Since relocating from the United Kingdom, Peter Roberts has made his mark in New Zealand as an editor. Roberts found his editing niche at TVNZ, before a prolific freelance career saw him cutting a string of documentaries, shorts, and features — including award-winning drama The Dark Horse. In 2013 he became the first editor to be elected President of the Directors and Editors Guild of New Zealand.
...I hated getting up early for set, and I suddenly realised that editors work gentleman's hours. Peter Roberts on how he first found his vocation, in his ScreenTalk interview with NZ On Screen
Movie Vermilion follows composer Darcy (Jennifer Ward-Lealand) over a summer month, as her daughter prepares to marry. Darcy sees colours when she plays musical notes, but after seeing the colour vermilion she is prompted to secretly make her own plans. The exploration of motherhood, family and female friendship marks the feature debut of director Dorthe Scheffmann (Cannes-selected 1995 short film The Beach). The ensemble cast includes Theresa Healey, Goretti Chadwick (Game of Bros), and newcomer Emily Campbell. The production team were 85 per cent female.
In the 1930s Kiwi-born pilot Jean Batten set off on a series of legendary solo flights. Jean is the tale of a charismatic, determined woman, the mother who stayed close, and the man curious to unravel the person behind the legend. At the 2017 NZ Television Awards, the ambitious telemovie made a clean sweep, including awards for Donna Malane and Paula Boock's script, director Robert Sarkies, lead actor Kate Elliott, and the design team. In the excerpt — which hints at the story's globetrotting sweep — Jean fights heat and storms while attempting to fly from England to Australia.
The Dark Horse is the story of a Māori ex-speed chess champ who must “overcome prejudice and violence in the battle to save his struggling chess club, his family and ultimately, himself”. Genesis Potini has a bi-polar disorder; his nephew Mana (Boy’s James Rolleston) faces being pressed into a gang. A near unrecognisable Cliff Curtis won international acclaim as Potini. James Napier Robertson's acclaimed second feature was picked to opened the 2014 Auckland and Wellington Film Festival, and scored six Moa awards, including Best Picture, Director, Actor and Supporting Actor.
Hip Hop-eration chronicles a mission to bust some moves, and demonstrate that ageing need not be a barrier to joy. The stars of this documentary are a group of self-deprecating, young at heart Waiheke Islanders — some in their 90s — who head to Las Vegas to compete in the World Hip Hop Championships. Hip Hop-eration won Moa awards for Best Documentary and Documentary Director, plus rave reviews from Metro, The Dominion Post and the Herald's Francesca Rudkin; Rudkin called the film heartwarming:"full of laughs, colourful characters and Kiwi attitude".
This TV3 drama series follows the travails of a cop (Oscar Kightley) as he pursues justice on the mean streets of Auckland. Solo parent to a teenage daughter (following his wife’s suicide), Detective Sergeant Harry Anglesea is thrown into a murder investigation and an underworld of P and gang violence. Harry, not a stickler for the rules, marked a rare dramatic turn for Oscar Kightley. Sam Neill plays his policing buddy. NZ Herald reviewer Paul Casserly called it a “great, gritty crime show”. Harry was notable for using unsubtitled Samoan in primetime.
This first episode of this 2013 crime drama begins with a meth-fuelled bank heist gone very wrong. Harry is a Samoan-Kiwi detective (played by Oscar Kightley, a million miles away from Morningside) pursuing justice in South Auckland. Sam Neill, in his first role on a Kiwi TV series, plays Harry’s detective buddy. Off the case, Harry struggles with his teen daughter in the wake of his wife’s suicide. The Chris Dudman-directed series screened for a season on TV3. Broadcaster John Campbell tweeted: “Not remotely suitable for kids. But nor are many excellent things.”
Young, confident and good-looking, Michael (Matt Whelan from Go Girls) discovers he has only a short time to live. Rather than undergo pricey experimental cancer treatment, he steals the cash and absconds to Hong Kong and Europe, determined to enjoy the life that remains. But heedless OE hedonism is complicated when he meets Sylvie (Roxane Mesquida, star of A Ma Soeur) and goes cross-continental with her. Based on Steven Gannaway novel Seraphim Blues, Kirstin Marcon’s first feature combines down under filming with a guerilla-style winter shoot across Europe.
