Howard Taylor is a Wellington based writer, director and producer. After training as a film editor with the NZ Broadcasting Corporation in the early 1970s, he produced Country Calendar, and was a field director on arts and magazine series Kaleidoscope, 10AM and Sunday. He went freelance in 1995, working as a director and documentary maker for production houses including Ninox Films, Greenstone Pictures, and his own company Howard Taylor Productions.
I usually run a mile from docos containing too many historical "dramatisations" ... But writer/director Howard Taylor's investigation of the mythical, historical, ecological and spiritual aspects of the Whanganui River is deeply moving ... You're left entertained, enlightened and politicised. Critic Grant Smithies reviewing Te Whiringa Taura o Whanganui
Edgar Allen Poe's tales of murder, burial, and ominous ravens have inspired movies, nightmares ... and an eclectic musical suite by saxophonist Lucien Johnson, which he first performed live with Wellington’s Village of the Idiots. With the aid of some home-cooked CGI, director Geoff Murphy mixes concert footage, fantastical imagery, interviews and spoken word to put it on screen. Family and friends help round out the crew. The results echo Murphy's early, genre-stretching days with ensemble Blerta, this time with themes of mortality mixing in with the horns.
This documentary pays tribute to New Zealand's lighthouse keepers, the extraordinary men and women who lived in extreme isolation and operated lighthouses in places as far afield as Puyseger Point in Fiordland National Park, to Northland's Mokohinau Islands. Interviews reveal resourceful, pragmatic and practical individuals; they revisit their lights and talk about a romantic lifestyle that ended last century with the advent of automated technology. Their stories are filled with down-to-earth humour and nostalgia for a bygone world.
In this documentary, Tā moko artist and kapa haka teacher Sacha Utupoto Keating rode the Whanganui River on a journey to discover his whakapapa. Director Howard Taylor followed Sacha's personal story and the wider histories of the awa, weaving reconstructions, archival footage and lush river images into a rich story of people and place. "Taylor's investigation of the mythical, historical, ecological and spiritual aspects of the Whanganui River is deeply moving." said Grant Smithies in the The Sunday Star-Times."You're left entertained, enlightened and politicised."
Our People Our Century was a documentary series from Ninox productions, that looked back over the past 100 years of New Zealand society as it turned over the millennium. Major events and changes over the century were shaped into six themed episodes: war, land, poverty and prosperity, families, state support and national identity, with apposite interviews providing personal and dramatic context. Our People Our Century won Best Factual Series at the 2000 NZ TV Awards, with Philip Temple winning a best documentary script award for the 'Families at War' episode.
This episode of the Kiwi social history series explores the importance of the ‘cradle to grave' beliefs about education, health and social welfare that have underpinned NZ governance since the 1930s. But radical reforms toward the end of the 20th century were more focused on individual opportunity than the wider social contract. Excerpts here use influential unionist James ‘Big Jim’ Roberts and generations of his family to chart social change. Written by feminist Sandra Coney, this episode also provides an overview of the monumental change in the lives of women.
In this edition of the Kiwi social history series all things whānau are explored: a single mother who burnt the bills she couldn't pay; a man hurt by his father's inability to express emotion; and a gay Māori man lay their souls bare. This programme explores the changes in attitudes towards family life, marriage and children, from the restrictive early years of the century to more permissive times. The intersections between race, class and gender illuminate the personal stories, and put them in a social and historical context.
Ask Country Calendar viewers which shows they remember and inevitably the answer is "the spoofs" — satirical episodes that screened unannounced. Sometimes there was outrage but mostly the public enjoyed having the wool pulled over their eyes. Created by producer Tony Trotter and Bogor cartoonist Burton Silver, the first (in late 1977) was the fencing wire-playing farmer and his "rural music". This special episode collects the best of the spoofs, from the infamous radio-controlled dog, to the gay couple who ran a "stress-free" flock, and more malarkey besides.
This Work of Art documentary follows veteran actor and director Ian Mune as he works with NZ Drama School graduates, to write and shoot a 15 minute film in just two days. Many of the actors (who include future bro'Town voice David Fane and Saving Grace's Kirsty Hamilton) have little experience acting for the camera. Mune passes on lessons learned in a career that began long before such tuition was available locally. Shot at Wellington Railway Station, Rush Hour, the resulting film, is included in its entirety during this fascinating insight into the creative process.
Lucy Lawless gets her share of outdoor adventure in this 1993 excerpt from travel show Holiday, which ranged across New Zealand and beyond. Heading to Queenstown, the winter glamour capital, Lawless finds exciting ways to experience the magnificent scenery. She straps on her skis and hits the slopes, trying standard and cross country skiing (easier on the joints). Then it's onto skidoo riding, tandem hang gliding and after steeling herself, the main event — a bungy jump from a helicopter. Lawless went on to win fame in 1995 with TV series Xena: Warrior Princess.
