Though she is Chief Executive Officer of the New Zealand arm of Screentime, Philly de Lacey has little interest in being trapped in an office all day, writing reports and signing cheques. “I like to stay creatively involved in our shows,” says De Lacey. “I didn’t get into television just to sit behind a desk.”
Screentime NZ produces a broad range of television, from telemovies (Siege, Safe House, Bloodlines) to shows on everything from crime to cooking (Police Ten 7, Testing the Menu).
Born and raised in Auckland, de Lacey studied psychology at Auckland University. But she soon discovered a side course in film and television was of much more interest. She followed her degree with a year at South Seas Film and Television School. De Lacey’s first screen gig was in 1999, helping out on a Telecom commercial for the millennium. She went on to gain experience on a variety of screen gigs, including joining the production teams of 5pm with Jude and Touchdown series It’s Your Money!
De Lacey proved a quick learner. After commanding post-production on Screentime’s Police Ten-7 in its first, 2002 season, she took over as the programme’s producer the following year. “I’ve never let Ten-7 go,” she says. “I stay very involved with that show.“ She also produced 2005 series To Catch a Thief, in which two ex-criminals were let lose on a house, in order to shock their owners into the importance of good security.
In 2006, with the retirement of Ross Jennings, de Lacey became Screentime’s Managing Director and Head of Production. “Ross gave me some wonderful opportunities early on that really kickstarted my career,” she says. In 2010 de Lacey was appointed as one of the Executive Directors of the Screentime Group, comprising three sister companies which themselves became part of the multi-national Banijay Group in 2012.
Screentime origins date back to 1996 in Australia, under founders Bob Campbell and Des Monaghan, who she calls “a total force of energy, a great mentor through my more senior career, and on occasion an excellent sparring partner”. Screentime soon formed a New Zealand subsidiary, and took part-ownership of onetime powerhouse Communicado; the two companies merged in 2001 as Screentime Communicado. Screentime also has a 50 per cent share in Auckland post-production house Toybox.
Screentime has gone on to produce a crop of shows and occasional corporate work, including five seasons of Beyond the Darklands, presented by psychologist Nigel Latta, and true-life series Descent from Disaster, which utilises a revolving cast of hosts to address history “from a fresh angle”.
But the major constant since de Lacey’s arrival has been Police Ten 7, fronted by straight-talking retired detective Graham Bell, and source of legendary TV moment "blow on the pie". The show has frequently rated in the top 10. De Lacey is gratified to be involved in making a series “that is not only entertaining but provides a community service.” Over more than a decade, an estimated 800 plus arrests have occurred thanks to public feedback.
Another personal favourite for de Lacey is Māori Television series Marae DIY, which in its 11th season moved to TV3. Since 2004 the series has renovated more than 60 marae across Aotearoa. “You don’t often get to make something that’s just pure joy,” says de Lacey. “We fought really hard for that show because we just loved it. I always say its the nicest show we make, because everything about it is about good. It’s about feeling good, protecting your past and giving to future generations, reconnecting with your people, your whānau.”
Screentime’s most ambitious projects include two 18 hour Anzac Day broadcasts on Māori Television, and end of the world miniseries Ice, whose release was complicated by Brit production partner Power's collapse.
De Lacey and the company had a particularly busy year in 2015. Named Independent Producer of the Year by screen organisation SPADA, she found time to co-direct and co-produce drama-doco The Monster of Mangatiti for TV One's Sunday Theatre slot. The telemovie was based on Heather Walsh's account of being lured to a remote farm and held captive by William Cornelius. De Lacey handled the documentary sections, while the dramatised sequences were directed by Ric Pellizzeri.
NZ Herald reviewer Alex Casey praised the decision to weave Walsh's narration and memories into the dramatised scenes. Casey argued that in documenting Walsh's journey from captive to advocate, the result was "affecting, important television that contributes to a far wider conversation outside of itself."
The same year the Sunday Theatre slot showcased Screentime telemovies Venus and Mars and award-winning black comedy How to Murder Your Wife (which de Lacey co-produced). Screentime was also behind acclaimed wrongful conviction series I Am Innocent. The show is not to be confused with NZ TV Award nominee I Am..., which explores diverse personal stories.
De Lacey is executive producer of all Screentime NZ's television content. The company’s drama output includes a number of crime tales adapted from real life: among them are telemovie murder tale Bloodlines, which won three of its five Aotearoa Television Award nominations, including best director (Peter Burger); Siege, based on the Jan Molenaar shootings in Napier, whose five NZ Television Awards include best one-off drama; and 2011’s Underbelly: Land of the Long Green Cloud, which was nominated for best drama series.
Underbelly’s fast-moving recreation of the early days of Mr Asia required 80 speaking parts and many locations. De Lacey says that “creating the feeling of an international story when you’re shooting it all in New Zealand was definitely a bit of a challenge.”
In 2019 two co-productions debuted under the Screentime umbrella. Danish-Kiwi series Straight Forward (which had nine financial partners) revolves around a Danish criminal who moves to a small New Zealand town. German-Kiwi murder mystery The Gulf sees Kate Elliott playing an obsessed cop who has just survived a car accident. The "quintessentially Kiwi" show featured an all Kiwi cast; it was structured so that it could screen as six 45 minute episodes, or as three self-contained TV movies.
De Lacey is occasionally credited as Philly Iles and Philly de Lacey Iles.
Profile updated on 3 March 2020
Philly de Lacey
Screentime website. Accessed 23 March 2020
'Philly de Lacey : On the challenges of making crime shows' (Video Interview), NZ On Screen website. Director Andrew Whiteside. Accessed 16 July 2014
Alex Casey, 'Real-life kidnapping a gripping TV tale' - The NZ Herald, 9 September 2015
Greg Niness, ‘Aussies merge New Zealand filmmaker’ - The Sunday Star-Times, 8 April 2001, page E3
Michael Pickard, 'A round of Gulf' (Interview) Drama Quarterly website. Loaded 2 December 2019. Accessed 3 March 2020
Fiona Rae, 'Straight Forward: The Danish crime drama set in Queenstown' - The Listener, 22 June 2019 (broken link)
‘Philly de Lacey, Executive Producer’ (Video Interview) TV3 website. Accessed 16 July 2014
Unknown writer, 'Police Ten 7 nabs offenders’ (Press Release) (Broken link) New Zealand Police website. Loaded 22 June 2012. Accessed 16 July 2014
Unknown writer, 'Mediaworks bringing international drama The Gulf' (Press release) Scoop website. Loaded 18 October 2019. Accessed 24 February 2020