Writer, producer and actor Paul Yates is a comedic "everyman". His CV includes sketch shows Facelift and Telly Laughs, pre-teen series Freaky and The Killian Curse, and teen sitcom Girl vs Boy. He’s written for popular sitcoms Willy Nilly and Sunny Skies, and is producer and co-writer for Wellington Paranormal, the successful What We Do in the Shadows spin-off.
They were doing a big sweeping shot and all I had to do was say, 'Proceed to sector seven', but I started speaking too early. A minor mistake, but James Cameron was like 'Hey! What the eff are you doing, Paul? You dropped the ball!' I was like, 'Oh my God! James Cameron swore at me!' A star-struck Paul Yates, while playing a small role in James Cameron's big budget film, Avatar
Funny As traces the history of New Zealand comedy through archive footage, and extensive interviews with local comedy talent. Debuting on TVNZ 1 in July 2019, the five-part series explores how Kiwis "have used comedy to navigate decades of profound cultural change". Funny As touches on everything from live and musical comedy, to pioneers of Kiwi screen humour (e.g. Fred Dagg, Lynn of Tawa) and the hit exports of later years (Flight of the Conchords, Rose Matafeo). The series was made by production/creative agency Augusto, and produced by comedy veteran Paul Horan.
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.
Wellington Paranormal was dubbed 'Police Ten 7 meets The X-Files' . These excerpts from episodes three and five of the first season demonstrate the show's mix of deadpan commentary with (sometimes) mysterious subject matter. Officers O'Leary (played by Karen O'Leary) and Minogue (Mike Minogue) deal with two call outs. A report of a pale, translucent figure floating 'airily' around a Lower Hutt car park is the definition of an 'open and shut 'case, but a stake out in a supposedly haunted house isn't so straightforward. Officer Minogue's enthusiasm for tasers comes a cropper too.
Fresh from embarrassing the principal (Miranda Harcourt) on national television in season one of web series Lucy Lewis Can't Lose, Lucy Lewis (Thomasin McKenzie) discovers the school has gone Instagram crazy in series two. With her peers hooked on finding out who is labelled best and worst dressed, the fashion apathetic Lucy takes it upon herself to rid the school of this new cyberbullying…with some unintended results. When the whole school turns on her, Lucy's mates Ruby (Celia MacDonald) and Dave (Rāhiri Wharerau) help with a grand plan to set things right.
Described by co-creator Jamaine Ross as a sketch show "told from a brown perspective", this Māori Television series pokes the taiaha into life in Aotearoa. Hosted by improv trio Frickin Dangerous Bro – Ross (Māori), Pax Assadi (Persian) and James Roque (Filipino) – the show adds a multicultural 21st Century update to the skit traditions of Billy T James and Pete and Pio. This first episode mines comedy from white people, brown mums, hangi, sports reporting, subtitles, service station staff, and sat nav. NZ Herald’s Gracie Taylor called it "smart, funny, relevant and insanely relatable".
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.
Inspired by Witi Ihimaera's Bulibasha, Mahana saw director Lee Tamahori making his first film on local soil since a very different family tale: 1994's Once Were Warriors. Temuera Morrison stars as a 60s era farming patriarch who makes it clear his family should have absolutely nothing to do with rival family the Poatas. Then romance enters the picture, and son Simeon sets out to find out how the feud first started. The powerhouse Māori cast includes Nancy Brunning (who is included in the interview clips) and Jim Moriarty. Mahana debuted at the 2016 Berlin Film Festival, before NZ release.
Lucy Lewis (Thomasin McKenzie) just can’t lose — which is a real problem, since she's determined not to be elected school representative. But with principal Ms Palmer (played by McKenzie’s real life mum Miranda Harcourt) determined to ruin student life at the school, Lucy's position becomes a way to keep Ms Palmer's power in check. The second season of this web series sees the school overrun by Instagram, and the cyberbullying that can come with it. McKenzie later co-starred in American feature Leave No Trace. Director Paul Yates would help launch Wellington Paranormal.
