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Matt McPhail

Producer, Director

Entertainment is in Matt McPhail’s blood. His father was one half of popular television comedy duo, McPhail and Gadsby. His sister Anna was drawn into acting, but Matt wasn’t tempted. "I tried it at school. It was terrifying.”

Born in Christchurch, McPhail claims he was the first student to be awarded a drama 'colour’ at Christchurch Boys' High. Fresh out of school, he borrowed his Dad’s suit and headed to the city's NZ Film and Training School. McPhail didn’t finish the course; instead he joined miniseries The Sound and the Silence which was filming in Dunedin, driving vans and fetching coffee. Then he headed to Auckland to be a lighting assistant on series The New Adventures of Black Beauty. Early on he had to fight preconceptions that came with being TV star David McPhail’s son, but “I loved it. Television was old school then”.

A flatmate was working as a camera operator on popular youth show Ice TV . McPhail was "desperate" to get a job on it. He met producers Stephen J Campbell and Jude Anaru, who told him they were looking for directing assistants. McPhail’s enthusiasm for Ice TV convinced the two, and he got his first taste of directing. Ice TV  was awesome. It was 30 weeks a year on the run. We never debriefed, we were learning all the time”.

McPhail was also directing on a run of music video shows for Auckland's Satellite Media, including Space and Squeeze (in 2011, he would begin three years as Head of Content for the company). In 2005 McPhail chronicled the work of charity World Vision for documentary Lucy Lawless: Five Days in Bangladesh

McPhail continued his working relationship with Campbell through two youth/comedy series, Secret Agent Men (2002) and The Amazing Extraordinary Friends (2007 -10). McPhail started writing scripts for Secret Agent Men, and helped write and direct the superhero inspired Extraordinary Friends. The latter show was nominated for awards in New Zealand and Rome, and won a drama award in Korea. 

Halfway through Extraordinary Friends, McPhail moved from directing to production, a role he has come to love. In 2009 he produced series two of hit TV3 satire The Jaquie Brown Diaries, and shared a Qantas Award for Best Comedy (later he would be nominated for an Aotearoa award as an executive producer on A Night at the Classic).

At Jon Bridges’ wedding, McPhail met creative collective Thedownlowconcept. McPhail came to their quirky sleeper comedy Hounds late, stepping in as producer. A bone dry comedy that followed an ex-lawyer into the faded world of greyhound racing, the series won acclaim from Herald critic Chris Schulz, who called it ‘the most perfect three hours of Kiwi comedy ever”. McPhail knew the team's "instincts were good — it was a case of just letting them get on with it.” Hounds won Best Comedy at the 2010 Qantas Media Awards.

Gary of the Pacific marked the first feature from thedownlowconcept. McPhail was line producer; the film was in development for eight years before he stepped in and joined forces with experienced feature producer Fiona Copland. Gary of the Pacific premiered in New Zealand cinemas in March 2017.

The reality of being a producer means that "it’s mainly a desk job. You’re always in development”. McPhail enjoys getting into the studio once a week, as assistant producer on TV3 panel show 7 Days. 

Profile written by Gabe McDonnell

Sources include
Matt McPhail
Trevor Agnew, 'Amazing Extraordinary Friends' (Interview) - The Press, 31 January 2009
Ian Pryor, 'Stephen J Campbell' NZ On Screen website. Loaded 20 February 2015. Accessed 24 August 2017
Unknown writer, 'From Harry to Hounds - Five Kiwi shows that deserve a second chance' - The NZ Herald, 10 December 2016