Globetrotting Kiwi Marc Swadel ran a label and promoted bands in the late 1980s, before he started filming musicians. Since then he has directed more than 100 music videos and worked with artists including Sonic Youth, Liam Finn, Nick Cave, and Die! Die! Die! In the UK he directed a late night music TV series and was cinematographer on documentary All Tomorrow’s Parties (where he was punched in the face by Iggy Pop during filming).
I prefer to make music videos that don’t feature lip syncing and I like working with artists who trust me. Often they’re regarded as shy and difficult by other people but that can just be because they’re just not comfortable with lip syncing either. Marc Swadel
Blue tells the story of a fallen kids’ television mascot, reduced to working as a waiter in an Asian restaurant. Blue keeps his happy face on as he serves customers food; occasionally he's recognised from his screen fame days, but mostly he's ignored. Then one day bad news arrives. The urban alienation themed film was named Best Short in the Critics' Week section of the Cannes Film Festival, after just 10 films were selected from 1250 entries. Korean-born Stephen Kang moved to New Zealand in 1993; his digital feature Desert was released in Kiwi theatres in 2011.
The meteoric career of one of NZ’s greatest entertainers is examined in this documentary. John Rowles went from a Kawerau childhood to stardom in London at 21; but, after headlining in Hawaii and Las Vegas, he saw it all slip away. Those roofing ads and near bankruptcy followed, but Rowles has retained his self belief and that voice. A stellar cast of interviewees analyse his strengths and weaknesses, including Sir Cliff Richard, Tom Jones, Neil Finn and late promoter Phil Warren. Amongst the star cameos, John’s sister Cheryl Moana explains the downside of his best-known local hit.
The Gravy was made for TVNZ by Sticky Pictures. The award-winning arts series was described as a “30 minute tour through creative Aotearoa” — usually featuring three stories per episode, but with every fourth show showcasing one subject. Conceived as “a show about creative people made by creative people, both in front of the camera and behind”, it featured presenters who were practising artists: photographer/graphic artist Ross Liew, musician Warren Maxwell, and writer Gabe McDonnell. In total, roughly 170 artists were profiled across The Gravy's 52 episodes.
Director Marc Swadel says he made this clip with "300 bucks and one re-used 100 foot reel of 16mm film" - but it's a triumph of style over budget. It's grungy and spacey, with a spinning glitter ball, scratched-in stars, spilt milk, and a dreamy slacker/stoner 'dance' performance from this short-lived but acclaimed Flying Nun combo.
In this Paul Swadel-directed short, a work-gang on a remote Ruapehu construction site relieves boredom with cruelty. The edgy male camaraderie escalates towards a tense, inevitably dire — and OSH-unfriendly — conclusion. The scrum of Kiwi blokes going Lord of the Flies on the newbie (Marek Sumich) is played by a powerhouse cast: Marton Csokas, Rawiri Paratene, and Frank Whitten. Adapted by John Cranna from his short story, Accidents was filmed under the Makatote viaduct. It was selected for Venice Film Festival and won a special jury mention at Clermont-Ferrand.
The band has its origins in Christchurch, but this video takes their trademark sonic guitar to the subways and streets of their adopted home of New York. Shot in 1996 it feels more emblematic of the recession era as a robotic businessman crawls on its belly towards redundancy on Wall St. It's a striking key image as he/its battery runs down in front of the Stock Exchange Building amongst oblivious pedestrians. Liberty: Bailterspace style.