Producer Julia Parnell’s CV boasts a diverse range of credits — from comedy (Wayne Anderson: Singer of Songs) to sport (Wilbur: The King in the Ring), music (The Chills - The Triumph & Tragedy of Martin Phillipps) and te ao Māori (Restoring Hope). Parnell’s production company Notable Pictures is behind a run of award-winning short films (Dive, Friday Tigers), plus long-running mini-documentary series Loading Docs.
It's a great privilege for me to tell stores that contribute to our understanding of who we are, where we've been and what we might become. I aspire to create strong stories, work that entertains and takes viewers into new worlds. Julia Parnell
It's not too big a stretch to say songwriter Martin Phillipps 'is' The Chills, one of the most distinctive pop bands to have come out of New Zealand. This documentary examines the complicated talent behind some iconic pop songs and finds him at a crossroads in his life, facing very real consequences after years of alcohol and drug dependency. Phillipps opens up about his desire to leave a proper legacy, while a selection of ex-band mates lay bare their experience of being a Chill. The film debuted at US festival South by Southwest, where it won the first of many enthusiastic reviews.
Mojo Mathers was New Zealand's first deaf MP, and faced considerable hurdles just doing her job. In this short documentary from the Loading Docs series, Mathers talks about her time as an MP and her desire to ensure deaf and disabled people can fully engage in democracy in Aotearoa. In 2017 Mathers drafted the Election Access Fund Bill, to provide a contestable fund for those with disabilities who wanted to run for Parliament. In May 2018, Mathers' Bill passed its first reading with unanimous support. Director Jason Boberg has direct experience of disability.
English pastor John Catmur moved to New Zealand in 2007 after getting a "call from God". Working and living in South Auckland amongst a big Māori population, he was inspired to learn te reo. Says Catmur in this Loading Doc: "When I stood to speak a hunger was fulfilled within my heart. A hunger I never knew I had." Director Kayne Ngātokowhā Peters made this short te reo documentary to help change people's perceptions, so they could see the Māori language as a "valued treasure". Peters was a presenter on TVNZ channel Kidzone, before he did two years reporting for Marae.
A kārearea named Fern handles the storytelling duties in this child-friendly documentary about New Zealand’s only falcon. Fern (voiced by ex Māori TV newsreader Kimiora Kaire-Melbourne) introduces some of the other kārearea who live at the Marlborough Falcon Trust, then brings out her human friend Diana, who sadly “can’t fly yet”. Fern and Diana meet a group of children and show them the aerobatics of Aotearoa’s only endemic raptor species, while talking about the threats the falcons face. The trust aims to ensure the endangered birds have a future.
Brooke Clarkson races stock cars — a rare female in a male-dominated motorsport. After growing up watching her dad and uncle race, taking to the track herself seemed only natural. In this short documentary, Clarkson and her family are interviewed about the challenges she’s faced to get to the top, from her mother’s concerns, to outsiders arguing that girls shouldn’t be racing — they'll just get hurt. Now, at only 18 years old, she is racing one of the top stock cars in the country. The soundtrack includes ‘She Speeds’ — the classic track from Dunedin band Straitjacket Fits.
Taaniko Nordstrom and her sister Vienna are the creative duo behind Soldiers Rd Portraits, who create customised vintage portraits for indigenous people and often work with Māori inmates, reconnecting them with their whakapapa. Wellington filmmaker Louise Pattinson directed and edited this short documentary for the Loading Docs series. She focuses on Soldiers Road working with a group of Māori teenagers trying to find their place in the world. The teenagers tell their stories through letters to tipuna (ancestors), traditional costumes and ta moko.
For this short documentary made as part of the Loading Docs series, director Ygnacio Cervio explores mental health awareness from the perspective of someone "who encourages people to make a change, but finds his own struggles on that journey". After losing some close friends to suicide, barber Sam Dowdall decided to take an epic road trip across New Zealand, trading his skills for goods and services and starting conversations with Kiwi men about mental health. With only his dog for company, Dowdall opens up about his own bad days when he has to "eat his own medicine".
