Producer, Production Manager
Michelle Turner has worked on everything from splatter classic Braindead to Bread & Roses. Her CV covers a wide range of behind the scenes roles, from production manager to producer. In 2001 she produced her first feature Stickmen. The tale of friends who enter an underground pool contest sold to more than 20 countries. Then she joined the producing team on London-set romance Bollywood Queen. Turner was a producer on documentary Children of the Migration and TV drama The Lost Children. She has also worked on the Fijian shoot for Tom Hanks hit Cast Away, and in sales for the NZ Film Commission.
On Stickmen we had a very tight budget and a lot of speaking roles, so we cast Nick Ward the writer in one of the small roles — plus he rewrote the script, to save us from having to shoot a whole lot of driving scenes. This sort of creative collaboration is one of the joys of being a producer. In fact his role was as the prostitute's customer so it was very entertaining to watch. Michelle Turner on producing 2001 movie Stickmen
Since 2009, the contribution of 7 Days to the Kiwi comedy scene has been enormous. In this video celebrating NZ On Air's 30th birthday, former executive producer Jon Bridges traces the show's history back to a group of comedians deciding to film a pilot in TV3's basement. Since then the irreverent, topical panel show has become a Friday night staple. To the comedians and writers, it's a vital place to hone skills and build a career. Host Jeremy Corbett argues that the key to 7 Days' success is relatability: Kiwi audiences feel like they can 'join in' the conversation— and the insults.
A who's who of Kiwi television names reminisce about iconic comedian Billy T James in this short video, celebrating NZ On Air's 30th birthday. Jemaine Clement, Oscar Kightley and Hilary Barry are among those describing Billy T as a national treasure, mischievous and cheeky, while friend Peter Rowley recalls the day he died. Billy T was already a household name by the time NZ On Air was created: an NZOA-funded sitcom and a celebration showcase allowed Kiwis to see him as much more than a comedian. He inspired many comedians, and left a legacy of brilliant moments.
From its impressive cinematography, to its broad range of stories and characters, Country Calendar reflects the backbone of New Zealand culture. The country's longest-running television show still tops the NZ On Air Top 10 most weeks. TV producer Jon Bridges, Governor-General Patsy Reddy and broadcasting minister Kris Faafoi are among those reflecting on the show’s importance, in this video celebrating NZ On Air's 30th birthday. TVNZ executive Andrew Shaw provides 'The Inside Story', and muses on how the show really belongs to all New Zealanders.
Politician Paula Bennett proudly proclaims her West Auckland roots in this video celebrating NZ On Air's 30th birthday. Bennett talks about how hit show Outrageous Fortune was important in helping Kiwis reclaim pride in being a bogan — and a Westie. She also praises the show's strong yet vulnerable matriarch Cheryl West. Robyn Malcolm, who played Cheryl, remembers early days in the role, before Outrageous Fortune became "the show where New Zealanders fell in love with themselves". Outside of Shortland Street, it became part of the country's longest-running drama franchise.
Where would New Zealand culture be without our own music? In this video celebrating NZ On Air's 30th birthday, Mike Chunn (founder of the Play It Strange Trust) describes the 2007 documentary series that followed a group of promising teenage songwriters as they honed their compositions — with help from Play It Strange judges and mentors like Jordan Luck. Chunn is overcome with emotion as he describes the feedback he receives from parents of those involved with the programme, while Luck feels "honoured" to have worked with young musical talent.
Getting its start thanks to three years of NZ On Air funding, ‘Shorty Street’ has grown to become not only a commercial success, but an important training ground for many actors, writers and crew. Generations have grown up watching storylines and characters they can relate to. In this interview to celebrate NZ On Air's 30th birthday, Prime Minister Jacinda Ardern describes the impact of the show, and its importance to New Zealand culture. Actor John 'Lionel Skeggins' Leigh recalls the early days of working on the street, and the many adventures his character faced.
As part of a series marking NZ On Air's 30th birthday, this video looks back at Bic Runga song 'Suddenly Strange'. It was released in 1997, when music videos were crucial to an artist finding an audience, and when NZ music was still finding its unique voice. Fashion designer Kate Sylvester reflects that the video "captures an amazing time" of creativity in Kiwi culture. Her partner, Wayne Conway, who directed the video, talks about how Runga's stripped-back music paralleled 1990s trends in NZ fashion; and Bic Runga talks about how, for a musician, videos always involve "a leap of faith".
At a time when Pasifika people were rarely seen on-screen, Tagata Pasifika was a bastion of Pacific stories. For Oscar Kightley, it was "more than just a TV programme" — it meant on-screen representation for his Pasifika community. In this video celebrating NZ On Air's 30th birthday, Kightley also recalls how impressed his mum was with presenter Susana Hukui's "impeccable" dress sense. Veteran Tagata Pasifika producer Stephen Stehlin talks about working on one of Aotearoa's longest-running series, and the importance of presenting stories about our all-important "front yard".
Documentary series The New Zealand Wars reframed Kiwi history. Researched and presented by historian James Belich, it examined armed conflict between Māori and Pākehā. The show gripped the country when it screened in 1998— including Governor-General Dame Patsy Reddy. In this video celebrating NZ On Air's 30th birthday, she recalls how the show changed her perception: "I thought I knew New Zealand history, and I didn't." Director Tainui Stephens talks about how the series provided a Māori perspective mixed with "intellectual Pākehā rigour" and "a lot of aroha".
Thanks to NZ On Air's support, The X Factor gave New Zealand performers a primetime platform, created excitement and controversy and drew huge, committed audiences. Former Olympian Barbara Kendall explains why she enjoyed the Kiwi version of the show so much, and why one contestant in particular caught her attention. Then X Factor executive producer Andrew Szusterman shares how this "massive, massive show" came to New Zealand, and celebrates the distinct, Kiwi flavour it took on — one example being Stan Walker's judging style.