After being elected school representative against the odds — and certainly against her will — Lucy Lewis (Thomasin Mckenzie) must find a way to rid herself of the responsibility. Then she discovers an evil scheme by the principal (played by McKenzie’s real life mother Miranda Harcourt) to rake in cash at the students’ expense. Suddenly Lucy's new position provides an opportunity to foil the plot… if she can keep it. But winning over her peers could be tricky. McKenzie went on to co-star in American feature Leave No Trace, and act in Taika Waititi movie Jojo Rabbit.
Created by New Zealand Film & Television School tutor Ness Simons, Pot Luck became the country's first lesbian web series. It follows three Wellington friends who get together every week for a shared dinner. The trio challenge each other to achieve the impossible — Mel (actor/director Nikki Si'ulepa) has to keep her promiscuous hands to herself until shy Debs (British actor Anji Kreft) finds romance, while Beth (Tess Jamieson-Karaha) needs to find the courage to tell her mother she's gay. The six-part web series was funded partly by a crowdfunding campaign and various grants.
In this 'peeping tom rom-com' Toby (Richard Falkner) gets a little carried away un-obscuring the object of his desire — SPCA worker Phoebe (Scarlet Hemmingway). His dating guru Carl (comedian Jonathan Brugh) doesn't help. The inaugural winner of the Make My Movie Feature Film Competition was made in six months for $100,000. The Wellington team behind Distance proved that you don't need a big budget and years of development to make a crowd-pleasing feature. Following successful screenings at the 2012 NZ Film Festival, it was picked up for theatrical release.
Christmas Eve 1953: Cricketer Bob Blair (Ryan O'Kane) is in South Africa, days away from batting for New Zealand. His fiancée Nerissa Love (Maddigan's Quest's Rose McIver) is boarding an ill-fated train, which in this excerpt will plunge into the Whangaehu River at Tangiwai, in the country's worst rail disaster. The Dominion Post's Linda Burgess found this TV movie retelling of the tragic romance "first-rate", noting "consistently excellent" performances from O'Kane, McIver, and Miranda Harcourt as Nerissa's wary mother. Tangiwai won four NZ TV awards, including best cinematography.
The Simon Eliot Show was a ground-breaking quiz show for children, based on hit book Everything You Need to Know about the World. Contestants interacted in real time with Simon, an animated host with blue skin. Children played from home via the internet using a webcam, while Simon hosted the show from his bedroom in a Wellington ‘virtual' studio. Viewers were also able to text in to win a prize. Running for two seasons, the show won an NZ On Air award for Outstanding Innovation in Kids Programmes.
Each episode of this kids horror series features three ‘curse busting’ stories. In this first episode, student Jack Williams traces the curse back to creepy Charles Killian’s fondness for satanic rituals. Killian dies a fiery death and damns Room 21’s future students. Despite grave warnings, the new principal unlocks the classroom — and the curse awakens. In the second story it’s studious Celia’s turn to contain and destroy a ‘body jumping’ spirit before it claims her soul; the last tale pits Johnny against a fat-hungry warlock who comes a ‘splatter-tastic’ cropper. A second season followed in 2008.
Aimed at children, anthology series Freaky showcased tales of horror and the fantastic. Each episode was generally broken up into three stories, from aliens controlling humans like rats in a maze, to a terrifying water slide that transports riders to a prehistoric world. The tweenage Twilight Zone tales spawned a cult following, plus a wiki page detailing each story. Freaky creator Thomas Robins would refine the three stories in one approach with his 2006 anthology series The Killian Curse. He also co-created pioneering web series Reservoir Hill.