In this offering from the Loading Docs series, Kiwi/Samoan hip hop artist Kas Futialo (Tha Feelstyle) journeys back to a place called the Crossroads (Le Māgafā) in Faleasi'u, the Samoan village where as a child he imagined his future. Here four parts of himself — spiritual, cultural, creative and the everyday — meet in the space where the dirt roads merge. The result is more storytelling than documentary, expanding on Futialo's metaphor for life and hip hop. The use of black and white film creates a timeless quality. Director Sani Salanga is also known as hip hop artist Dei Hamo.
Chris Huriwai and Sam La Hood are both world champions in street unicycling. What they do takes courage and confidence — and not just the unicycling. As vegan animal rights activists, they regularly face those who disagree with them, as they form a “cube of truth” with other activists, standing in black, and playing video of animal rights abuses on laptop screens. The pair take the time to explain why they protest — Huriwai’s rural background and their connection to tikanga Māori are key factors — and note that while some take offence, the majority are welcoming.
Young scientist Logan Williams became "infatuated" with an invasive algae called didymo, while studying at university. Outraged that his beloved South Canterbury rivers had been destroyed by this "rock snot", Williams developed an idea to turn it into recyclable consumer goods, such as plates and cups. Williams was a 2018 finalist for Young New Zealander of the Year Award; he has also developed polarised contact lenses for people with photosensitive epilepsy. This Loading Docs short documentary is directed by commercials producer Jane Mahoney.
Former pro wrestler Wilbur McDougall was battling addiction and self-imposed isolation before undergoing gastric sleeve surgery. For this serio-comic documentary, he let university mate J Ollie Lucks film his journey of transformation. McDougall needs a new wrestling persona — and the "happiness and self-acceptance that has eluded him for so long". Will his friendship with Lucks survive, as the filmmaker jumps at the story from the top rope? Lucks and Julia Parnell's feature began in 2015 as a short film for Loading Docs. The long version debuted at 2017's Doc Edge Festival.
This short Loading Docs documentary from 2017 follows conservationist Corey Mosen as he heads into the forest with a special canine — his border collie cross Ajax. The pair play a vital role in the mission to ensure the survival of the kea, the world’s only mountain parrot. Despite being one of the world’s most resourceful and intelligent birds, kea are under threat (eg from predation), with as few as 2000 left in the wild. Corey and Ajax locate kea nests in the steep alpine forest and spread awareness of a bird that Mosen reckons is pretty "neat and special".
Talking to your father about his sex life is possibly the most awkward conversation anyone could have. Director Chye-Ling Huang took on this eye-opening task while interviewing eight Asian men about sex, for this Loading Doc short documentary. Huang aims to challenge negative stereotypes of Asian males. Comedian/writer James Roque explains: "All the stereotypes that I encounter as an Asian guy are things like that I’m sexually or romantically inept, or that I’m like a nerd." Actor Yosan An, future star of Niki Caro's live action version of Mulan, is among those featured.
Director Julie Zhu's love letter to a Chinese East Auckland community follows her grandmother as she carries out what may seem a mundane task — grocery shopping. But to Fang Ruzhen, her daily ritual of buying food is what connects her to several other aged Chinese grandparents, who hop on buses in large groups to head to the supermarket. Ruzhen moved to New Zealand nearly 20 years ago to help look after her grandson. Now she is 79 and can barely speak any English. "Going shopping every day…well, that’s our strength. Without this, what would we do?"
Every year pride parades celebrate LGBTI (lesbian, gay, bisexual, transgender, and intersex) culture and pride. But Wellington takatāpui (Māori LGBTI) activist, Kassie Hartendorp, feels alienated from the flamboyant festivity. "It’s glittery, it’s fun, it’s fabulous. It feels empty. I don’t really know what the point is sometimes, you know.” In this Loading Doc short documentary, Hartendorp talks about wanting pride celebrations to be more inclusive of takatāpui. She faces a dilemma when her takatāpui kapa haka group are invited to perform at the Wellington Pride Parade.