This six-part Māori Television series documents the experiences of six Māori language students from around the country, on a three-week cultural field trip to Beijing, China. The teenagers take their own cameras to record their experiences. They attend a local high school, live with Chinese families, and take in the local sites and sounds. The series is in Te Reo Māori, with English sub-titles. In this episode, the students learn how to get around Beijing using the local transport, they visit schools and find out about calligraphy, and they tour Beijing’s legendary Forbidden City.
This six-part Māori Television series documents the experiences of six Māori language students from around the country, on a three-week cultural field trip to Beijing, China. The teenagers take their own cameras to record their experiences. They attend a local high school, live with Chinese families, and take in the local sites and sounds. The series is in Te Reo Māori, with English sub-titles. In this episode, the students check out the food markets, learn about Chinese sports, and visit the Great Wall of China.
This six-part Māori Television series documents the experiences of six Māori language students from around the country, on a three-week cultural field trip to Beijing, China. The teenagers take their own cameras to record their experiences. They attend a local high school, live with Chinese families, and take in the local sites and sounds. The series is in Te Reo Māori, with English sub-titles.
Qantas-nominated 'dramedy' Rude Awakenings revolved around the conflict between two neighbouring families, living in the Auckland suburb of Ponsonby. Rush family matriarch Dimity (Danielle Cormack) has her eyes on climbing the property ladder, by acquiring the house next door (occupied by solo Dad Arthur and his teenage daughters). Created by Garth Maxwell (movie Jack Be Nimble), the 2007 series was produced by Michele Fantl for TV One. The Listener’s Diana Wichtel welcomed it as a rare contemporary satire on New Zealand television, but it only ran for a single season.
This Kiwi neighbours at war ‘dramedy’ pitted the Rush family — newly arrived in Ponsonby —against the Shorts, who are long-time renters next door. Arthur Short (Patrick Wilson) is a Kiwi battler solo Dad, with two teenage daughters; Dimity Rush (Danielle Cormack) the right wing HR manager whose partner is an anaesthetist, with two teen sons. In this first episode, Dimity aspires to climb the property ladder by scheming to get the Shorts’ house as an investment doer-upper. The satire of gentrification screened on TV One on Friday nights. The cast includes Rose McIvor (iZombie).
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).
Set in Central Otago in the drought-parched summer of 1975, gay-themed feature film 50 Ways of Saying Fabulous follows a chubby 12-year-old named Billy (Andrew Paterson) as he embarks on a challenging journey of sexual discovery. Adapting Graeme Aitken's novel, writer/director Stewart Main (Desperate Remedies) depicts a boy escaping into fantasy from the drudgery of farming duties — and learning about himself, his sexuality, and dealing with change. 50 Ways won a Special Jury Award at Italy's Turin International Gay and Lesbian Film Festival in 2005.
Secondary school Auckland Grammar is a local landmark, with a reputation for academic and sporting excellence. This documentary surveys the state school's traditions; the "ways of Grammar" include academic streaming, the prefect system, and sport (rowing trials and the traditional 1st XV match against King's are featured). It also touches on the lengths parents will go to enable their children to attend the prestigious boys' school. Old boys interviewed include cricketer Dion Nash, All Blacks Doug Howlett and Grant Fox, and broadcaster John Hawkesby.
This 2003 documentary follows seven weeks of a theatre-for-change course for troubled teens. As part of acclaimed programme Te Rākau Hua O Te Wao Tapu, 30 teens from South Auckland's Northern Residential Centre are guided by director Jim Moriarty to create songs and plays based on their own stories. The process, from performing haka to confronting their demons and each other, proves challenging. Some don't make it to the opening night, performing in front of family and the public. Stewart Main's documentary screened as part of TV3's Inside New Zealand.
Director Murray Keane was inspired to make this documentary after his wife Fiona Samuel focussed exclusively on women for her earlier doco about the loss of virginity and its effect on lives. The companion film features seven men aged from 20 to 80 talking candidly about their different experiences of 'the first time'. Keane illustrates these very personal stories with quirky, colourful visuals as his participants muse on an event that few were really prepared for and which was transcendent for some, confusing for others and a nightmare of abuse for one of them.
