, including Best Film.