Kōtuku Rerenga Rua (the second flight of the heron) explores the impact of a near-death experience on Kōtuku Tibble. The teacher and media personality (from te teo Rugby World Cup commentator, to running language lessons on TV show Pūkana) talks about being reborn as the husband, father and leader he believes he is destined to be. Co-directed by Tim Worrall and Aaron Smart (The Road to Whakarae), the short documentary was made in te reo Māori for web series Loading Docs. Sadly Kõtuku Tibble died in his sleep, a few months after Kōtuku Rerenga Rua was completed.
This 2017 Loading Doc profiles Dominic Hoey (formerly known as rapper Tourettes) as he prepares a play about his battle with debilitating bone disease. Hoey, whose career clocks everything from punk drummer to poems in Landfall, brings a trademark rebel spirit as he reflects on his condition — and the challenges it gives to an artist renowned for his high voltage performances. Hoey was determined the portrait avoid being a pity fest, and collaborated with directors Damian Golfinopoulos and Stjohn Milgrew on the script. The result mixes interview, poetry and archive.
This Loading Doc short follows cavers Dave Ellacott and Mike Allen on their mission to connect Luckie Strike and Junior Mudball, two vastly different cave systems at Waitomo. Luckie Strike features extraordinary rock formations, waterfalls, and vast caverns. Junior Mudball is as its name suggests, mostly mud. The short sees them at work, galavanting through streams, abseiling down crevasses and scraping through mud — and reflecting on what they love about it. Luckie Strike was picked by National Geographic for its Short Film Showcase. A longer version is in the works.
A unique Kiwi story about prepping for death has captured the attention of international media. The BBC, The Guardian and National Geographic have all interviewed elderly members of a build-your-own-coffin club, some of whom feature in this musical short film. Members of the Kiwi Coffin Club don sequins and top hats, while singing about what makes their club tick — death is not to be feared, but instead should be celebrated as a normal part of life. A lyric from this offbeat Loading Doc sums up things succinctly: "It's the final verse but life goes on."
When New Zealander Jared James moved to Japan, he found himself isolated by the distance, the culture and the language. A co-worker recommended he try out for the local rugby union team. After coming to terms with the difficulties he might face — the language, his fitness — he finally gave it go. James found not just a team, but an opportunity to share culture and friendship. Made as part of 2017 web series Loading Docs, the film began after director Jericho Rock-Archer met Jared on a flight to Japan; the two kept in touch as each found a home there.
This 2016 Loading Doc introduces a heavily-tattoed Englishman living in Rarotonga. Croc Coulter is an unlikely master of the traditional art of tātatau (tattoo); the documentary follows Coulter as he teaches the art form to an apprentice, Moko Smith. Coulter also lives with cystic fibrosis. It was directed by Robert George, who has Cook Islands Māori and Māori heritage, and a background as both a painter and in post-production work for the screen. The mini documentary was shared internationally; it also featured on National Geographic's Short Film Showcase.
Four-year-old Dahlia Hitchcock lives by this mantra: When you die, you don’t do anything; when you’re alive you play. Behind her cheeky grin is a brave wee girl who endures several daily “bum pricks” to treat her Type 1 diabetes. Her father, director Joe Hitchcock, made this 2016 Loading Doc to bring awareness to Type 1 diabetes, which has no known cause or cure. The same year as they made this, Hitchcock and producer Morgan Leigh Stewart completed another short film — action comedy Stick To Your Gun.
"It’s more than just a sport: it’s honour, glory, victory." This 2016 Loading Doc follows knight-in-waiting Martainn Cuff as he and his Steel Thorns team prepare for battle in the "misunderstood sport" of full contact medieval combat. The Taranaki ex-soldier carries 33 kilograms of armour and the burden of a leadership role into the fray, at the national champs. The short documentary was made by Ryan Heron and Andy Deere, who were Whanganui school friends of Cuff’s. Heron and Deere direct commercials; they previously teamed up for award-winning short comedy Return.
Sixty-five years of life are condensed into three minutes in this 2016 Loading Doc, which profiles two pioneering kumara growers and Kiwi characters: Fay and Joe Gock. The Gocks were refugees from the Japanese invasion of China, who met in 1953. It was then illegal for Chinese to own land, but they went on to became the largest market gardeners in Mangere. In 2013 they won Horticulture New Zealand’s highest honour. Told as a poem, narrated by Ian Mune, the film was directed by commercials director and ex Cassandra's Ears bass player, Felicity Morgan-Rhind.