In this 2001 documentary, popular columnist Joe Bennett goes behind the scenes of the “sausage factory” of Kiwi politics in Wellington – from The Beehive to The Green Parrot Cafe. Exploring the machinations of power in New Zealand, Bennett meets press secretaries, lobbyists, and spin doctors, from Helen Clark’s Chief of Staff Heather Simpson to press gallery reporter Barry Soper. The documentary marked a further collaboration between director Richard Riddiford and Bennett, after Jafas, where Bennett compared Auckland and Aotearoa's views of each other.
Jim Hopkins presents this documentary — based on his bestselling book — about backyard inventors and their inventions. Some of these “sheddies” are seeking their fortunes, but others seem to simply derive a quiet satisfaction from their ingenuity. They might come from a tradition of number eight wire, string and chewing gum, but amphibious planes and hovercraft feature prominently (with one basement boasting a wind tunnel). A rural bent extends to fence brackets, gate openers, shearing tables, possum pluckers and a serious rat trap (designed by a poet).
Filmmaker Stewart Main traverses India seeking enlightenment. There he meets ex-pat Kiwis who seem to have found it, which only leaves him feeling trapped in a life of the senses. Especially when he falls for his Indian sound recordist, Sreenu. Or so he would have us think. Made for TVNZ's Work of Art documentary slot, Main's startling, provocative film explores the cracks between the divine and the sensual, documentary and fiction. Director Andrew Bancroft writes about the result in this backgrounder.
In June 1886 Mt Tarawera spectacularly erupted, and this documentary tells the story of the people who were caught in the catastrophic events. Around 120 people lost their lives, and the internationally famous Pink and White Terraces were destroyed. The documentary features an animated re-creation of the eruption, archival images, interviews with descendants of those involved, and readings from written eyewitness accounts. The author of the book Tarawera, Ron Keam, is also interviewed.
Bill Ralston examines more family business empires in part two of Old Money. With varying mixes of vision, hard work and eccentricity, the Hudsons (biscuits), Sargoods (merchants), Hallensteins (clothing), Hannahs (shoes) and Shacklocks (ironmongers) made fortunes that gave their families grand houses and gracious lifestyles. Some of the brands have survived and their legacies include 65,000 items gifted to Otago museum by the Hallensteins and Downstage’s theatre endowed by Hannah money. (Robert Hannah was the maternal great-grandfather of director Jane Campion.)
This Bill Ralston-fronted two part documentary looks at Auckland’s great family business empires: the Nathans (merchants and brewers), Myers (brewers), Wilsons and Hortons (newspapers) and Winstones (construction). With fortunes made in the pioneering days of the 19th Century, they created products that became household names and dynasties that dominated local commerce. Most failed to evolve and were picked off by the corporate raiders of the 1980s, but they left behind a legacy of fine homes, major buildings and community bequests.
Presented by future National Party MP Melissa Lee, this Asia Dynamic episode tells the story (discovered by reporter Bharat Jamnadas) of Nalini Chhima, an Auckland-born Indian woman and accomplished classical dancer, who travels to Navsari, India, to prepare for a traditional marriage. Like her parents, Chhima thinks an arranged marriage has a better chance of surviving than a love marriage. This documentary tracks Chhima’s emotional journey, and her desire to please her parents and be true to her culture. Asia Dynamic was later re-named Asia Downunder.
Predating hit show Survivor, this early TV3 reality TV documentary saw Kiwi teens fending for themselves over eight days on Rakitu Island. Among the three females and three males facing off Lord of the Flies-style were future National MP Nikki Kaye, who later argued she was meant to represent the "private school girl who couldn't survive without a hairdryer". Instead Kaye took the leader’s role and clubbed an eel, while many of her companions showed little inclination to help with the fishing. Kaye later opposed her party’s proposal to mine on nearby Great Barrier Island.
This full-length documentary gives warm-spirited context to the song that has been the soundtrack to countless back lawn crate parties and freezing works chains (watch the credits). It was released as the B-side of singer Engelbert Humperdinck's Please Release Me, and became an unlikely hit in Aotearoa with fans who have done the "dance, dance, dance ...": including Dalvanius (who discusses its "pop-schlock" charms), Bunny Walters, The Topp Twins, and a special group of ten guitarists. The documentary also explores why "the national anthem of Patea" is so appealing to Māori.
