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Luke Nola

Director, Presenter

In 2022 Luke Nola was awarded a special Children's Champion Prize, for contributing to the development and wellbeing of New Zealand children. When the announcement was made, Nola recalled having left school and sought out a job that was "as much like playtime as possible. That’s kids' TV. What I learnt is that you can take boring learning stuff, but use art to make it fun. The trick worked and I’ve been doing that for 28 years."

Growing up in St Heliers, Auckland, Nola rushed home on his Raleigh Chopper to catch The Flintstones, Bewitched, and two shows that especially warped his brain: H. R. Pufnstuf and Gerry Anderson’s UFO

From roughly age 12, Nola began making animated films on an 8mm film camera. After graduating from Elam Art School in 1987, he launched company Magnet Design. Later, at ad agency Mojo, he worked on adverts for everything from ice blocks to Twisties. Late multimedia legend Fane Flaws recalled that Nola was a regular supplier of clever ad ideas  — many of the best ones never made it on air. Nola and other advertising mates were also causing mayhem on music channel Max TV. Nola is occasionally still recognised for some of his more offbeat creations for cult show Box Dog, including a Max Headroom style Elvis. Nola and Peter Vegas went on to host offbeat chat show Chat Bungalow.

Sometime in the late 1990s, Nola got a call from Los Angeles. An old friend, Aotearoa-raised American Karyn Rachtman, wanted him to direct a video for song for the newest Rugrats movie. Another director had proved unsatisfactory. Nola tried to explain that he was an art director, not a director. Rachtman's reply: "can you get here next week?" Next thing, Nola and partner in crime Steve Saussey were faxing their set designs to Los Angeles, and flying over to co-direct a three day, $800,000 shoot. 'Take Me There' went platinum.

Nola's next project was Life on Ben. Nola found finance and voice talent (including Simpsons legend Harry Shearer) in the United States, but shot the original 12 minute short back in Auckland, alongside animation director Cameron Chittock. In 2003, Nola turned Life on Ben into a 10-part series for TVNZ. Loaded with stop motion animation, the show's setting was the skin of a boy named...Ben (Millen Baird). Jemaine Clement and Taika Waititi provided the voices of two symbiotic creatures on a journey through and over his body. 

The early 2000s provided an especially crazy time. In 2003 Nola set up company Television Spaceman with producer Neil Stichbury. By then he'd already created 180 episodes of aliens visit earth pre-school series Party Animals with producer Bettina Hollings, and channelled his love of explosions, crazy inventions and fart jokes into The Goober Brothers. Nola and former ad partner turned author Glenn Wood played the Goobers, thanks to an NZ On Air scheme fostering new screen talent. The pair imparted info, hijinks and high amounts of comedy via bite-sized appearances across three seasons of What Now? (plus repeat screenings on after school slot Studio 2). The Goober Brothers sold to Time Warner in the United States, and was later inducted into America’s Museum of Children’s Television. 

The Goober Brothers spawned a TV juggernaut: Let’s Get Inventin'. Over seven seasons the show provided young inventors with a leg up to realise their ideas, from rocket-powered ice skates to the ultimate lazy boy. Screened in over 150 countries, the show hatched 100 inventions, 11 patents and an iTunes app — plus three Qantas Awards for Best NZ Children's and Youth Programme. In 2014 an episode from the final season was nominated for an International Kids Emmy. The format sold to five companies overseas; Nola was supervising producer on Whizz Whizz Bang Bang, one of two BBC versions. It was nominated for a Scottish BAFTA.

In 2009 Nola and Stichbury launched New Artland. Presented by artist and musician Chris Knox over two seasons, the Qantas-nominated show saw Kiwi artists creating an epic artwork in collaboration with everyone from BMX riders and students, to farmers and tattooists. 

By that time Nola and Stichbury had gone their separate ways. Stichbury concentrated on New Artland, while Nola handled the last four seasons of Let’s Get Inventin', through a new company, Luke Nola and Friends.

In 2018 Nola began writing and directing children's series Nanogirl and the Imaginauts. Hosted by Nanogirl — also known as inspirational scientist Michelle Dickinson — the game show aims to show viewers that knowledge and storytelling can go hand in hand.  

The following year Nola launched Kea Kids News. The aim was "to make news relevant to seven to ten-year-olds". Primary school-aged reporters conduct interviews and help edit the stories, which are delivered twice weekly. Initially Kea Kids News was accessible via news website Stuff and children's platform Heihei on TVNZ+. For the fourth season in 2023, it was on The NZ Herald, Prime TV and Nickelodeon.

In May 2022 the Kiwi arm of rights organisation APRA AMCOS awarded Nola The Baysting Prize for Children's Champion, for providing young people with "a platform and a voice". 

Nola’s other projects include directing the original pilot of Buzzy Bee and Friends (which spawned 52 episodes), and producing Inside New Zealand documentary A Bit Mental, which chronicles a mission to travel the Waikato River on an inflatable mattress. 

He continues to keep an eye out for offbeat projects that strike his fancy — including the occasional commercial, like the Chevon Oil advert that involved a tug of war between a truck and a tugboat.

Profile updated on 15 March 2023

Sources include
Luke Nola
Luke Nola and Friends website. Accessed 28 February 2023
'Fane Flaws - Funny As Interview' (Video Interview) NZ On Screen website. Director Rupert Mackenzie. Loaded 20 September 2019. Accessed 10 December 2019
'News by kids, for kids to increase young New Zealanders' understanding of the world around them' (Press release) NZ On Air website. Loaded 2 April 2019. Accessed 10 December 2019
'Innovative News Platform is Made by Kids for Kids' (Press release) Scoop website. Loaded 26 September 2019. Accessed 10 December 2019
Unknown writer, '2022 Baysting Prize for Children's Champion goes to: Luke Nola' (Press release) APRA AMCOS website. Loaded 11 May 2022. Accessed 28 February 2023