Ian Hughes' breakthrough role was in acclaimed TV series and movie Topless Women Talk About Their Lives. He played a loony writer whose script involves topless women standing in kitchens and garages ... talking about their lives. Topless was followed by multiple TV guest parts (Shortland Street, Xena, Bliss) and film roles, including starring in his own Kafkaesque short, The Waiting Room, and acclaimed play Ship Songs.
... Hughes is a fantastic performer who effortlessly shifts from woman to man and through centuries of action. He doesn't put a foot or accent wrong as he deftly dances around the stage, handling both the humour and pathos of the play with equal aplomb. Shannon Huse reviewing Ship Songs, NZ Herald, 11 August 2008
Twenty-four year-old barman Dave finds his life turned upside down when he meets the girl of his dreams — Cara, 14 years his senior, and the owner of three kids. Over two seasons, the light-hearted drama explored whether their live-in relationship could survive the weight of low expectations, and her unruly family. Created by Kate McDermott (This is Her), Step Dave starred Swedish emigre Sia Trokenheim (2014 film Everything we Loved) and Brit born Jono Kenyon. Interest in the format encompassed the Ukraine — which remade the show in 2016 — France, Hungary and Greece.
Bliss is a portrait of the artist as a young woman. The award-winning telemovie follows Katherine Mansfield from boredom in Edwardian Wellington to liberation and love affairs in London, where she dares to dream of being a writer. Kate Elliott plays Mansfield as a spirited 19-year-old, hungry for experience. Bliss screened to acclaim in TV One's Sunday Theatre slot in August 2011. Listener reviewer Fiona Rae praised director Fiona Samuel's "excellent" script, and for allowing "her Mansfield to be witty, passionate and outspoken without belabouring the status of women in 1908".
Kiwi-born Keith Park commanded the Royal Air Force division which defended London during the Battle of Britain. His command is dramatised in this Greenstone telemovie. Historians Stephen Bungay and Vincent Orange offer accounts of what happened, alongside archive footage from World War ll. This excerpt sees Park hosting Winston Churchill as his forces are stretched to breaking point by a German attack. After returning home, Park went on to chair the Auckland International Airport Committee and serve as an Auckland City Councillor. John Callen directs and narrates.
Doves of War is a political thriller revolving around a group of ex-Kiwi soldiers and their involvement in a war crime committed 10 years prior. A discovery of a mass grave in Bosnia forces ex-SAS Sergeant Lucas Crichton (Aussie actor Andrew Rodoreda) to revisit a past he and his comrades would rather bury. Also on the trail is ambitious Hague prosecutor Sophie Morgan. Action travels from Europe to upmarket Auckland, Wellington nightclubs, West Coast bush, and central Otago. Written by Greg McGee (Fallout, Erebus), it screened for one season on TV3.
Doves of War is a political thriller revolving around a group of ex-Kiwi soldiers and their involvement in a war crime committed 10 years earlier. In this opening episode media reports of a mass grave discovered in Bosnia, force ex-SAS Sergeant Lucas Crichton (Aussie actor Andrew Rodoreda) to revisit a past he and his comrades would rather keep buried. Also on the trail is ambitious Hague prosecutor Sophie Morgan and the journalist who was leaked the story. Written by Greg McGee (Fallout, Erebus, Skin and Bone), Doves screened for one season on TV3.
This lighthearted road movie follows three bogans on a mission to join the world of movies. After hearing that Peter Jackson is putting Lord of the Rings on film, they set off from West Auckland for Wellywood, hoping against the odds to score acting roles as hobbits. Written by actor Peter Tait — with help from his bogan co-stars and director Grant Lahood — the film also features a memorable cameo by Madeline Sami, plus a blink-and-you-ll miss it appearance by Mr Jackson himself. And some of the cast really did appear in The Lord of the Rings....
Monstrous spiders, dragon-aided epic battles, endangered hobbits and final farewells ... the finale of the Lord of the Rings trilogy boldly upped the ante. Although the first two films had excited viewers, critics and accountants, Return of the King sealed Peter Jackson's place in movie legend. Reviewers praised it with gusto and the film won a staggering 11 Oscars, a total matched only by Titanic and Ben-Hur. Return anointed a Hollywood empire in the Wellington suburb of Miramar. The box office figures weren't half bad, and nor was the effect on New Zealand tourism.