This thoughtful but humorous documentary offers a wry tribute to sheep in New Zealand. Interviews with Chris Knox, Dog's Show presenter John Gordon, Dick Frizzell and Michael Parekowhai (among others) pull the wool away from our collective eyes, and examine Aotearoa's much ridiculed relationship with sheep. Artists' images, souvenirs, pets, and shows for tourists all feature, as do songs and plays. The documentary also examines the foundational role of sheep in the country's economy. This was one of the first productions from company Greenstone Pictures.
This 1992 TV One documentary follows the All Blacks on their first post-apartheid visit to South Africa. The footy tour tomfoolery of producer Ric Salizzo’s earlier All Blacks docos is subbed off for reflections on politics and sport from players — including ex-All Black Ken Gray, who refused to tour the republic in 1970 and joined protesters in 1981. Not all goes to script for a “new South Africa”: the Afrikaans anthem is played before the Ellis Park test, and the All Blacks win. Future South Africa cricket star Herschelle Gibbs is a young coloured player mentored by the ABs.
This TVNZ ‘home show’ explores 90s grand designs and their architects, renovation dilemmas and Kiwi personalities in their houses. This debut episode is presented by actor Jennifer Ward-Lealand and builder (and future Dunedin mayor) Dave Cull. Ward-Lealand visits architect Roger Walker in his pastel pink and green Tinakori Road home, intros a “70s Cinderella” bathroom do-up, and drops in on DJ Kevin Black’s arts and crafts-style mariner’s cottage. Cull tests a non-stick frying pan and a barn house. Date stamps include denim shirts and a saxophone theme tune.
The third of Pasta Productions’ popular All Blacks documentaries sees winger John Kirwan provide running commentary on the team’s path to the 1991 World Cup in England: from Argentina to Sydney and Auckland to contest the Bledisloe; from facing bottle and orange missiles in Tucumán to touch on Bondi Beach. JK muses on why coach Alex Wyllie is nicknamed ‘Grizz’, Neil and Tim Finn provide musical accompaniment (“I see black”), and Canterbury Uglies are the training uniform du jour. Meanwhile on-field signs are ominous for the reigning world champs.
The follow up to 1989 tour doco The Good, the Bad and the Rugby sees winger John Kirwan narrate an insider’s guide to the All Blacks’ 1990 tour to France: from Michael Jones negotiating a haircut (“how do you say ‘square top’ in French?”) to 19-year-old Simon Mannix leading a ‘Ten Guitars’ singalong. Footy relics of the era include afternoon test matches, four point tries, placed kick-offs, sneaky ciggies and Steinlager. Producer Ric Salizzo later repeated the Pasta Productions’ recipe — sports fandom mixed with schoolboy pratfalls — in the successful Sports Cafe series.
In this documentary from 1991, two-time Olympic gold medalist Mark Todd searches for his second win at the 1989 Badminton Horse Trials. Adding to the challenge, he's riding a horse — The Irishman — that he's only just met. Elsewhere in Chris Wright's documentary Todd rides horses on his grandfather’s Cambridge farm, and has early unlikely success at Badminton riding Southern Comfort and legendary horse Charisma. Todd would go on to win several Olympic medals, before triumphing at Badminton for the fourth time in 2011 — nearly 30 years after his first success.
Gloss was a popular Kiwi television drama series made by TVNZ that screened in the late 80s; it combined a wealthy family, the Redferns, with a lucrative high-fashion magazine business. Yuppies, shoulder-pads and méthode champenoise abound in this cult "glamour soap". New Zealanders wanted to see themselves as less bottom of the world and more "here we come and we are sailing" (as the infamous Cup campaign song warbled), and Gloss was just what the era demanded.
“An ironic comedy about a disconnected New Zealand family” is the tagline to this early Alison Maclean short. Recently widowed Nan (Yvonne Lawley) assesses her life and the roles prescribed by her family as she readies a Sunday roast. Her new plans — “I won’t be able to make the Christmas Cake this year” — rattle the shackles of her Old Testament-bashing husband and her ex-All Black son. Nan was a comeback leading role for Lawley after time away raising a family. Written with playwright Norelle Scott, Maclean’s short screened with the About Face TV series.