The versatile Peter Young began writing and directing at TVNZ's Natural History Unit in 1989. After moving into camerawork, he launched his own company Fisheye Films in 1997. Since then Young has shot images around the world, directed acclaimed passion projects about post-quake Christchurch and the Ross Sea, and helmed TV series showcasing local landscapes and cuisine (Hunger for the Wild, Get Fresh with Al Brown).
The contribution of sound, music, narration, performance and story creates something far richer than the individual components — and that's the magic of this industry. Peter Young
The Art of Recovery sets out to document "one of the most dynamic, creative and contentious times in the history of Christchurch". Director Peter Young (The Last Ocean) examines a post-quake city where creativity thrives among the rubble: from street art to dance spaces, to the beloved 185 Empty Chairs Memorial. But will the spirit of community and creativity survive the redesign? The Art of Recovery won raves after its 2015 NZ Film Festival premiere at Christchurch's recently restored Isaac Theatre Royal. Stuff reviewer James Croot called the result "kinetic, interesting and inspiring".
On 19 November 2010, the first of a number of explosions occured at the Pike River coal mine. Twenty-nine men were trapped in the tunnel. Nominated for Best Documentary at the 2017 NZ TV Awards, The Women of Pike River explored the lives of six of those left behind, who were wives and mothers of the miners. The disaster was NZ's worst single loss of life since the 1979 Erebus crash — until the 2011 Christchurch quake four months later. Despite assurances survivors would be rescued and the dead retrieved, new owners Solid Energy said the mine was too dangerous to re-enter.
This documentary advocates for the protection of one of the last pristine ecosystems on earth: The Ross Sea. Veteran cameraman Peter Young vividly captures the frozen wilderness — freewheeling penguins, fish and sealions under the aquamarine ice — and interviews scientists concerned at threats posed by commercial fishing (including from New Zealand-owned boats). The film confronts unsuspecting New York diners with the origins of their fish, exposing upmarket ‘Chilean sea bass’ as Antarctic toothfish. Last Ocean won Best Film at the 2013 Reel Earth Film Festival.
Kaitangata Twitch follows 12-year-old Meredith, who sees eerie visions as a Governors Bay island is drilled for mining. The Māori Television series was adapted from a Margaret Mahy story by long-time collaborator Yvonne Mackay. Mahy makes a rainbow-wigged cameo in this episode where the locals protest a subdivision, and Meredith apprehends the island's 'twitch'. Newcomer Te Waimarie Kessell stars, with Charles Mesure and George Henare. The mix of the Māori concept of wairua with a willful 21st Century teenage heroine won a Remi Award at Worldfest-Houston 2010.
New Brighton beach in Christchurch: Peter Donnelly is busy creating art, art with a lifespan that can be measured in hours. Using a rake and a piece of wood, Donnelly draws elaborate artworks in the sand - more than 700 of them to date. "I bring something to life, and then its life is over, and at the end of the four hours it wants to go, it's worn out ... it just wants to be gifted, and it goes to the sea." Beautifully shot by director Peter Young, this Artsville documentary captures Donnelly both in action, and musing on the beauty of impermanence.
Actor Michael Hurst began life in northern England, then moved to Christchurch at age eight. In this Here to Stay episode he looks at the pervasive elements of Kiwi culture that derive from mother England — from roasts, rugby, tea and the Mini, to a language and legal system. In this excerpt Hurst fries up fish'n'chips with Ray McVinnie, stalks deer with Davey Hughes, and explores how class ideals travelled south to Mt Peel and Christ's College .... A chorus of Kiwis, including ex-All Blacks' captain David Kirk and historian Jock Phillips, ponder the influence.
Hunger for the Wild took Wellington chefs Al Brown and Steve Logan out of their fine dining restaurant and into the wilds of Aotearoa, on a fishing, foraging and hunting culinary adventure. Putting the local in 'locally sourced', each episode involves Al and Steve splitting up and collecting ingredients (and characters) for an end of episode meal. The homegrown and cooked dish is then toasted with a wine selected by Logan. Three series were produced for TVNZ by Peter Young's Fisheye films, winning a 2007 NZ Screen Award and Best Lifestyle Series at the 2009 Qantas Awards.
