The great outdoors and the arts are what most inspires sound recordist turned documentary director John Hagen. He learnt the ropes at Avalon television studios, before venturing out on his own as a director. Alongside arts shows like Frontseat and New Artland, Hagen has celebrated Kiwi architecture in The New Zealand Home and recreated hazardous pioneer journeys in popular series First Crossings.

Once again it was another ‘I can’t believe you are going to pay me’ moment. The places we got to experience were unbelievable. It was a privilege to make a show like that. John Hagen on 2016 TV series First Crossings

Islands of the Gulf

2018, Director - Television

The New Zealand Home

2015, Director, Producer - Television

First Crossings

2013, Director - Television

A Rotten Shame

2011, Director - Television

New Artland - Karl Maughan (Series Two, Episode Four)

2009, Director - Television

The format for New Artland was to film a leading Kiwi artist devising an artwork, in collaboration with a community that they have some kind of bond with. In this episode host Chris Knox meets Karl Maughan, known for his vibrant paintings of garden flowers. Maughan returns to Palmerston North's Freyberg High School (where he was encouraged to enrol at Elam School of Art) and enlists 20 students over a week to make a 30 metre long mural. He explains why rhododendrons are his main subject, and gets permission from the principal to help the kids graffiti the art block.

Saving Face

2009, Director - Television

The trenches of World War I represented warfare on a new scale and produced facial wounds in numbers never seen before. This Top Shelf doco examines the legacy of Sir Harold Gillies and Henry Pickerill — NZ surgeons who founded modern reconstructive plastic surgery while treating these injuries — and of Sir Archibald McIndoe and Rainsford Mowlem who continued this work during World War II. This excerpt focuses on Gillies and Pickerill, and the rediscovery of the remarkable surgical models, and watercolour paintings of their patients, they used as teaching aids.

New Artland

2008 - 2009, Director - Television

This series sees Kiwi artists creating a new work while the cameras are rolling, in collaboration with a community that they have a personal connection with. Hosted by musician and artist Chris Knox, the series was produced by Gemma Gracewood and Neil Stichbury, from a concept by Luke Nola. Two seasons were produced for channels TVNZ 6 (2008) and TVNZ 7 (2009). Season one was nominated for Best Format/Reality Series at the 2008 Qantas Film and TV Awards. The artists included Lisa Reihana, Michel Tuffery, Phil Dadson, Karl Maughan and Seung Yul Oh.

Rocked the Nation

2008 - 2011, Additional Director - Television

Rocked the Nation launched in 2008 with six one hour-long shows. Production company Satellite Media ransacked the archives and interviewed protagonists, to survey 100 key moments in Kiwi music history: including smash hits, riots, TV talent shows, and sex, drugs and rock’n’roll. Hosted by Karyn Hay, the series screened on C4 during NZ Music Month, and was the channel’s highest-rating series to that date. Follow-up series counted down 100 New Zealand Pop Culture Stories (2009, hosted by Rhys Darby) and 100 New Zealand Sporting Moments (2011, hosted by Dai Henwood). 

Here to Stay

2007 - 2008, Director - Television

Here to Stay uses New Zealand personalities to examine key settler groups that make up the Kiwi tribe. Each show mixes personal stories with a wider view, as the presenter sets out to discover what traits and icons their ethnic group contributed to the NZ blend. In the first (of two) series Michael Hurst, Theresa Healey, Ewen Gilmour, Jackie Clarke, Frano Botica and Bernadine Lim explore the English, Irish, German, Scot, Croatian, and Chinese stories respectively. Each episode includes identity reflections from a chorus of well-known Kiwis.  

Kiwis at War

2006, Director - Television

Dare to Be Free

2004, Director - Television

During World War ll South Islander Sandy Thomas was fighting in Crete, when he was wounded and captured by the German Army. Unwilling to spend the war in custody he repeatedly plotted escape from hospital, to the point his Houdini efforts became a running joke among his captors. Nevertheless a successful escape attempt from the Salonika Prisoner of War camp would have him fleeing across the continent on his wounded leg, in an attempt to reunite with his comrades. Now retired, having reached the rank of Major General, Walter Babington Thomas recounts his escapades.

The Shape of a Kiwi

2004, Director - Television

Frontseat

2005 - 2007, Director - Television

With five series and close to 100 episodes, Frontseat, produced by The Gibson Group, was the longest-running arts programme of its time. Billed by TVNZ publicity as a "topical and provocative weekly arts series investigating the issues facing local arts and culture", and hosted by actor Oliver Driver, it (sometimes controversially) took a broad current affairs approach to the arts of the day, covering "all the big events, reporting the stories, and interviewing the personalities."

Frontseat - Series One, Episode Three

2004, Director - Television

A weekly TVNZ arts series hosted by Oliver Driver, Frontseat was the longest-running arts programme of its time, aiming a broad current affairs scope at arts issues and events. In the excerpts from this episode journalist Amomai Pihama investigates Māori arts brand, Toi Iho. Winston Peters, gallery owner Kataraina Hetet, and CNZ's Elizabeth Ellis are among those interviewed. In another story Driver speaks with artists and the curator of the Telecom Prospect 2004 show at Wellington's City Gallery and Adam Art Gallery.