Sunday was one of a number of magazine-style shows to screen on TVNZ, in a weekend morning slot. It was hosted by Radio New Zealand presenter Kathryn Asare, who the previous year had been drafted in to present a similar show, 10AM. Liz Gunn (Breakfast) later took over the reins. Many of the items on Sunday had an arts bent, including pieces on designer/producer Logan Brewer, and La Sagrada Família architect Mark Burry. Sunday is not to be confused with the long-running TVNZ current affairs show of the same name.
10AM was among the first of a run of magazine-style arts shows to screen in a morning weekend slot. Debuting on TV1 in mid 1990, it was hosted by Radio New Zealand veteran Kathryn Asare. 10AM mixed reports and studio interviews (conducted by Asare) on various topics involving the Kiwi arts scene. Producer Gil Barker felt Asare was a television natural, fighting pressure to give the role to an established “telestar”, or change Asare’s image. He also brought in writer Peter Hawes to help bring a lighter touch to the show than arts programmes from the past.
This item from arts show Kaleidoscope looks at Vincent Ward's first two features, Vigil and The Navigator. The director talks about the madness of the Cannes Film Festival, echoes Jack Nicholson's view that women are "a lot smarter than men", and explains why a nuclear sub turns up in The Navigator. He visits his parent's Wairarapa farm, where they remember him as a straightforward and easygoing child. Fiona Kay provides unsparing memories of starring in Vigil as a child, and the film's co-writer Graeme Tetley admires Ward's courage in tackling "big issues" like guilt and betrayal.
TVNZ’s flagship 80s arts show looks at Sir Toss Woollaston — a pioneer of modern art in New Zealand. Topics include his development as an artist and the “struggle of painting” (contra convention), difficult years trying to support a family, the influence of his wife, and the liberation he felt in his mid-50s when he could finally earn a living from painting. Woollaston is blunt but generous with his time and opinions. There are precious riffs off his famous description of wanting to paint the sunlight in a landscape, “after it had been absorbed by the earth”.
This report for TVNZ’s flagship 1980s arts show was made to tie in with Nicholas Reid’s book about the renaissance in NZ cinema that began with Sleeping Dogs in 1977. Reid and a who’s who of filmmakers discuss many of more than 50 films made in the previous decade (with Bruno Lawrence ever present) — and ponder the uniqueness (or otherwise) of NZ film. The industry’s fondness for rural and small town settings, and forceful (often conflicted) male leads is explored; and more neglected areas — Māori film making and more of a voice for women — are traversed.
TVNZ’s arts programme visits the 6th annual Young Composers Workshop held at the Nelson School of Music (May, 1987). It allows 20 promising young composers to hear their music performed and to compare notes with their peers — an opportunity that wasn’t available two decades earlier for budding composers like workshop organiser Ross Harris. Solo instrumental works, ensemble pieces and electronic music are featured — with inspiration found in everything from poems by James K Baxter and Sylvia Plath to slipping and falling while walking down a hill.
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.
This item from arts show Kaleidoscope looks at pioneering Māori feature film Ngāti. There are interviews with director Barry Barclay, screenwriter Tama Poata, producer John O’Shea and actor Wi Kuki Kaa – who discuss the film’s kaupapa – and a visit to its premiere at Waipiro Bay Marae on the East Coast (where the film was shot). Barclay’s first dramatic feature, Ngāti also marked the first feature film to be written and directed by Māori. Many of the crew were enlisted via a scheme aimed at redressing the lack of young Māori working in the screen industry.
Champion shearer Godfrey Bowen returns to Akers station at Opiki, Manawatu where he set a world record in 1953 by shearing 456 sheep in nine hours (shown in archive footage). He shows off his biceps (not far from the 23 inches they used to be) and explains the Bowen Technique which revolutionised shearing by reducing the number of blows required to remove a fleece. Bowen talks about how his life changed (travelling the world and an MBE) and there's footage of Agrodome with its trained sheep, which he opened in Rotorua, with his brother Ivan.
Man. Dog. Sheep. This was an unlikely formula for Kiwi TV gold. A Dog's Show was familiar as a homespun in its long-running Sunday slot. The show featured sheepdog trials from around the country, with commentary provided by the wise, bearded John Gordon. In the final from a 1981 series, four farmers wield sticks and whistles, and put their dogs through their paces to wrangle the "sticky sheep". It's 1981, but the only riots here are ovine. Trivia: the opening tune is a version of the song 'Flowers on the Wall', also used in the film Pulp Fiction.
