Born in England, Mark Mitchinson spent a number of formative years in New Zealand, before returning to the United Kingdom and training as an actor. But he kept coming back, eventually settling downunder in 2002 and rekindling his love of acting. Mitchinson has won awards and acclaim for TV movies Bloodlines and Siege, and has also starred in The Monster of Mangatiti and web series High Road.
Although we know how [Colin] Bouwer’s story turned out, his machinations and lies are gripping. In a brilliantly nuanced performance, Mark Mitchinson captures Bouwer’s charm and arrogance – and his careful falsehoods. Fiona Rae, reviewing TV movie Bloodlines in The Listener, 17 July 2010
This hit TV series was spawned from big screen mockumentary What We Do in the Shadows (2014). After stumbling across the vampiric goings-on of the original movie, dim-witted police officers Minogue (Mike Minogue) and O'Leary (Karen O'Leary) are enlisted by a paranormal obsessed sergeant (Maaka Pohatu from The Modern Māori Quartet) to investigate unusual events— from cows up trees, to werewolves and zombie cops. Six episodes debuted on TVNZ 2 in 2018; four were directed by Shadows co-creator Jemaine Clement. A second season followed in 2019.
Mortal Engines is set in a post-apocalyptic world where cities roam the landscape, devouring everything in their path. Tom (Robert Sheehan, from TV's Misfits) lives in London, a 'predator' city built on digger-like tracks. After encountering a mysterious fugitive with murder in mind, he finds himself touching bare earth for the first time. Showcasing the eye-opening imagery of Weta Digital, Mortal Engines is based on a book by Brit Philip Reeve. It marks the first feature directed by Christian Rivers (short film Feeder). The Weta veteran began as a storyboard artist for Peter Jackson.
Director Nic Gorman won best short at the 2013 NZ Film Awards for zombie tale Here Be Monsters. With his first feature he shifts horror genres to the psychological thriller, as a mysterious new arrival (Vinnie Bennett) disturbs subantarctic island life for a husband and wife scientist team (Fantail's Sophie Henderson and Siege's Mark Mitchinson). Human Traces debuted at the 2017 NZ International Film Festival. NZ Herald reviewer George Fenwick praised the "stunning cinematography" and "impressive performances", arguing they helped produce a "fine debut" for Gorman.
Award-winning web series High Road follows the travails of Terry Huffer (Mark Mitchinson), an ex-rocker washed up in Piha where he DJs from a caravan. This third season opener heads back in time to London, to tell Huffer’s origin story: tracking a big night at a pub and what follows — a confrontation with his Oscar-winning sister, actor Emma Thompson (played by Emma Thompson), and her actor husband Greg Wise (playing Greg Wise). A fed up Thompson drops some choice swear words, compares her brother to Keith Richards, and exports him to New Zealand to sort himself out.
Touted as the defining chapter of the trilogy, The Battle of the Five Armies sees Smaug wreaking havoc from the sky, Thorin Oakenshield succumbing to dragon-sickness, and a climactic battle to dwarf anything seen in the first two Hobbit films. As Orcs look to the Lonely Mountain with their eyes on the treasure, dwarves, elves and humans must decide whether to unite and fight them off. The final Hobbit film arrived in cinemas 15 years after Peter Jackson first trained his cameras on Middle-earth — and made it clear that global blockbusters could come from New Zealand.
Supposedly shot in five days on a budget of $423, the first season of award-winning web series High Road introduced audiences to lovable loser Terry Huffer, an ex rocker who DJs from a caravan in Piha. Writer/director Justin Harwood created the role of Huffer for his Piha neighbour Mark Mitchinson (Siege). Two further seasons were funded by NZ On Air. Video on Demand site Lightbox then compiled them into half-hour episodes, and commissioned a fourth. Harwood has played in indie bands The Chills and Luna, and the show's soundtrack offers fans of classic rock much to savour.
On 7 May 2009, police executing a search warrant in a Napier suburb were shot at by Jan Molenaar. Senior Constable Len Snee was killed, two officers and a neighbour injured; a 50 hour siege ensued. This adaptation of the events into a telefeature dominated the 2012 New Zealand Television Awards, winning Best One-off Drama, Script (John Banas), Performance (Mark Mitchinson as Molenaar), Supporting Actress (Miriama Smith), and Best Sound Design (Chris Burt). Hawke's Bay Today reviewer Roger Moroney said of the Mike Smith-directed drama: "They got it right".
Directed by Peter Burger (Until Proven Innocent), this top-rating tele-feature dramatised the life story of legendary comedian Billy T James. Billy screened on 21 August 2011 as a Sunday Theatre drama on TV One, 20 years after Billy T’s death, aged just 42. Actor Tainui Tukiwaho (Step Dave) plays Billy T. Touted as revealing "the man behind the chuckle", the drama traverses Billy T’s life from childhood. This excerpt follows Billy as he reaches the peak of his career, fronting TV skits and pub stand-up. It was adapted by Briar Grace Smith and Dave Armstrong from the Matt Elliott biography.
