As a child, Olivia Tennet won local awards for her roles in kids without parents movie Kids World and 2001 short film Watermark. She went on to play one of the travelling circus performers in fantasy series Maddigan’s Quest, before spending two years on Shortland Street. In 2013 Tennet made her mark stateside when she co-starred in indie thriller Blood Punch, which won acclaim and festival success. She went on to appear in Kiwi mini-series When We Go to War and hit series 800 Words.
When you're so close to a project, it's hard to have a critical eye — you're always asking yourself "is this good or bad? Am I good in this or bad in this?" — but hearing the audience laugh in the right places and gasp in the right places is a huge thrill. Olivia Tennet on Blood Punch, in a 31 January 2014 Craccum interview
This miniseries was made for the centenary of New Zealand’s involvement in the Gallipoli campaign. Created by Gavin Strawhan and Briar Grace-Smith, the six one hour episodes explored the impact of World War l on characters connected to a Pākehā family. Each episode was framed around a letter written home. The characters include a nurse and doctor caring for wounded in Egypt, a lawyer turned officer in Gallipoli and his wayward brother, and a Māori preacher turned soldier and his sister. Directed for TVNZ by Peter Burger, the series was produced by Robin Scholes.
A trio of mysteriously bloody and bruised women order tea in a cafe in Auckland's St Kevin's Arcade. The sugar debate gets a K Road twist as they talk boobs, revenge porn, and wonder if the sugar bowl has drugs hidden in it (riffing off a local urban legend). A trip to the toilet before last orders sees the cafe transforming into a dance floor, providing a groovy testimonial to the imaginative powers of the sugar hit. This edition of the series of short films exploring life on K’ Rd was directed by Roseanne Liang (My Wedding and Other Secrets), and stars the actors from her web series Flat3.
A lack of roles for Asian women inspired three Chinese-Kiwi actors to create a comedy web series starring themselves. JJ Fong, Perlina Lau and Ally Xue play flatmates in Flat3. Roseanne Liang (My Wedding and Other Secrets) directs and writes. In this third season, Perlina is pursued by two ex-boyfriends, "slutty" Jessica struggles to stay on a "no guys diet", while reserved Lee gets swept up by nude model Dan (Dan Cowley). Madeleine Sami (The Breaker Upperers) features as an arrogant acting teacher, while Shavaughn Ruakere (Shortland Street) is a pushy saleswoman.
Tired of being portrayed as "the shy one, the dragon lady or the prostitute", three Chinese-Kiwi female actors turned the tables and starred in their own web series. JJ Fong, Perlina Lau and Ally Xue teamed with director Roseanne Liang (My Wedding And Other Secrets) to create flatmates comedy Flat3. It began in 2013 on the smell of an oily rag. A Kickstarter campaign raised $10,000 for the second season, then NZ On Air put $100,000 into the third. Guests included Rose Matafeo and Madeleine Sami. Flat3's three stars (and Liang) returned for 2016's Friday Night Bites.
Created by Outrageous Fortune’s James Griffin and Rachel Lang, this South Pacific Pictures-produced TV3 dramedy is about a family of Norse gods who wash up in 21st Century New Zealand. Emmett Skilton stars as Axl aka Odin, who must restore his brothers' lapsed superpowers and find his wife Frigg ("no pressure, then"). But he is thwarted by Norse goddesses and Māori deities. The combo of fantastical plot and droll Kiwi bloke banter won loyal fans, who successfully campaigned for a third (and final) season. Johnsons screened on the SyFy channel in the US in 2014.
This children's post-apocalyptic fantasy series follows a circus troupe, Maddigan's Fantasia on their quest to save the world's only remaining city, Solis. The show was created by children's writer Margaret Mahy, developed for television by writers Gavin Strawhan and Rachel Lang for South Pacific Pictures, who produced the 13 x 30min series for TV3. Award-winning and successfully exported, it marked a debut lead performance from Rose McIver (future Tinker Bell in US TV show Once Upon a Time) acting with Michael Hurst, Peter Daube, Tim Balme and Danielle Cormack.
This children's post-apocalyptic fantasy series follows a circus troupe on their quest to save the city of Solis. Conceived by Margaret Mahy and developed by Gavin Strawhan and Rachel Lang, the award-winning series was produced by South Pacific Pictures. A young Rose McIver (future Tinker Bell in US TV show Once Upon a Time) led the cast, acting with a caravan of Kiwi veterans. Māori elements mixed with rural West Auckland sets in the ‘solar punk’ rendering of the future. Here, Garland (McIver) faces tragedy but meets two boys (and a baby) with magical powers.
Damon Fepulea'i's directing debut follows Megan (Olivia Tennet from Maddigan's Quest), a young girl who finds herself out of her depth amongst the mangroves. While out exploring, she meets two siblings and wants to make friends, but one of them is hostile and argues over who owns a bamboo stake. Megan runs off to play alone and while trying to catch a fish using the stake as a spear, has an accident. She's full of stubborn pride as the tide rises dangerously around her. Watermark debuted at the 2002 Rotterdam Film Festival, and features classic Kiwi song ‘Blue Smoke’.
Shortland Street is a fast-paced serial drama set in an inner city Auckland hospital. The long-running South Pacific Pictures production is based around the births, deaths and marriages of the hospital's staff and patients. It screens on TVNZ’s TV2 network five days a week. In 2017 the show was set to celebrate its 25th anniversary, making it New Zealand’s longest running drama by far. Characters and lines from the show have entered the culture — starting with “you’re not in Guatemala now, Dr Ropata!” in the very first episode. Mihi Murray writes about Shortland Street here.