NZ Herald writer Michele Hewitson described the concept behind this series as "Popstars with jokes". Experienced comedian Paul Horan scours Aotearoa for fresh comedic talent; over the course of a month, fifteen newbies are tested in live and television settings. Each episode ends with eliminations — the "last stand-up standing" is crowned the winner. Comedians Jon Bridges and Raybon Kan join Horan as judges. The first episode features Queen St venue The Classic Comedy Club. The show was partly inspired by a stand-up contest for new acts held in the United Kingdom.
Fifteen wannabe comedians combat nerves and a tight deadline in this first episode of talent quest So You Think You're Funny. The first task for judges Jon Bridges, Raybon Kan and Paul Horan is to eliminate five contenders from the line-up. The contestants are given a few days to write and practise a short set, before performing it in front of a live audience at Queen Street's Classic Comedy Bar. This scenario would be terrifying for most, and it confirms a harsh truth that Horan offers early on: "If the audience hates you, there's not a lot we can do'. One hundred people originally auditioned.
Duggan stars John Bach as brooding Detective Inspector Duggan, attempting to solve murders amid the tranquillity of the Marlborough Sounds. New Zealand's answer to Inspector Morse, the show was conceived by Marion McLeod, and scripted by Donna Malane and Ken Duncum. Eleven episodes of the Gibson Group series were made, following on from introductory tele-features Death in Paradise and Sins of the Father. The turquoise waters of The Sounds make for an evocative setting in this sharp, classy Kiwi whodunit. Rachel Davies writes here about Duggan's birth.
Popstars was a key forerunner of the late 1990s reality television explosion. The series followed the creation and development of an all-girl pop band called TrueBliss (Carly Binding, Keri Harper, Joe Cotton, Megan Alatini and Erika Takacs), who went on to record several NZ chart-topping singles and a platinum-selling album. Also a hit was the series format, which sold globally and helped inspire Pop Idol/American Idol, the franchise that would dominate reality TV for years to come. These excerpts are from each episode of the series, from the second to the final.
Director Peter Salmon's sci-fi short is set in a dystopian future where citizens spend most of their lives in virtual reality to escape the bleak Blade Runner-like offline world. Grace (Sara Wiseman, in a NZ Film Award-winning performance) is a lonely programmer looking for cyberspace love via Angelife: a fantasy-fulfillment site with "five billion connections worldwide". Disenchanted with her Adam (Rupert Cocks), her desire for real world connection, plus a chance meeting, push her into a dangerous underworld. Ray Woolf cameos as a winged Angelife agent.
The search for a New Zealand Spice Girls is underway in the first episode of this pioneering reality series. Manager Peter Urlich (formerly of Th' Dudes) and record company executive Mark Tierney (ex-Strawpeople) hold public auditions to find an all-female pop group for their record deal and TV series. The good, the bad and the unfortunate are out in full force. After an exhaustive selection process, Urlich and Tierney whittle down the talent to 15 hopefuls. The format for the show sold to multiple countries.
The light-hearted but star-heavy I'll Make You Happy unapologetically showcases a group of Auckland prostitutes, united by girl power — and a general distaste for their pimp (Michael Hurst). Jodie Rimmer dons many wigs and personas as Siggy, the spunky young sex worker who fends off Hurst's pleading advances, while pulling a nerdy banker (Ian Hughes) into her plans for a game-changing heist. The eclectic soundtrack is heavy on electronica, while the cast includes Rena Owen, Jennifer Ward-Lealand, dancer Taiaroa Royal, and a one-minute cameo by Lucy Lawless.
A group of 20-somethings revolving around pregnant Liz (Danielle Cormack) confront a Generation X medley of 'births, deaths, and marriages' in Harry Sinclair’s debut feature, developed from the eponymous TV3 series. They experience, "the agony of failed love and ambiguous love, the agony of loneliness, the ecstasy of sex and the discovery of maturity" (Australian critic Andrew L Urban). In this excerpt from the well-received film the cast faces vexing coathangers, skirts, rubber gloves and panic attacks. NSFW caution: features actual Teutonic topless women.
This video for Andrew Brough's band Bike features the group playing in a moving caravan, which is being driven by a frazzled father (Topless Women Talk about their Lives actor Ian Hughes). Says director Jonathan King: "I had a vision of Shayne Carter in mirror shades playing a policeman. He agreed on the condition he wouldn't shave his mo. Of course it just added to the moment. Ian Hughes brought his new puppy, Olive, along because he had no one to look after it, so we integrated it into the action. In fact much of the fun stuff he does was him just improvising on the day."