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.
TV movie Rage recreates the 1981 Springbok tour, which saw violent clashes between protestors and police. Ryan O'Kane (Second Hand Wedding) plays the protestor whose girlfriend (Maria Walker) is actually an undercover cop who has infiltrated the anti-tour movement. The script was written by Tom Scott — who protested, in-between writing a humour column in The Listener — and his brother-in-law Grant O'Fee, who was a detective sergeant in Wellington. Rage was nominated for five NZ TV Awards, including Best One-Off Drama, Director (Danny Mulheron) and Actor (O'Kane).
This docudrama follows an imaginary news reporter who travels back in time to cover the days leading up to the Treaty of Waitangi’s signing on 6 February 1840. Dropping the usual solemnity surrounding Aotearoa’s founding document, it uses humour and asides to camera to evoke the chaos and motives behind the treaty. Written by Gavin Strawhan, with input from novelist Witi Ihimaera, What Really Happened screened on TVNZ for Waitangi Day 2011. Its nominations at the Aotearoa TV Awards included Best Drama, director (Peter Burger) and actor Jarod Rawiri (who played Hōne Heke).
New Zealand, 1903. A veteran of the Boer War (Sexy Beast’s Ray Winstone) is hired to hunt a Māori seaman (Temuera Morrison), who has been framed for murder. So begins a cat and mouse chase where pole position keeps changing, and the South African is pressed to open up about his past. Directed by Brit Ian Sharp (Mrs Caldicot’s Cabbage War) and scripted by Dutch-born emigre Nicolas van Pallandt — who died before it got to the screen —Tracker was one of the last productions to win cash from the UK Film Council. The extras include interviews with both lead actors.
This 2010 telefeature is based on the true crime story of South African-born Dr Colin Bouwer (played by Mark Mitchinson), who used his medical knowledge to poison and kill his wife Annette. A Dunedin doctor and policeman foiled his plot to get away with murder. Directed by Peter Burger (Until Proven Innocent), Bloodlines won gongs for actors Mitchinson and Craig Hall at the 2011 Aotearoa Film and Television Awards, and nominations for Burger's direction, Donna Malane and Paula Boock's script, and the work of actor Nathalie Boltt.
This telefeature imagines the build up to, and aftermath, of an Auckland volcanic eruption. The last big one produced Rangitoto, and scientist Clive de Roo (Mark Mitchinson from Siege) is the man who discovers under the mountain rumblings, 600 years later. Citizens are non-plussed until the top pops. Eruption was produced for TV3 by The Gibson Group and was one of the last projects completed by veteran screenwriter Graeme Tetley (Out of the Blue, Vigil) before his death in 2011. The Gibson Group had earlier produced 2008 earthquake in Wellington drama Aftershock.
Simone Horrocks' first feature revolves around the disintegration of a man's life, after his daughter goes missing. Horrocks relocates Stephen Blanchard's novel The Paraffin Child from a washed-up UK coastal community to West Auckland/Piha. Outrageous Fortune talent Antony Starr plays the forest ranger who separates from his wife, then learns she is pregnant to the policeman investigating his child's disappearance. Horrocks says After the Waterfall investigates healing, resilience, and "how we live with unfinished business".
Gary Cradle (Gareth Reeves) wants to go straight, but has to face up to a drug habit, family dysfunction, and the burden of guilt over a past sin. Gregory King's redemptive recovery yarn debuted at the Rotterdam Film Festival. King's second feature won Qantas Film and TV Awards for the best film made for under $1 million, and Ginny Loane's camerawork. Actors Reeves and Ian Mune (playing his far from supportive father) were also nominated. In February 2009 the film gained media attention after being made available to watch free online, for 24 hours.
The second feature film directed by writer Anthony McCarten (Ladies' Night) is a small tale with some big themes. Set in a New Plymouth car yard, the film chronicles an endurance contest in which a car will be awarded to the person who manages to keep their hands on it the longest. As night falls, solo mother Jess (Melanie Lynskey) finds herself fending off the attentions of an obstinate competitor (Craig Hall), with a much harsher vision of the world than hers. Inspired by similar real-life contests, McCarten based the film on his novel Endurance.
Created by superhero fan Stephen J Campbell, this light-hearted adventure series follows teen Ben Wilson (Carl Dixon) who discovers his father and grandad have done time as superheroes. Still getting to grips with the basics of being one himself, Ben enlists family and friends to help fight assorted villians. The show ran for three seasons, and spawned web series The Wired Chronicles and Origins. Nominated for awards in Rome and New Zealand, it picked up one in Korea. The eclectic cast included the tried (David McPhail) and the new (Hannah Marshall from Packed to the Rafters).
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.