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Kathryn Burnett


As a child Kathryn Burnett wrote many poems and plays. As an adult, she studied English Literature at Auckland University and journalism at Auckland Institute of Technology.

Her interest in writing for television was piqued after landing a job writing links for game show Perfect Match. She began to consider screenwriting more seriously while living in London in the early 90s. 

After returning to New Zealand, she worked at TV3’s publicity department. From there she successfully beat 80+ contenders, to win one of a dozen places on the writing team for sitcom Melody Rules. The series starred Belinda Todd as a mild-mannered travel agent. Though far from a hit, Burnett wryly describes the notorious sitcom as “a fantastic learning experience”. 

Burnett then went on to write for Ice TV and long-running law/crime series Street Legal. 

Between 1997 and 2000 she ran the New Zealand Writers Guild (as executive director), and was a regular humour columnist for She magazine — winning a Qantas Media Award in the process  — before moving to Grace magazine. Her book Has Johnny Come Lately? (1999) collects many of Burnett’s humorous columns on sex, love and singledom. 

In 2001 Burnett joined the quartet of writers on The Strip. She and Paula Boock would share a 2003 New Zealand Television Award for an episode of the show. The Strip revolves around a workaholic (Luanne Gordon) who transforms her life after opening a strip club. Burnett described the series as "heartfelt .... yet totally irreverent and whimsical. It's not coy about sex. But it's sex largely from a female point of view." She especially enjoyed exploring the relationship between the main character and her best friend (played by Jodie Rimmer). It was refreshing to write two female characters who "truly behave like good friends" — who ultimately "accept each other as they are, and are vulnerable."

In 2003 Burnett spent two months at London company Box TV, after winning a British Council TV development scholarship. Four years later, she was a semi-finalist in the annual Big Break global scriptwriting contest. She also won a short story contest run by radio station KFM (now The Plug).

In 2008 Burnett created The Cult with Peter Cox; it was nominated for Best Drama Programme at the 2010 Qantas Film and TV Awards. The series followed a disparate group attempting to rescue their loved ones from a mysterious cult. 

She was part of the writing team on 2019 black comedy series Fresh Eggs, which starred Claire Chitham and Cohen Holloway as small-town newbies who find themselves face-to-face with some bad eggs.

In 2021 Burnett co-wrote TV movie The Tender Trap with Riwia Brown. Rima Te Wiata plays Sharon Armstrong, a real life public servant who fell victim to an online romance scam. Burnett and Brown won Best Drama Script at the 2021 TV NZ Awards for their work. In the same period Burnett joined the writing teams for Lucy Lawless crime show My Life is Murder and Rebecca Gibney winery comedy Under the Vines.

Burnett has also written for several shows aimed at a younger audience: period adventure The Lost Children, female basketball drama Holly’s Heroes — which won awards on both sides of the Tasman —kids in charge thriller The Cul de Sac, and award-winning superhero comedy The Amazing Extraordinary Friends.

She made her theatre debut in 2011 with stage play Mike and Virginia, which premiered at the NZ International Comedy Festival. Co-written with Nick Ward (Stickmen), the romantic comedy is built around two film lecturers. Theatreview's Adey Ramsel praised a script "peppered with well-turned phrases, belly laughs and some beautiful insights”. The play was later picked up by Wellington's Circa Theatre.

Burnett's short play Bowled Over was produced in 2013 by the Auckland Theatre Company, as part of the Auckland Arts Festival. In 2016 Burnett took her turn in the spotlight, as one of nine women telling stories from their own life, for comedy show Dialogue: Mum's the Word. The following year her comedy The Campervan was nominated for an Adams Award for Best New Zealand Play. 

In 2012 Burnett created the first of a series of screenwriting and creative writing workshops. She also wrote the script for Shelved. Made to showcase students at Auckland's Media Design School, the short film involved two robots reaching their use-by date. It won a run of awards at American festivals. Burnett went on to co-write another Media Design School short: Prickly Jam (2019), for which she shared a Best Screenplay award with director James Cunningham at 2020's Show Me Shorts Film Festival.

Burnett's decade plus experience as a script consultant and script assessor includes award-winners Dean SpanleyPoppyGurl and Daniel

Burnett is one of the only people profiled by NZ On Screen to ask for awards to be removed from their profile.

Profile updated on 20 July 2022

Sources include
Kathryn Burnett
Kathryn Burnett website. Accessed 20 July 2022
Adey Ramsel, ‘The Fun is Not in Where We End Up, But How We Get There’ (Review of Mike & VirginiaTheatreview website. Loaded 2 May 2011. Accessed 28 November 2018
Unknown writer, 'Writing for (and about) women characters’ (Interview) The Strip website (broken link). Accessed 11 November 2011