City Life follows a tight-knit group of apartment-dwelling twenty-somethings (lawyers, bartenders, drug dealers, art dealers, et al) on the emotional merry-go-round of urban living. Created by James Griffin, the television series was an effort to create popular drama relevant to contemporary Auckland city life and to appeal to a Gen X demographic – to inject Melrose Place into Mt Eden. A bevy of Kiwi acting talent drink, dramatise and prevaricate to a soundtrack of contemporary NZ pop.
City Life screened from 1996 to 1998 and made a direct appeal to New Zealand's Gen X apartment-dwelling demographic. Following the lives of a tight-knit group of friends, and featuring racy shots of Auckland's K-Road and nightlife set to contemporary Kiwi pop music, the show was Aotearoa's answer to Melrose Place. In this excerpt from the first episode, the friends are thrown into conflict when one of their own (played by Kevin Smith) decides to marry outside the circle. Complications ensue when Smith shares a brief, but notorious, screen kiss with Charles Mesure.
In the second episode of Harry Sinclair’s late night TV3 micro-series, Liz (Danielle Cormack) and Neil (Joel Tobeck) watch the sun rise from a Karangahape road carpark; but, romantic as this could be, it seems Neil has no more chance of keeping up with Liz than her less than inspiring boyfriend Ant (Ian Hughes). Meanwhile, back at home, Ant is making scones and entertaining some random visitors — larger than life drag queens (and K Road identities) Buckwheat and Bertha. But baking is a step too far for a hungover Liz ... and her mother is on the phone.
This is the first four minute episode of the late-night TV3 micro-series, written and directed by Harry Sinclair. As wannabe air hostess Liz (Danielle Cormack) and her aspiring scriptwriter boyfriend Ant (Ian Hughes) are getting ready for a night-out, the hapless Ant seems oblivious to the fact that he’s wearing out his welcome — and the hairbrush remedy for his 'itchy mouth' does little to heighten his allure. Meanwhile, Neil (Joel Tobeck) ponders one of the great male mysteries. The soundtrack is 'Into You', courtesy of Flying Nun act The JPS Experience.
Luscious fruit, truckies, and Lucy Lawless feature in this Christine Parker short. Sal (Tania Simon) is gifted a peach and meets a saucy tow truck driver (Lawless) en route home to her toddler, and domestics with boyfriend Mog (Joel Tobeck). Mog’s truckie mates arrive for beers, including the nameless driver, whose presence (and peach-eating advice) stirs up desire. “Watch it rot, or taste it when it’s ripe.” A roster of leading NZ film talent worked with Parker on the film, and Lawless' turn hints at the cross-sexual appeal of her breakthrough role on Xena - Warrior Princess.
The feature film Topless Women Talk about Their Lives evolved out of this late night, low budget, TV3 micro-series about the lives, loves and travails of a group of 20-something Aucklanders. It was written and directed by former Front Lawn member Harry Sinclair with a cast including Danielle Cormack and Joel Tobeck. Each four minute episode was shot over a weekend with actors not sighting scripts until just before the camera rolled. Music from Flying Nun bands featured prominently; the women remained fully clothed despite the tantalising titular promise.
A social cricket match in Cornwall Park needs a third umpire after a bogan's dog swallows the ball in this short film. As the men in white struggle to field the ball, a statistics-obsessed sport crosses absurd boundaries. A line-up of contemporary NZ comedic talent features on the field— plus New Zealand Black Caps cricketers (and 1992 World Cup bowlers) Chris Pringle and Willie Watson. Bradman was written and directed by Peter Tait (actor in classic shorts The Singing Trophy and Kitchen Sink). The film includes classic song ‘Bradman’ by Australian singer Paul Kelly.
This stylishly high camp melodrama from directors Stewart Main and Peter Wells won acclaim, after debuting at the 1993 Cannes Film Festival. In the imaginary 19th-century town of Hope, draper Dorothea Brooks (Jennifer Ward-Lealand) is desperate to save her sister from the clutches of opium, sex and the dastardly Fraser. She begs hunky migrant Lawrence Hayes to help; but complications ensue. Inspired partly by 1930s and 40s Hollywood melodramas, Desperate Remedies was sumptously shot by Leon Narbey (Whale Rider). Richard King writes about the film here.
Shortland Street is a fast-paced serial drama set in an eponymous inner city Auckland hospital. A South Pacific Pictures production, the iconic show is based around the births, deaths and marriages of the staff, family and patients. Screening five days a week on TV2 it is New Zealand’s longest running drama. Characters and lines from the show have entered the culture, most famously, "you're not in Guatemala now, Dr Ropata!". This 2007 promo, set to the theme song, collects together highlights from the first 15 years of the show.