Dannevirke-born Kirsty Hamilton got into drama school Toi Whakaari at age 18, then joined youth show Oi and co-starred in short film Eau de la Vie. In 1997 she was nominated for an NZ Film best actress award for feature Saving Grace. Hamilton co-starred as Grace, a self-destructive teen who meets a man who may be Jesus Christ. Since then Hamilton has acted on The Strip and ensemble dramas Mercy Peak and The Hothouse.
The whole movie rested on her shoulders. She had to be there, every minute of every scene ... Within the first minute of Kirsty Hamilton's audition, I knew she fit the bill. Of course, it took a lot longer than that to make a final decision – unfortunately for Kirsty. Director Costa Botes, on casting Hamilton in movie Saving Grace
The Hothouse centres on five flatmates. Three are in the police force, the fourth is a lawyer, and the fifth is the wildcard: "ultimate hedonist" Levi (Kip Chapman). Series creator David Brechin-Smith explores what happens when outwardly good people "either break the law, or their morality is compromised in some way". The Hothouse was nominated for a run of 2007 Qantas TV Awards for acting; director Nathan Price and cinematographer Simon Baumfield won gongs. The cast includes Ryan O'Kane, Tania Nolan and Hannah Gould. The series ran for one season on TV One in 2007.
Kōrero Mai ('speak to me') used a soap opera (Ākina) as a vehicle to teach conversational Māori, aided by te reo tutorials. Special segments taught song and tikanga. Multiple seasons were made for for Māori Television by Cinco Cine Productions. Cast and crew with credits on the series include presenters Matai Smith and Gabrielle Paringata; actors Calvin Tutaeo, Vanessa Rare, Jaime Passier-Armstrong, and Ben Mitchell; and directors Rawiri Paratene, Rachel House and Simon Raby. Kōrero Mai won Best Māori Programme at the 2005 Qantas TV Awards.
The Strip centres around 30-something Melissa (Luanne Gordon), who sheds a legal career to set up a male strip revue. Created by Alan Brash, The Strip played to a certain demographic's desire for ogling naked men (warmed up by 1987 play Ladies Night and 1997 film The Full Monty), but with a focus on female characters, as Melissa juggles business with raising a teenage daughter. Taking cues from Ally McBeal (with fantasy sequences to match) the Gibson Group tale of g-strings, feminism and red light romance screened for two series on TV3 and sold internationally.
With its mix of quirky characters, lush scenery, and medical drama, Mercy Peak proved to be a winning formula. Produced by John Laing for South Pacific Pictures, and starring a host of NZ acting talent (Tim Balme, Jeffrey Thomas, Renato Bartolomei, et al), Mercy Peak follows the highs and lows of Dr Nicky Somerville (Sara Wiseman), who leaves the big city after discovering her partner’s infidelity. Taking up her new role at the hospital in the tiny town of Bassett, Nicky soon learns that life is full of complexities no matter the population.
Duggan - Sins of the Fathers is the second of two telefeatures starring a brooding, charismatic John Bach as a city detective, drawn into a Marlborough Sounds murder mystery. Marion McLeod conceived the show; Donna Malane and Ken Duncum were nominated for an NZ Television Award for this script. The turquoise waters of the Sounds (shot by Leon Narbey) make for an evocative setting where Duggan, drawn by the irresistible allure of explosions and an unsolved case, investigates the murder of a convicted rapist. The late Michele Amas plays pathologist Jennifer Collins.
Saving Grace sees spiky street kid Grace (Kirsty Hamilton) get taken in by enigmatic carpenter, Gerald (Jim Moriarty). As Grace falls under (much older) Gerald's spell, she's flummoxed by his claim that he is the messiah. Could Gerald be Jesus of Cuba Street or is he a delusional dole bludger? The screenplay was adapted by Duncan Sarkies (Scarfies) from his stage play. Botes' dramatic feature debut converted fewer viewers than his earlier work, the classic hoodwinker Forgotten Silver; although critic Nicholas Reid welcomed an NZ film that offered "style and brains".
In this dark short film debut by director Simon Baré, newly promoted Catherine (Kirsty Hamilton) is taken to an opulent restaurant by the more worldly-wise Grant (playwright David Geary) and Sarah (Smuts-Kennedy). The evening promises a “dance with our darkest fear” — but its amoral reality utterly challenges Catherine (and makes grim Greenaway-esque irony of the title). Singer/composer Janet Roddick provides the soundtrack (Edith Piaf’s ‘Non, Je Ne Regrette Rien’) for this winner at the NZ Film Awards and Clermont-Ferrand Short Film Festival.
This Work of Art documentary follows veteran actor and director Ian Mune as he works with NZ Drama School graduates, to write and shoot a 15 minute film in just two days. Many of the actors (who include future bro'Town voice David Fane and Saving Grace's Kirsty Hamilton) have little experience acting for the camera. Mune passes on lessons learned in a career that began long before such tuition was available locally. Shot at Wellington Railway Station, Rush Hour, the resulting film, is included in its entirety during this fascinating insight into the creative process.
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.