The theme for 2016’s batch of Loading Docs was 'change'. This entry stretches the boundaries of documentary, as two high school students engage in an impassioned piece of performance poetry. Mount Albert Grammar School's Jahmal Nightingale and Joseph McNamara film themselves performing their own poetic clarion call for change. The two Gen-Z teens wander Auckland and muse on body image, booze, racism, sexism, and the apocalypse. Director Brendan Withy and producer Doug Dillaman first saw the duo at high school spoken word competition WORD - The Front Line.
"My name is Mr Larry Woods and they call me Mr Sunshine." This 2016 Loading Doc offers a mini portrait of the colourful shoeshine man famous for spreading goodwill and cheer on Auckland’s streets. The documentary charts Wood’s journey from chauffeur-driven millionaire making headlines for his lush lifestyle, to street-working ambassador pushing the creed of “just being nice”. Directed by Eldon Booth in stylish monochrome, the documentary was shared by Atlantic and Aeon magazines and website Short of the Week, and screened at England's Sheffield Doc/Fest.
"How would your relationship with your best friend change if they were to change gender?" This is the intriguing proposition that led director Louise Leitch to make this 2016 Loading Doc. Best friends Neil (Leitch's husband) and Byron have been longtime climbing companions, but Byron’s shift from a male to female gender identity at 50 years old provides a challenge to their mateship that differs from any mountaineering obstacle. The mini documentary screened on SBS in Australia. The Spinoff’s Alex Casey called it a "moving, honest examination of an evolving friendship".
In this 2016 Loading Doc, Regina Tito talks about life for a homeless person, gleaned from her own experiences of living on the streets. She reflects on the circumstances that forced her to leave home, and describes the emotional experience of being homeless. The Downtown Community Ministry worker ended up on the streets to escape family violence – "at that time the streets were a lot safer". First-time director Leigh Minarapa and producer (and industry veteran) Nathaniel Lees set out to win empathy for people who are sleeping rough.
Scenic vistas of Aotearoa have become an important part of New Zealand identity. Hand-coloured photos produced by Whites Aviation from 1945 were formative in the genre, and hugely popular after WWll. This 2016 Loading Doc profiles 'colouring girl' Grace Rawson, now 83, who uses cotton wool and brushes to demonstrate the meticulous process behind colouring the images. The short was co-directed by artist and commercials director Greg Wood, and author Peter Alsop (Selling the Dream), whose book on the photos, Hand-Coloured New Zealand, was published in 2016.
In this short documentary, director Rose Archer joins academic and activist Jane Kelsey to argue against Aotearoa signing the original Trans-Pacific Partnership Agreement (TPPA). The 2016 Loading Doc uses animation to illustrate how things can turn nasty when commercial interests are allowed to sue governments. The film looks at El Salvador, which was sued for US$300 million by mining company OceanaGold, after laws were passed to halt mining (a World Bank tribunal later argued OceanaGold should be paying). Archer hopes viewers will be outraged and demand change.
Dragon have produced some of Australasian pop music's classic anthems ('April Sun in Cuba', 'Are You Old Enough'). This 2015 documentary charts 40 rock'n'roll years: chart success, drugs, fame, failure, family, survival. The first excerpt looks at the band facing early success and tragedy; the second covers the impact of the 1998 death of singer Marc Hunter, especially on his brother Todd. The doco screened in the Prime Rocks slot. "Made with care and quite a lot of love", praised NZ Herald’s Greg Dixon, "by turns, sad and uplifting, which is no mean feat."
The titles made under the Loading Docs banner combine two things Kiwi filmmakers have a proven record in — short films and documentaries. Designed to give directors an online platform for “work that inspires, pushes boundaries and moves audiences”, the result has been an annual series of roughly 10 shorts, each less than four minutes long. Loading Docs launched in 2014 and its films — ranging from bungy jumpers to queer identity — have screened internationally on high profile websites. Loading Docs is produced by Notable Pictures' Julia Parnell and Anna Jackson.
