Cinematographer John Cavill was trained in the glory days of state television. After entering the industry at the age of 17, he went on to film everything from comedy to sports — then from the late 1990s, globally successful shows like Hercules, Xena and Spartacus. His CV reflects his experience in shooting action and visual effects. In 2018 Cavill won a Daytime Emmy for Chinese-American production Scars of Nanking.
In my career I got to witness the demise of film...it didn’t take more than five years. Film disappeared and it all became digital. Now TV work is offering the same budget as films used to. John Cavill
In the first feature film from high-flying creative collective The Downlow Concept (7 Days, Hounds), the company's longtime 'muse' Joss Thomson plays a struggling real estate agent who becomes the chief of his family's sinking Pacific Island — while simultaneously striving to offer his girlfriend Chloe (American actor Megan Stevenson) her dream wedding. Shot largely in Raratonga, the film also features Dave Fane and Matt Whelan (Go Girls). The trailer promises male corsets and fat jokes, plus plenty of deadpan downlowconcept mayhem.
The second feature film directed by writer Anthony McCarten (Ladies' Night) is a small tale with some big themes. Set in a New Plymouth car yard, the film chronicles an endurance contest in which a car will be awarded to the person who manages to keep their hands on it the longest. As night falls, solo mother Jess (Melanie Lynskey) finds herself fending off the attentions of an obstinate competitor (Craig Hall), with a much harsher vision of the world than hers. Inspired by similar real-life contests, McCarten based the film on his novel Endurance.
Christchurch property developer Dave Henderson experienced bankruptcy, accusations of fraud, and 25 plus tax audits. This Kafkaesque comedy is based on his best-selling book about a five-year battle with the tax department, over a $924,000 bill. Kiwi/Scot actor Erik Thomson returned from Australia to play Henderson, while a near-unrecognisable Michael Hurst cameos as MP Rodney Hide. Lumiere reviewer Simon Sweetman praised the “superb” casting, and Thomson’s playful performance. The film is adapted and directed by screen vet Jonothan Cullinane.
Some argue that if the 1981 Springbok rugby tour of New Zealand had been halted from the outset, the impact on the hearts and minds of South Africans would not have been as profound. This Leanne Pooley-directed film aims to show how events in Aotearoa (captured in Merata Mita's documentary Patu!) played out in South Africa; how the tour protests energized blacks, shamed the regime, and provoked democratic change. Says Archbishop Desmond Tutu: "You really can't even compute its value, it said the world has not forgotten us, we are not alone."
Peter Jackson's love affair with moviemaking and special effects was ignited by seeing the original King Kong (1933) as a child. Jackson's Kiwi-shot remake takes one of cinema's most iconic monster movies, retains the 30s setting and iconic New York finale, and toughens up the "beauty" (Naomi Watts). The film also transforms the male (non-ape) lead from lunkhead to sensitive playwright (Adrien Brody). Exhilarating, Oscar-winning CGI brings the great ape to life, alongside rampaging dinosaurs, and oversized wētā inexplicably absent from the maligned 1976 remake.
Haunting Douglas is a documentary portrait of dancer and choreographer Douglas Wright. It weaves interviews with footage of past performances, and extracts from his autobiography; from drug addiction and illness, to determination and triumph on the New York stage with the Paul Taylor Dance Company. Award-winning director Leanne Pooley captures Wright's resilience: "I need to make things to feel that I can cope with whatever reality is. For me, dancing, performing for people, is the ultimate mystery and the ultimate joy." Wright passed away in November 2018.
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.
The second Lord of the Rings installment sees hobbit Frodo Baggins continuing his mission to destroy the ring. Meanwhile the Fellowship is breaking apart, and an epic night battle ensues at Helm's Deep. The film marked a star turn by Gollum, the emaciated Andy Serkis-voiced creature whose realisation was a cinema landmark and a triumph for the design and special effects team. Alongside praise for the film's pace and spectacle, The Two Towers broke international opening records, before going on to outgross Fellowship of the Ring, and win two technical Oscars.
The Fellowship of the Ring was the film that brought Peter Jackson's talents to a mass international audience. A year after its release, the first instalment of his adaptation of Tolkien's beloved tale of heroic hobbits was the seventh most successful film of all-time. Critic David Ansen (Newsweek) was one of many to praise the fan-appeasing Frodo-centric take, for its "high-flying risks: it wears its earnestness, and its heart, on its muddy, blood-streaking sleeve." At 2002's Academy Awards, Weta maestro Richard Taylor became the first Kiwi to win two Oscars on one night.
Over four seasons, Street Legal’s slick Kiwi take on urban crime and law genres racked up a stack of award nominations - including a 2003 NZ TV Award for best drama series. Although initially wary that the Auckland setting might alienate viewers, writer Greg McGee chose a Samoan lawyer (Jay Laga’aia) as his main character, to exploit the show’s inner-city Ponsonby setting (where cafe society bumps into Pacific Island immigrant culture). Other key characters included Silesi’s lawyer ex-girlfriend Joni, and her new partner Kees, an overstressed sergeant.