In this fifth episode from his personal examination of New Zealand at the end of the 70s, Ian Johnstone explores the then new suburb of Massey in West Auckland — the latest instalment in what seemed, at the time, like an unending march of urban sprawl (which had already produced seemingly far-flung suburbs like Otara and Porirua). For Johnstone, Massey is an "infestation of houses", bafflingly lacking in community amenities. By turns wry, considered and accusatory, this masterful performance would have made him few friends in town planning circles.
In the third episode of Johnstone’s Journey, broadcaster Ian Johnstone meets three generations of the Wendelken family. The episode is framed around an interview with matriarch Elsie, 85, then living in Timaru — her daughter Rae and grandson Ivan farm nearby. Son John is a public servant in Wellington; granddaughter Anne is a mother in suburban Wellington. Topics span from world wars, depression, farming and inflation, to shifting values. Says Elsie: “There are two things that have been left completely out of today’s young people: one is obedience, and the other is discipline.”
Part one of a four part thriller written by Keith Aberdein. In a small North Island town, a mysterious unmarked grave is believed to hold the remains of a tohunga who died ridding his people of a deadly epidemic. Now, an archaeological dig might be getting too close to that grave. A visiting doctor (Cathy Downes) arrives in town to find the locals in a state of agitation; the archaelogist (Martyn Sanderson) full of good intentions, but unaware of where his actions could lead; and relations between Māori and Pakeha strained as two cultures struggle to co-exist.
Kaleidoscope was a magazine-style arts series which ran from 30 July 1976 until 1989. Running for many years in a 90 minute format, the show tried varied approaches over its run, from an initial mix of local and international items — including live performances — to episodes which focused on a single artist or topic. In the early 80s Kaleidoscope collected three Feltex awards for Speciality Programme. Hosts over the years included initial presenter Jeremy Payne, newsreader Angela D'Audney, future Auckland music professor Heath Lees, and Warratahs fiddler Nic Brown.
This episode of anthology series Winners & Losers takes a fresh angle on going straight. Smooth-talking criminal Mick (Ian Mune) dreams of starting over, by cultivating mushrooms with cellmate Charlie (Coronation Street's Ivan Beavis). Charlie claims to have committed a lawful murder, thanks to a technicality. In an inspired change to Barry Crump's original story, Mick commandeers a bus to finance the pair's plan. Crump praised the episode, but felt that Mick and Charlie treat their third cellmate unfairly. Director Roger Donaldson cameos in a red Swanndri during the bus scenes.
Dig This became New Zealand’s first national gardening show when it replaced a series of regional programmes in 1975 (among them Reg Chibnall's long-running Gardening). For 15 minutes, before the Sunday morning soccer highlights, presenter Eion Scarrow (who had honed his skills fronting the Auckland show since 1971) dirtied his hands in a garden created in the grounds of Avalon Studios in Lower Hutt. His advice was no-nonsense, and so was his wardrobe of jerseys, gumboots, overalls and towelling hats. The show allowed many trainee directors to develop their own craft.
This 1973 film sees poet Alistair Te Ariki Campbell explore the history of Kāpiti Island — from being a stronghold for Māori chief Te Rauparaha, to whaling station and its present form as a bird sanctuary. The film chronicles Campbell’s first visit to the legendary motu, where he feeds a kākā parrot a date from his mouth, and witnesses a remarkable scene where a weka kills a Norway rat. With impressionistic sequences set to verse, director Peter Coates’ ‘poetic realisation’ of the island was called “a remarkable contribution to NZ television” by Listener critic David Weatherall.
Director Peter Coates pays tribute to the intelligence and wit of the world’s only mountain parrot in this Survey documentary; as a Christchurch Star review put it, "they must be the least camera-shy birds in creation". The kea’s antics are aided by Ian McDonald’s playful score, plus interviews with expert Dick Jackson, lecturer Les Cleveland, climber John Pascoe, a ranger, a tramper, and a farmer who describes hunting kea — now threatened and protected, but once the subject of a bounty after the opportunistic birds developed a taste for sheep sashimi.
The iconic all-things-rural show is the longest running programme on New Zealand television. With its typical patient observational style (that allows stories of people and the land to gently unfold) it’s an unlikely broadcasting star, but New Zealanders continue, after 50 plus years, to tune in. Amongst the bucolic tales of farming, fishing and forestry, there are high country musters, floods, organic brewing, falconry, tobacco farming, as well as a fencing wire-playing farmer-musician, a radio-controlled dog, and Fred Dagg and the Trevs.