Subtitled ‘a conversation with my grandfather’, this animated short sees Joel Kefali (director of the music video for Lorde’s ‘Royal’) documenting memories of his Turkish 'Baba' arriving in 1951 Auckland. Sausage rolls, dances and the death penalty are animated via cut-out shapes, and scored to Baba’s colourful pidgin phrasing — “go to the hell!”. Noel Murray of US website The Dissolve praised the “ample artistry” of Kefali’s familial tribute. Baba was a part of Loading Docs: a series of low budget three-minute long films made for online release.
“How could I capture a New Zealand home in three minutes? Could I make a film without relying on standard documentary conventions of interview, cutaways and narration?” Inspired by the idea of making a more reflective, meditative piece for viewers watching on computers or phones, filmmaker Andrew Scott uses a single shot to move through a Kiwi summer home. There’s no one home but the minutiae of sound — from cicadas to the Mr Whippy tune — evoke the life of the place. Homing was made as part of Loading Docs, a series of short films designed for viewing online.
"After living on the street for 20 years, we're now tasting what it's like to live like kings. We're sleeping in fancy sheets, drinking champagne and living in mansions ... and we're f***ing loving it." This Loading Docs short film turns its lens on Cowboy and a group of homeless people for whom the 2010 Christchurch earthquake presented a luxury squatting opportunity. Director Zoe (Day Trip, The Deadly Ponies Gang) McIntosh's thought-provoking look at an aspect of the city where she studied screened on TV’s 20/20 and was shared by the UK’s Daily Mail.
The concept of this short doco was to give its subjects the opportunity to tell their own stories straight to camera. Filmmakers Robyn Paterson and Paula Boock gave attendees of Auckland's annual Big Gay Out an invitation to go into a self-operated video booth, and answer the question ‘What does home mean to you?’. The candid results are snapshots of LGBT experiences and searches for identity and belonging. Queer Selfies featured on TV’s 20/20 and was made as part of Loading Docs, a series of three-minute long Kiwi films created for online distribution.
The widescreen vistas of the Mackenzie Country provide the backdrop for this short documentary looking at the challenges and joys of being a traffic management worker. In the tradition of Heartland, the film delivers a warm-hearted combo of character and scenery, as veteran stop/go man Bernie muses on perks: “It’d be nice if someone gave me a winning Lotto ticket, but a Chupa Chup’s not too bad.” Directed by Greg Jennings, Stop/Go was part of Loading Docs: a series of low budget three-minute films made for online release.
“Balls, bungy and videotape” is the tagline for this Loading Docs short film. The Jump celebrates the DIY spirit of unsung Kiwi hero Chris Sigglekow — who leapt off a bridge in jeans in 1980 for arguably the first modern bungy jump. Sigglekow recalls, and VHS footage shows, the pioneering jumps: from a boxing bag, to his and AJ Hackett’s famous Auckland Harbour Bridge leap. The first doco by ad director Alex Sutherland, Jump won 140,000+ views when it was made a Vimeo Staff Pick, and it was shared by surfing legend Laird Hamilton. Caution: contains Stubbies and Speedos.
Short film The Road to Whakarae is built around a special place, and a special song. Keen to celebrate home and the joyful aspects of the Tūhoe people, local filmmaker/artist Tim Worrall and cousin Aaron Smart (whose wife is from the area) crafted a love letter to the Waimana Valley, by expanding an old Tūhoe party song about “a windy, dusty road” and inviting various locals to sing a section each. Made for online viewing as part of the Loading Docs series, the film starts with local musician and kaumātua Beam Titoko on guitar — and ends with a kiss at the marae.
This short documentary observes a day in the life of Auckland’s David Lange Care Home. Near wordless, the impressionistic film tracks the residents, workers, sounds and rhythms of a world many New Zealanders inhabit: aged care accommodation. Directors Nick Mayow and French-born Prisca Bouchet met while working as editors; both have grandparents in rest homes. Today follows on from their award-winning doco Le Taxidermiste. Chosen for the London Short Film Festival, Today was made as part of Loading Docs, a series of shorts created for online screening.