Television presenter Hilary Barry praises whacky and "so dry" comedy series Wellington Paranormal in this video celebrating NZ On Air's 30th birthday. Barry talks about how the spin-off from What We Do In The Shadows is so different and understated that viewers tuning into halfway through could easily get confused. Writer/producer Paul Yates talks about rising respect for Kiwi comedy and how much of the show is ad-libbed, while Barry laughs about the great relationship between police officers O'Leary (Karen O'Leary) and Minogue (Mike Minogue).
Since 1981, generations of tamariki have grown up with What Now?’s weekend shenanigans. Who didn’t want to be gunged? The show's other magic ingredients are the kids of Aotearoa, and a series of young hosts who know how to have fun. In this video celebrating NZ On Air's 30th birthday, politician Kris Faafoi talks about watching the show while getting ready for Saturday morning sports. Faafoi's brother Jason was a What Now? presenter. Meanwhile former host Simon Barnett discusses his first day on the job (he was 21) — and how much he loved working on the iconic series.
The second season of New Zealand's first lesbian web series features drama with new partners, family responsibilities and long held secrets. Beth (Tessa Jamieson-Karaha) faces difficult decisions around the welfare of her mother, who is living with dementia, and girlfriend Anna is keen for more attention. Despite her swagger Mel (Nikki Si'ulepa) is finding it hard to emotionally move on from Beth, while Debs (Anji Kreft) is struggling to control a secret that affects her work and love life. Pot Luck became a global hit with over five million views across both series.
Based on a novel by the late Ronald Hugh Morrieson — whose stories painted hometown Taranaki as a hotbed of colourful characters and dodgy dealings — Predicament is a prohibition-era tale of blackmail, anxiety and criminal partnerships. Awkward teen Cedric (Hayden Frost) meets two oddball misfits (played by Conchord Jemaine Clement and Australian comedian Heath 'Chopper' Franklin), and becomes entangled in a plot to blackmail adulterous couples caught in the act. Jason Stutter's film went on to win six Aotearoa Film Awards in 2011.
Home by Christmas sees Gaylene Preston returning to the hidden stories of ordinary New Zealanders. Inspired by attempts to get her father Ed to reveal his WWII experiences, this finely-balanced docu-drama moves between three strands: Preston’s father (Goodbye Pork Pie's Tony Barry, in a Qantas award-winning performance) retelling his story; recreations of Ed’s wartime OE; and life for the woman he left behind in Greymouth. The dream cast sees Preston’s own daughter Chelsie Preston Crayford playing Preston's mother Tui, alongside Martin Henderson.
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.
Vincent Ward's fifth feature follows an Irishwoman in 1860s New Zealand, as Māori tribes resist the occupation of their land by the British. Sarah (Samantha Morton) has had an affair with a Māori and borne his child. Years later the boy is kidnapped by his grandfather, a powerful tribal leader. Sarah embarks on a search for her child, aided by warrior Wiremu (Cliff Curtis). When she finds him, both mother and son must decide to which culture they belong. This excerpt from the notoriously ambitious film sees Sarah encountering charismatic chief Te Kai Po (Temuera Morrison).
Through candid interviews and rare archival footage Children of the Migration tells the stories of the Pacific Island immigrants who came to New Zealand from the 1950s to 1980s, and changed the cultural landscape of Aotearoa. Presented by David Sa'ena and actor Vela Manusaute, this humorous and moving documentary includes interviews with All Black Tana Umaga, boxer David Tua, actress Teuila Blakely, hip hop artist King Kapisi and poet Tusiata Avia. Fijian European Lala Rolls directs.
Three friends tour the Wellington pub scene, playing pool with ever-increasing stakes. Then they enter a tournament run by vicious crime boss ‘Daddy'. Narrator Kirk Torrance (Outrageous Fortune) guides us through their mission to pocket the money. Hamish Rothwell's only feature to date was a Kiwi take on the UK urban underbelly genre (Lock, Stock etc). "Smart, stylish and effortlessly entertaining" (Dominion Post) the film was a hit with young males and won several 2001 NZ Film and TV Awards (including best director, script, and actor). It sold to over 30 countries.
Made to mark 100 years of women's suffrage in New Zealand, Bread & Roses tells the story of pioneering trade unionist, politician and feminist Sonja Davies (1923 - 2005), who rose to prominence in the 1940s and 50s. Directed by Gaylene Preston and co-written by Graeme Tetley, the acclaimed three-hour production played on television screens, and also got a limited cinema release. Australian actor Geneviève Picot (as Sonja Davies) and Mick Rose (as her husband) won gongs for their roles at the 1994 NZ Film and TV Awards. Bianca Zander writes about Bread & Roses here.
After his mother gets infected by a bite from a deadly Sumatran rat monkey, Lionel (Almighty Johnson Tim Balme, in an award-winning performance) has to contend with a plague of the living dead while attempting to woo the love of his life. Peter Jackson had already been tagged with the title ‘The Sultan of Splatter’ after his first two features, but this was the film that confirmed it. Armed with a decent budget, he takes a Flymo to fusty 1950s New Zealand and takes cinematic gore to a whole new extreme in the process.
Valley of the Stereos is a comic face-off that starts tinny, but gleefully escalates to bass heavy, as a not-so-zen hippy (Danny Mulheron) gets caught up in a vale-blasting battle with the noisy bogan next door (Murray Keane). Made by many key Peter Jackson collaborators, the near-wordless pump up the volume tale was directed by George Port, shortly before he became founding member of Jackson's famed effects-house Weta Digital. Ironically Weta's computer-generated miracles would help render the stop motion imagery seen in the finale largely a thing of the past.