This award-winning lifestyle series took Wellington chefs Al Brown and Steve Logan out of their fine dining restaurant kitchen, and off on a mission to put the local in 'locally sourced' kai. In this episode it's wild food on a wild river — whitebaiting on the Mokihinui. Brownie gets a primo 'stand' and coaster advice; and Steve gets some Green Fern lager and meets a Department of Conservation ranger who tells the whitebait's perilous life story and nets a grown-up: a kokopu. Then it's riverside fritters with beurre blanc sauce and asparagus, washed down with a glass of pinot gris.
This award-winning series took Wellington chefs Al Brown and Steve Logan out of their fine-dining restaurant, to experience the local in 'locally sourced' kai. In this second episode, Al and Steve head to Tangahoe up the Whanganui River, looking for wild pig with a couple of good keen men — Baldy and Moon. Logan is with the dogs on the boar hunt; while Al's on veggies at the markets, before hitching a flying fox to sample some freshly baked organic kumara bread en route up river. The bush tucker result? Cider braised pork belly with kumara and corn mash.
Painter Grahame Sydney has been pigeonholed by some as a landscape artist, but this doumentary contends that his evocative depictions of his Central Otago surroundings are much more than just exercises in realism. Fellow locals, poet Brian Turner and actor Sam Neill discuss the emotional and artistic resonance his work holds for them. Sydney's portraits and figure studies are also examined. The production of one of his lithographs is followed from inception — as a sketch on a slab of Bavarian limestone brought to NZ over 200 years ago — to fully fledged print.
This best of special culls history and highlights from 40 seasons of the longest running show on NZ television. Farming, forestry and fishing are all on the roster, but this edition is as much about observing people and the land. There is footage of high country musters, helicopter deer capture, floods and blizzards, as well as radio-controlled dogs and mice farmers. Longtime Country Calendar figures like John Gordon and Tony Trotter share their memories, and the show sets out to catch up again with some of the colourful New Zealanders that have featured on screen.
Denis Glover's poems are some of the most enduring in our literary tradition. "And Quardle oodle ardle wardle doodle" from The Magpies is probably New Zealand poetry's best known line. Glover (1912-1980) also established the first independent literary press (The Caxton Press). This documentary, directed by Bill de Friez, takes a candid look at the poet and reveals a larger than life figure ("a great drinker, a great womaniser, a great poet") connected to all the literary personalities of his day.
During World War ll South Islander Sandy Thomas was fighting in Crete, when he was wounded and captured by the German Army. Unwilling to spend the war in custody he repeatedly plotted escape from hospital, to the point his Houdini efforts became a running joke among his captors. Nevertheless a successful escape attempt from the Salonika Prisoner of War camp would have him fleeing across the continent on his wounded leg, in an attempt to reunite with his comrades. Now retired, having reached the rank of Major General, Walter Babington Thomas recounts his escapades.
With five series and close to 100 episodes, Frontseat, produced by The Gibson Group, was the longest-running arts programme of its time. Billed by TVNZ publicity as a "topical and provocative weekly arts series investigating the issues facing local arts and culture", and hosted by actor Oliver Driver, it (sometimes controversially) took a broad current affairs approach to the arts of the day, covering "all the big events, reporting the stories, and interviewing the personalities."
In this early, Edinburgh-centric episode of arts show Frontseat, Flight of the Conchords return to the Edinburgh Fringe Festival for a sellout third season — although they argue the new show is “a shambles”. Also present at the fest are an array of Kiwi technicians, performers, and arts programmers. Meanwhile in his Marlborough vineyard, globetrotting cinematographer Michael Seresin critiques Kiwi society and its ugly towns, and calls New Zealand a “lonely, soulless sort of nation”. Also on offer: Artist Phil Dadson in Antarctica, and award-winning dancer Ross McCormack.
Made in New Zealand is a documentary about acclaimed New Zealand children and young adults writer Margaret Mahy. The film takes a line from her award-winning story The Changeover — "...made in New Zealand, it said, Wisdom Laboratories, Paraparaumu" — and uses it to talk about the importance of New Zealand settings in Mahy's work, her international successes, and her life as a writer. Mahy is filmed at her home in Governors Bay, speaking to children in her famous rainbow wig, and out and about on Akaroa Peninsula.