When high-powered director of commercials Hugh Chance (Michael Hurst) visits a small backwater town, the 'for sale' sign on the local tavern offers too good a chance to overlook — especially with the chance to create a set of waterfront condos. But the locals don’t take too kindly to this intruder trying to turn their town into a holiday resort. Starring alongside Hurst in this 47 minute teleplay are Michael Galvin and Stephen Lovatt (Being Eve) as two fellow admen, while Meryl Main (Plain Tastes) features as local artist and cafe owner Jess, who earns both Chance’s ire and affections.
This Royal New Zealand Ballet performance of Stravinsky’s Petrouchka stays true to the original 1911 version by legendary ballet company Ballet Russes, in more than just spelling. As tormented puppet Petrouchka, Douglas Wright pays tribute to legendary performer Vaslav Nijinsky. Designer Raymond Boyce channels Alexandre Benois, while Russell Kerr's choreography evokes Mikhail Fokine. The sellout season was reviewed as "phenomenal" and "a visual feast… exploding with colour and shifting image". Future TV executive Andrew Shaw directed coverage of the ballet.
This episode from Communicado’s series about popular culture heroes focuses on entertainment legend Howard Morrison. Presenter Neil Roberts finds him doing what he does best — performing live at the Huntly Working Men’s Club. He traces Morrison’s life from a Rotorua upbringing through stardom with The Howard Morrison Quartet, a solo career with appearances as The Sexy Savage in Manila, his smash hit ‘How Great Thou Art’ and work in TV and film (in his own feature Don’t Let It Get You, and as a singing shearer in Australia with a young Olivia Newton-John).
This 1989 chat show saw Gary McCormick invite guests onto his sofa for a cuppa. First up is WWF wrestler Don 'The Rock' Muraco. Unfazed by being called an ugly baby, the Hawaiian warns the kids to not try his wrestling moves (or crystal meth) at home and demonstrates a hold on the host. He's joined by actor Ian Watkin who talks about being a coaster, Blerta and cricket fandom. The show was directed by Bruce Morrison (Heartland) and produced by Finola Dwyer (Oscar-nominated for An Education); who teamed with McCormick on the acclaimed Raglan by the Sea doco.
Indie production house Communicado made their name with a stable of television shows that celebrated Kiwi culture. After the success of late-80s show That’s Fairly Interesting, the company began work on Magic Kiwis, a show devoted to heroes of popular culture. Mostly the cavalcade of Kiwi celebs were stars of entertainment (Howard Morrison, Split Enz) and sports (Susan Devoy, John Walker), with the odd politician thrown in. Over three series, the half hour shows combined classic clips and interview footage, all tied together in trademark upbeat style.
For two series in 1989, poet, raconteur, broadcaster and surfer Gary McCormick honed his Heartland rapport and took on that most vexed of NZ television formats — the chat show — with help from the director Bruce Morrison and producer Finola Dwyer (Oscar nominated for An Education) with whom he had made the acclaimed Raglan by the Sea doco. The Kiwiana set purported to recreate McCormick’s Gisborne house (complete with a green vinyl La-Z-boy) to make guests — who ranged from Wayne Shelford, to Don ‘The Rock’ Muraco, Eva Rickard, and PJ O’Rourke — feel at home.
After turning "Jeez Wayne" into a national catchphrase with the sketch show A Week of It, comedy duo David McPhail and Jon Gadsby (plus third writer AK Grant) followed with McPhail & Gadsby, which aired on TVNZ for seven seasons — plus a reprise in 1998 and 1999. After a sometimes controversial debut season in which each episode was devoted to a specific theme (religion, sex etc), the show settled into a steady diet of political satire, spoofs and impersonations of public figures — including McPhail's famous caricature of PM Robert 'Piggy' Muldoon.
This final episode of pioneering A Week of It ("NZ's longest running comedy programme — discounting parliament") features a three wise men parody (lost without a Shell road map); pirate Radio Hauraki; and a parliament-themed Cinderella Christmas pantomine, with David McPhail's Muldoon playing the stepmother. Jon Gadsby appears as Dr Groper, an un-PC GP; and God is a guest at an Anglican church in Fendalton. British comic legend Dudley Moore appears briefly in the extended 'best of' credits reel, alongside (Jeez) Wayne and the rest of the Gluepot Tavern lads.
A Week of It was a pioneering comedy series that entertained and often outraged audiences over three series from 1977 to 1979. The writing team, led by David McPhail, AK Grant, Jon Gadsby, Bruce Ansley, Chris McVeigh and Peter Hawes, took irreverent aim at topical issues and public figures of the day. Amongst notable impersonations was McPhail's famous aping of Prime Minister Rob Muldoon; a catchphrase from a skit — "Jeez, Wayne" — entered NZ pop culture. The series won multiple Feltex Awards and in 1979 McPhail won Entertainer of the Year.