Katherine McRae’s first acting role was as a child, in an adaptation of Katherine Mansfield story The Doll’s House. Thirteen years later, she was part of the main cast on TV's The Marching Girls, before her first movie, Send a Gorilla. After winning acclaim on stage, she became a regular on Shortland Street in 2006, then moved into screen directing — including Go Girls, Nothing Trivial, and short film Abandon Ship.
I have to admit that I'm a drama junkie. I have always loved it and I can't give it up, so I guess I'll just keep on acting and writing and directing New Zealand stories. Katherine McRae
Feature film Vai ranges across the Pacific — from an eight-year-old girl's drama-filled day in Fiji, to a sacred moment in an Aotearoa forest. The film follows a similiar collaborative filmmaking model to Waru (2017), only this time the link between each story is a female one. Many of the stories are also connected by water (vai). Vai premiered at the 2019 Berlin Film Festival. The nine Pasifika women filmmakers are Sharon and Nicole Whippy, Becs Arahanga, Amberley Jo Aumua, Matasila Freshwater, Dianna Fuemana, Mīria George, 'Ofa-ki Guttenbeil-Likiliki and Marina Alofagia McCartney.
Moa-nominated for Best Documentary, this full-length title chronicles two decades of political football between New Zealanders hoping to reduce greenhouse gas emissions, and followers of the business as usual approach. Co-directing with his longtime editor Abi King-Jones, Alister Barry (The Hollow Men) continues his patented approach of melding new interviews with raids on the news archives. Critic Graeme Tuckett argued that the film makes “a compelling case that although the science was settled by 1990, we’ve allowed politics and corporations to mute our response to a very real crisis”.
Possibly the longest-brewing wedding on Kiwi television was that of Shortland Street’s Chris Warner (Michael Galvin) and Rachel McKenna (Angela Bloomfield), in February 2014. Between them the couple had overcome stalkers, alcoholism, car crashes, bombs, brain damage, and a total of six prior marriages…but on this occasion there are no last minute objections to interrupt proceedings, just a firm answer to the decades long 'will they, won’t they?' question for the show’s golden couple. Only Grace (Lynette Forday), who is carrying Chris's baby, doesn’t look like she feels the love…
Nothing Trivial was a dramedy that kept score on the lives and loves of five friends in a pub quiz team called Sex on a Stick. The cast of City Lifers shifted to the suburbs and nearing middle age was led by Shane Cortese, Tandi Wright, Nicole Whippy, Debbie Newby-Ward and Blair Strang. Created by Rachel Lang and Gavin Strawhan, (the veteran writers behind Go Girls, Maddigan’s Quest, and Mercy Peak) the popular South Pacific Pictures production screened for three seasons on TV ONE. A fan-driven campaign saw NZ On Air fund a tele-movie to wrap up the series.
Rachel Lang and Gavin Strawhan created Go Girls out of a desire for an upbeat show about "people who liked each other". Audiences liked the characters too: the show ran five seasons, after introducing us to a group of 20-something friends, each aiming to make a major life-change in the next year. Over five series various romantic adventures ensued, and the core cast of Anna Hutchison, Alix Bushnell, Bronwyn Turei, Jay Ryan and Matt Whelan were joined by others — before finally departing altogether, with one final season revolving around a new cast of wanna bes.
After her husband is jailed, matriarch Cheryl West (Robyn Malcolm) decides the time has come to set her family on the straight and narrow. But can the Wests change old habits? So begins the six season saga of the Westie dynasty. Hugely popular (beloved by public, critics and awards givers alike), Outrageous Fortune was a flag-bearer for TV3 and New Zealand television drama. The series proved — in all its grow-your-own glory — that television in Aotearoa could mield comedy and drama, and be so much more than overseas stories pasted to a local setting.
From Here to Maternity was a six-part documentary series following seven couples on the way to having their first child, then facing up to the reality of childbirth and parenthood. Following the process from antenatal classes to birth and beyond, the programme utilises frank interviews with the couples as they lay out their expectations and fears. The fathers are at times almost comically disbelieving that their lives are about to be turned upside down. But reality sets in soon enough in this absorbing series produced by Country Calendar stalwart Frank Torley.