Mitre 10 Dream Home

1999, Director - Television

The Great Kiwi Pub

1998, Director - Television

Fitness Factory

1998, Director - Television

Wings: Ride the Lightning

1997, Director - Television

Soft Takeoffs Hard Landings

1997, Director - Television

Irony - The Corrugated World of Jeff Thomson

1994, Director - Television

Of Cadillacs and Men

1990, Director - Television

The Next Four Minutes

1989, Director, Producer - Short Film

The Deep End (one-off documentary)

1987, Director - Television

A Spark of Life - James Greig, Potter, Man of West and East

1987, Sound Recordist - Television

This edition of the 1987 Inspiration series on Kiwi artists looks at potter James (Jim) Greig, and his search for the “spark of life” found in clay. The Peter Coates-directed documentary visits Greig’s Wairarapa studio to interview him and his wife Rhondda, also an artist. Greig’s influences are surveyed: the work of Kiwi potter Len Castle, nature, orphanhood, and Japan (where his work achieved renown). The film captures the visceral process of making large works for a Wellington City Gallery exhibition. Greig died of a heart attack, aged 50, while this film was being made.

The Fire-Raiser - Kitty Plays the Piano (Episode Three)

1986, Sound Recordist - Television

Created for television by author Maurice Gee, The Fire-Raiser pits a quartet of smalltown school kids against a balaclava-clad figure with fire on the brain. In this episode, the children sneak onto the property of the man they suspect of terrorising their town. The police arrive after Kitty is trapped inside a room that has tragic memories for the suspect’s mother, the memorably moody Mrs Marwick. This WWI-era gothic adventure went on to score four Listener TV awards, including best drama; and Gee’s accompanying novel was published both here and overseas.

Inside Straight - Card Game (Episode Seven)

1984, Sound Recordist - Television

Shot on location, Inside Straight‘s colourful portrait of Wellington’s underworld helped usher in a new era of urban Kiwi TV dramas, far from the backblocks. Phillip Gordon (Came a Hot Friday) stars as Steve Keenan, the everyman learning the ways of the city from taxi driver Roy Billing. In this episode, Steve finds himself on the run from dodgy gamblers, while trying to raise $5000 to enter a high stakes card game. Meanwhile another card-player has hit town: conman Nick (Bruno Lawrence), who quickly starts romancing Steve’s sometime girlfriend (Joanne Simpson).

Inside Straight

1984, Sound Recordist - Television

Shot on location in Wellington, often after dark, Inside Straight helped usher in a new era of Kiwi TV dramas, far from the rural backblocks. This Minder-esque portrait of Wellington’s underworld was inspired by writer Keith Aberdein’s experiences as a taxi-driver and all night cafe worker. Phillip Gordon (soon to win fame as a conman in Came a Hot Friday) stars as the former fisherman, learning the ways of the city from veteran taxi driver Roy Billing. A solid but unspectacular rater over 10 episodes, the show was scuttled by the launch of trucker’s tale Roche.

Sea Urchins - Series Three, Episode Five

1983, Sound Recordist - Television

For the third series of this TVNZ kidult drama, the location moved from the Hauraki Gulf to the Marlborough Sounds, where there's also plenty of water for floatplane and speedboat thrills (and an explosion). Brothers Peter, Nik and Hape — the "sea urchins" — attempt to foil a thuggish gang of tuatara and kākāriki smugglers, led by cravat-wearing evil mastermind, Carl. The urchins are aided on the ground and in the air by a young Rebecca Gibney (the Packed to the Rafter's star's first major TV role), while future broadcaster and Wiggle Robert Rakete plays Nik.

Pioneer Women - Hera Ngoungou

1983, Sound Recordist - Television

This episode in the Pioneer Women series dramatised the story of Hera Ngoungou. In 1874 in Taranaki, Māori kidnapped an eight-year-old Pākehā girl — Caroline “Queenie” Perrett — possibly in retribution for her father breaking a tapu. Her family didn’t see her again until she was 60, when she was a grandmother and had spent more than 50 years living with, and identifying as, Māori. A moving (Feltex award-winning) performance from Ginette McDonald (aka Lyn of Tawa) mixes stoicism with an acknowledgement of good times and a sense of loss for what might have been.

Pioneer Women - Princess Te Puea

1983, Sound Recordist - Television

This episode of Pioneer Women dramatises the life of Waikato leader Te Puea Herangi: from prodigal daughter to leader of the Tainui people. Te Puea helped establish the Kingitanga movement, and led Tainui to prosperity through wars, confiscation of their land, and an influenza epidemic. Future TV3 newsreader Joanna Paul plays Te Puea. Produced by Pamela Meekings-Stewart, the Pioneer Women series screened in a high profile slot on TV One, and challenged the view that white male statesmen were the only noteworthy figures in New Zealand colonial history.