The language of emotion speaks louder than words in this reallife tale of devotion. Made for the Loading Docs series, the short film introduces us to Wayne, a man with communication difficulties who is aided by his minder and friend Nigel. Directors Kirsty Griffin and Viv Kernick follow Wayne as he negotiates and laments his relationship with close friend Rachel. Griffin's photography and composer Karl Steven's score lend the cinéma vérité style documentary a timeless nuance. Follow-up web series Amy Street introduces viewers to others who live in Wayne's community.
This often confronting documentary observes a Māori restorative justice model through the eyes of straight-talking Mike Hinton, manager of Restorative Justice at Manukau Urban Māori Authority. The bringing together of victims (including wider whānau) and offenders may offer an alternate way forward for "a criminal justice system failing too many and costing too much”. Restoring Hope kicked off Māori Television’s 2013 season of Sunday night documentaries. In a Herald On Sunday preview, Sarah Lang argued it was “enough to restore hope in local documentary-making.”
This short film follows a teenage hitchhiker (Aaron McGregor) in search of his birth mother. The apprehension of the journey is heightened when he gets picked up by a mean-looking Māori (Calvin Tuteao) with a swastika tattooed on his face. The boy's great expectations wind up being realised in different ways than he might have imagined. The dramatic debut from actor-director Matthew Saville, Hitch Hike thumbed a ride to international festivals, from Tampere to Durban; the “emotionally engaging” film was selected for website Short of the Week in August 2014.
An All-American boy from NZ, Christchurch born Riki Ellison (Ngāi Tahu) is the subject of this Māori Television documentary. After moving to the United States at age eight, he made a stellar career out of “kinetic energy intercept”. A fearless player with an intimidating “Māori look”, he was a champion college football defensive linebacker and three-time Superbowl winner with the San Francisco 49ers. Then, inspired by Ronald Reagan, he became a leading advocate for missile defence systems; while, along the way, reconnecting with his whānau and heritage.
The meteoric career of one of NZ’s greatest entertainers is examined in this documentary. John Rowles went from a Kawerau childhood to stardom in London at 21; but, after headlining in Hawaii and Las Vegas, he saw it all slip away. Those roofing ads and near bankruptcy followed, but Rowles has retained his self belief and that voice. A stellar cast of interviewees analyse his strengths and weaknesses, including Sir Cliff Richard, Tom Jones, Neil Finn and late promoter Phil Warren. Amongst the star cameos, John’s sister Cheryl Moana explains the downside of his best-known local hit.
Wayne Anderson is a man out of time. His three and a half octave voice and undying devotion to the “evergreens” of popular music (Elvis, Engelbert and Tom) should surely have seen him in Vegas by now. However, despite the best attempts of hapless manager Orlando, Wayne’s star has never ascended higher than the rather less lucrative Manurewa rest home circuit. The cameras follow him in his quest for a show business career – along with the perfect perm and hot pie – in a series where the boundary between fact and fiction is as elusive as that big break.
This debut episode of a not completely fictional series follows Wayne Anderson, “Manurewa’s greatest singer”, and his attempts to break out of the rest home circuit and find fame and fortune. Wayne dreams of taking the evergreen music of his idols Engelbert and Elvis to the world. But even his manager’s show business links — he works in a video store — aren’t bringing in the 50 dollar gig needed each week. Things may be looking up with the best perm Wayne’s ever had, plus an audition in a Karangahape Road bar. As a non-driver, he will have to get there by bus.
Hosted by Charlotte Dawson, How’s Life? saw a rotating panel of guests responding to letters from viewers in an effort to help them navigate their day to day struggles. In this episode, the panel is made up of Paul Henry, Suzanne Paul, a pre-Outrageous Fortune Robyn Malcolm and ex Department of Work and Income boss Christine Rankin. The issues under discussion include a difficult five-year-old, strangers sneezing on your food, and a teenager who doesn't approve of their ex's new boyfriend. There is also meningococcal awareness advice from Auckland District Health Board.