Children of Gallipoli offered viewers another angle on the Gallipoli story. Produced for TVNZ and Turkish television, the documentary focuses on four young people, two Turks and two New Zealanders. All are descended from men who fought at Gallipoli in 1915. Travelling to Turkey, the Kiwis explore the battle site and meet the other two participants. Together they gain an insight into the grim reality of what their ancestors experienced. Seeing it through their eyes charges the film with a strong emotional resonance. Anna Cottrell writes here about the challenges of directing it.
This is the first of a six-part TVNZ series which follows seven couples from antenatal classes to the reality of childbirth and parenthood. Along the way they share their hopes and fears as they await the arrival of their first born. This episode focuses on antenatal classes, decisions that have to be made and practical adjustments, including jobs and budgeting. The fathers-to-be provide some of the most humorous lines, mostly displaying their naivety (one looks forward to the chance to "laze back a bit"). But all the participants show an honesty that makes for fascinating viewing.
Duggan stars John Bach as brooding Detective Inspector Duggan, attempting to solve murders amid the tranquillity of the Marlborough Sounds. New Zealand's answer to Inspector Morse, the show was conceived by Marion McLeod, and scripted by Donna Malane and Ken Duncum. Eleven episodes of the Gibson Group series were made, following on from introductory tele-features Death in Paradise and Sins of the Father. The turquoise waters of The Sounds make for an evocative setting in this sharp, classy Kiwi whodunit. Rachel Davies writes here about Duggan's birth.
Made to mark 100 years of women's suffrage in New Zealand, Bread & Roses tells the story of pioneering trade unionist, politician and feminist Sonja Davies (1923 - 2005), who rose to prominence in the 1940s and 50s. Directed by Gaylene Preston and co-written by Graeme Tetley, the acclaimed three-hour production played on television screens, and also got a limited cinema release. Australian actor Geneviève Picot (as Sonja Davies) and Mick Rose (as her husband) won gongs for their roles at the 1994 NZ Film and TV Awards. Bianca Zander writes about Bread & Roses here.
Shortland Street is a fast-paced serial drama set in an inner city Auckland hospital. The long-running South Pacific Pictures production is based around the births, deaths and marriages of the hospital's staff and patients. It screens on TVNZ’s TV2 network five days a week. In 2017 the show was set to celebrate its 25th anniversary, making it New Zealand’s longest running drama by far. Characters and lines from the show have entered the culture — starting with “you’re not in Guatemala now, Dr Ropata!” in the very first episode. Mihi Murray writes about Shortland Street here.
A big smoke cousin to Mortimer's Patch, Shark in the Park was New Zealand's first urban cop show. Devised by Graeme Tetley (Ruby and Rata), it portrayed a unit policing inner city Wellington, under the guidance of Inspector Brian 'Sharkie' Finn (Jeffrey Thomas). With its focus on the working lives of the officers, the show followed the character-based storytelling of overseas programmes like The Bill and Hill Street Blues. The first season marked one of the last in-house productions for TVNZ's drama department. The next two series were made independently by The Gibson Group.
The Marching Girls is the seven-part story of a Taita social marching team who decide to have a crack at the North Island Championships. As she writes here, actor/writer Fiona Samuel created the pioneering series out of frustration over a lack of challenging female roles: she declared it was about time the Kiwi "alienated macho dickhead" shared some screen time with women. Synth-rock soundtracks, ghetto blasters, Holden Kingswood taxis and chain-smoking abound in this feminist Flashdance in formation 80s classic.
Tagata Pasifika is a magazine-style show with items and interviews focusing on Pacific Island communities in Aotearoa. Debuting on 4 April 1987, it features coverage of Pacific Island cultural events like the Pasifika festival, plus longer documentaries. It is the only show focusing on PIs on mainstream New Zealand television. After TVNZ announced that its Māori and Pacific shows would no longer be made in-house, Tagata Pasifika veterans Stephen Stehlin, Ngaire Fuata and John Utanga took over production in 2015 through their company SunPix. Website TP+ launched in 2018.
Created by Fiona Samuel, The Marching Girls follows a Taita social marching team who decide to have a crack at the North Island champs. In the first episode of this feminist-Flashdance-in-formation 80s classic, young whippersnapper Leonie tries to modernise the girls' routine by getting them to march to the heavy metal tunes of Ironlung ("they're really big in Australia!"). This proves too much for Mahara (Patupatu Ripley), who's got enough on her plate with her new role as hesitant union spokesperson for her fellow workers down at the factory.