After studying Film and Sociology at Victoria University, and time at South Seas Film and Television School, Justin Hawkes cut his directing teeth working on music programmes. At age 23, he became a director for TVNZ music show M2, producing 18 hours of live TV a week. He went on to direct TV2 music programmes Squeeze and Space (where he learned to edit, as the editor was too busy to do everything), and music channel C4.
Editing opened up a new career path for Hawkes. In the early 2000s, he edited a travel series pilot for his friends. Years later the Travel Channel International Cable Channel bought the show (Julian and Camilla's World Odyssey) and commissioned a new series, prompting Hawkes to move to London in 2008. He ended up directing a few episodes, and went on to travel the world directing other travel shows about Europe, India, Asia and the USA.
One difficult to forget moment was filming with a male survivor of the Bhopal India 1984 disaster, which killed over 15,000 people due to a poison gas leak. "He lost 10 members of his family. We visited the abandoned factory with him, the air is still peppery and burns your throat. You can scratch the ground and there's little pools of mercury. The worst thing is people still live there — literally across the street."
In 2013 Hawkes and his family returned to New Zealand. He worked on several reality and documentary shows, including directing multiple episodes of Neighbourhood, series directing TV3's Cadbury Dream Factory, and heading the post-production team on Dancing with the Stars and The Real Housewives of Auckland. He edited the second series of The Hard Stuff with Nigel Latta (directed by his brother Mitchell), and won the Best Editing (Documentary or Factual) Award at the 2017 NZ Television Awards for Mitchell's transgender documentary Awa: Born This Way.
In 2018 Hawkes edited Mitchell's documentary Stan, about musician Stan Walker. It won Best Editing and Best Feature Documentary at local festival Doc Edge. Hawkes went on to direct three episodes of Dark Tourist, the first Kiwi show commissioned specifically for Netflix. The eight-part series follows David Farrier to strange travel destinations. Hawkes calls it "my dream show to work on, mixing humour and pop culture with travel and observational documentary".
Being detained by Cypriot police while filming Dark Tourist was a hair-raising experience. "I'd been threatened with beheading in Turkey, surrounded by police in the US, but actually being detained by the local cops in Northern Cyprus felt a lot worse. We were caught filming a ghost city/military base and they were not happy. They're also not recognised by the international community, so you're definitely on your own out there. Being from New Zealand and being a bit 'clueless' helped get us out of that one."
Together with reporter and friend Patrick Gower, Hawkes made documentary Patrick Gower: On Weed in 2019. The following year the pair released two follow-up programmes on marijuana which netted Hawkes a Best Documentary/Factual Director Award at the 2020 NZ TV Awards.
Profile written by Natasha Harris; updated 19 November 2020
Three Kings website. Accessed 27 November 2018
Shawn McAvinue, 'Travel show never drags' - The Otago Daily Times, 27 November 2012
Unknown writer, 'Justin Pavlova-Hawkes - You Choose Whether to Believe' (Interview) Quotes Mag website. Loaded 25 August 2015. Accessed 27 November 2018
Justin Hawkes' Internet Movie Database website. Accessed 27 November 2018
'Justin Hawkes' LinkedIn website. Accessed 27 November 2018