This episode of arts show Mercury Lane features legendary musician Bill Sevesi, and poet Sonja Yelich (mother of musician Lorde). Sevesi takes centre stage: various musician friends join him to reminisce about packing Auckland dance halls in the 50s and 60s (at least until the arrival of 10 o'clock closing). After celebrating his 79th birthday, Sevesi is still as upbeat and music-obsessed as ever, especially when it comes to his beloved steel guitar and ukulele. In the final clip, Sonja Yelich performs her poem Teeth, with wry accompanying visuals from director Fiona Samuel.
Long isolated, New Zealand contains a world of Alice Through the Looking Glass natural oddities: birds, insects and plants like nowhere else. Scientist Jared Diamond remarked "it is the nearest approach to life on another planet". Palaeontology (from Professor Michael Archer) and Māori myth (told by Hirini Melbourne) reveal these 'Ghosts of Gondwana'. Then cutting edge camera techniques (earning a Merit Award at 2002 International Wildlife Film Festival) delve into a night world of bat-filled tree trunk saunas, “demon grasshopper” wētā, and furry kiwi with chopstick bills.
Backch@t was a magazine-style arts and culture show that appealed, from the opening acid-jazz theme tune, to a literate late-90s arts audience. Fronted by media personality Bill Ralston, the show included reporters Mark Crysell and Jodi Ihaka, and Chris Knox appears as the weekly film reviewer. In keeping with Ralston’s journalistic background, Backch@t took a ‘news’ approach to the arts, debating topics in the studio and interviewing the personalities, as well as covering the sector stories.
Wildtrack was a long-running series that infected a generation of kids who grew up in the 80s and early 90s with enthusiasm for all-things native’n’natural. This 1991 Taylormade episode (neon-lit as ‘Wild T’) explores the mountain life of Aoraki-Mt Cook: from Māori myth, to cheeky kea and solar-powered butterflies. Peter Hayden presents from the studio with a homegrown HAL: Archie the computer. Future actor/director Katie Wolfe is the young cub in field: glacier-skiing, hanging from a crevasse, meeting Mt Cook School’s eight pupils, and hugging vegetable sheep.
Wildtrack was a highly successful nature series for children, running from 1981 through several series to the early 90s. In this episode the presenters check out “dung fungi” in cow pats and walking-on-water-insects (pond skaters) in the studio, and head outside to check out kea alpine parrots who are “too friendly for their own good” (threatened by smuggling and over eager tourists); the West Coast’s black sand beaches; Fiordland’s underwater world; and selective plant breeding that involves washing a bee.
Independent channel TV3 launched its prime time bulletin on 27 November 1989. The flagship 6pm bulletin — originally called 3 National News — was anchored by ex state TV legend Philip Sherry, with Greg Clark handling sports. Sherry was replaced by Joanna Paul, then another ex TVNZ anchor, John Hawkesby. A 1998 revamp saw Carol Hirschfeld and John Campbell take on dual anchor roles. Their move to Campbell Live in 2005 opened the doors for a decade-long run by Hilary Barry and Mike McRoberts. In 2016 Mediaworks rebranded its news service — and the slot — as Newshub.
Wildtrack was a highly successful nature series for children, combining a Dunedin studio set with reporting from the field. Produced by TVNZ’s Natural History Unit, it ran from 1981 until the early 1990s. Producer Michael Stedman sought to produce a series where “children can be excited and entertained with genuine information, while not neglecting adults”. Wildtrack won the Feltex Television Award for the best children's programme, three years running (1982 - 1984).
The iconic all-things-rural show is the longest running programme on New Zealand television. With its typical patient observational style (that allows stories of people and the land to gently unfold) it’s an unlikely broadcasting star, but New Zealanders continue, after 50 plus years, to tune in. Amongst the bucolic tales of farming, fishing and forestry, there are high country musters, floods, organic brewing, falconry, tobacco farming, as well as a fencing wire-playing farmer-musician, a radio-controlled dog, and Fred Dagg and the Trevs.