The same year she graduated from drama school Toi Whakaari, Dannevirke-raised Jessica Grace Smith won a starring role in Diagnosis: Death, as a young cancer patient investigating ghosts. Smith rejoined the film's director Jason Stutter to co-star in his black comedy Edwin: My Life as a Koont. Then she headed to Australia. A week before she was planning to relocate to Los Angeles, she scored an ongoing part in Aussie soap Home and Away. In 2019 Smith landed the role of a young Cheryl West for the fifth season of Westside. Smith has also directed programmes, including short Everybody Else is Taken.
I guess you could say I had a bit of an epiphany. I did very well at law school and got top grades, but life is too short and I wanted a job I loved. Jessica Grace Smith on swapping from law to acting, Dannevirke News, 26 September 2011
TV3 series Outrageous Fortune had six memorable seasons. Award-winning prequel Westside takes the West family back to where it all began — to legendary safecracker Ted West (David de Lautour), and his fiery wife Rita (Antonia Prebble from Outrageous). Each episode of series one is set in a particular year of the 1970s. Season two moves to the 1981 Springbok Tour; the third, set in 1982, introduced a teen Cheryl West. Combining romance, crime and West family folklore with real life events, Westside was created by James Griffin and Rachel Lang, the duo behind the original.
Edwin Rouper has a habit of annoying people within seconds of meeting them. Cursed with 'Koontz-syndrome', a neurological condition in which temper and confidence dominate, he travels to Hollywood, trying to assemble a team of stars to raise awareness for the Koontz cause. Jason Stutter’s mock-documentary gleefully skirts the borderland between the koontz 'condition', and an expletive with a very similiar sound. Acting newbie Bryce Campbell scored an LA comedy award as Edwin; Raybon Kan, Jeremy Corbett and scribe Nick Ward all have cameos as sundry wackos.
In the five years since Sione's Wedding, the Duckrocker quartet have experienced marriage, children, Australians and the good lord. Then their minister reunites them on a quest to find Bolo (Dave Fane) — once their driver and conscience, now MIA. The sequel to the break-through PI-Kiwi hit reunites the original cast, and adds in a dodgy minister (Kirk Torrance) and a new director (Outrageous Fortune's Simon Bennett). On the burden of following Wedding, Stuff reviewer Steve Kilgallon adjudged: "seen on its own merits, it [Sione's 2] proves worth the wait".
June 1944. On a sabotage mission shortly before D-Day, a Kiwi Commando (Outrageous Fortune’s Craig Hall) sneaks into a German bunker on the Channel Islands. Inside he finds an SS officer who is an expert in the occult (Out of the Blue’s Matt Sunderland), much blood, and a mysterious lone woman who may not be what she seems. Shot in Wellington, the feature debut of effects man Paul Campion ratchets up the tension in the claustrophobic setting. The makeup effects — horned demons, bullet wounds and gore — are led by Weta veteran Sean Foote.
Created by Outrageous Fortune’s James Griffin and Rachel Lang, this South Pacific Pictures-produced TV3 dramedy is about a family of Norse gods who wash up in 21st Century New Zealand. Emmett Skilton stars as Axl aka Odin, who must restore his brothers' lapsed superpowers and find his wife Frigg ("no pressure, then"). But he is thwarted by Norse goddesses and Māori deities. The combo of fantastical plot and droll Kiwi bloke banter won loyal fans, who successfully campaigned for a third (and final) season. Johnsons screened on the SyFy channel in the US in 2014.
Featuring a rare star turn by stand-up comedian Raybon Kan (who also co-wrote the script), Diagnosis: Death is a genre-stretching tale of oddball nurses, haunted hospitals and bedside romance. Kan plays a cynical teacher sharing a hospital ward with a young student (Jessica Grace Smith), after both are diagnosed with cancer. Trapped in the ward during an experimental drug trial, the duo investigate a strange case of haunting. Shot specifically for DVD, Jason Stutter's second feature also features cameos by Conchords Jemaine Clement, Bret McKenzie, and Rhys Darby.