Anthology series Freaky set out to scare its young audience each week with three tales of terror and the fantastic. This first episode includes a pair of cautionary tales, and a cannibal story straight from a horror film. The first story sees a boy ignoring a warning sign on a broken waterslide, and ending up lost in a prehistoric jungle. The second features a girl in biology class learning worrying news about a teacher and fellow pupil. The last story involves a teenager who wishes for her own personalised radio station, and gets more than she bargains for.
Tele-movie Clare is based on Clare Matheson's autobiographical book Fate Cries Enough. It recreates the experiences of the author (played here by Robyn Malcolm, then fresh from Shortland Street) who for 15 years was an unwitting part of a disastrous gynaecological study at Auckland's National Women's Hospital. The study would later become known as ‘The Unfortunate Experiment', after a Metro article by Sandra Coney and Phillida Bunkle. It was also the subject of a Commission of Inquiry, whose official report led to major changes in law around health consumers' rights.
This 'docu-soap' put six 20-somethings into a rented house for three months — including a beauty contestant and a live-in cameraman. It was one of a series of 90s reality shows observing homelife which were soon to become a phenomenon, thanks to Big Brother. But without a lockdown or 24-7 surveillance, Flatmate's charms were more quaint, offering a homespun twist on MTV's pioneering The Real World (which debuted in 1992). The show was broadcast on now-defunct channel TV4, and made a minor celebrity of outspoken flattie Vanessa.
Peter Jackson’s fifth feature is a playful blend of comedy, thriller and supernatural horror and was an effective Hollywood calling card for Weta FX. Frank Bannister (Michael J Fox) resides in Fairwater, where he runs a supernatural scam. Aided by some spectral consorts, he engineers hauntings and “exorcises” the ghosts for a fee. When a genuine spook starts knocking off the locals, the FBI suspects Frank is the culprit. To clear his name, Frank must deal to the real perpetrator – none other than the Grim Reaper ...
This edition of the early 90s magazine arts show begins with a visit to Auckland's Herald Theatre to preview a production of Romeo and Juliet, directed by Michael Hurst and starring 16-year-old actor Sophia Hawthorne. Raybon Kan explores fatal books; author Ian Cross is interviewed and Bill Ralston reviews Cross’s latest novel (with Ralston wanting to know why all New Zealand art is "so bleak, so barren"). Film Festival director Bill Gosden previews the event's programme, and comedy group Facial DBX is interviewed ahead of the Watershed Comedy Festival.
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.
Away Laughing was an early sketch comedy show from Wellington company Gibson Group. In this episode from the second series, skaters, spies, panelbeaters and Buck Shelford are the butt of jokes. Kevin Smith and Murray Keane play two Australians mocking New Zealand place names; a trio of firefighters make idiots of themselves in a classroom; ingratiating priest Phineas O'Diddle (Danny Mulheron) arrives at the pub in time to join in on Hori's birthday; and onetime Telecom promo man Gordon McLauchlan interviews two gorillas about Telecom's privatisation.
Debuting on 6 May 1991, this TV3 comedy show saw sketches tested out before a live (unseen) audience — and dropped from the episode if no one laughed. The performers were a mixture of rising standup comics (Jon Bridges) and theatre talents (Danny Mulheron, Carol Smith), plus late actors Kevin Smith and Peta Rutter. Producer Dave Gibson wanted to avoid satire and politics, in favour of the challenge of broad social comedy. Among the regular sketches were a pair of gormless skateboarders and ingratiating priest Phineas O’Diddle. Another season followed in 1992.
This sketch comedy series screened over two years in the early 90s. Many of the Gibson Group show's skits were tested and filmed in a theatre, in front of a paying audience. This first episode sees laughs come from Watties spaghetti and a roll call of emerging comic talent of the era. Danny Mulheron and Hori Ahipene act up, Tim Balme plays Trivial Pursuit, Kevin Smith gets his vernacular on negotiating NZ customs, Peta Rutter crushes on Steve Parr, and Facial DBX comedians Jon Bridges and David Downs are teenage skaters who talk digital watches while wearing day-glo.