After producing her first short film for Niki Caro, Rachel Jean worked alongside veteran producer Owen Hughes on a host of documentaries, plus the occasional drama. Later Jean went solo, producing TV series Secret Agent Men, and The Market. After time as TV3’s Head of Drama and Comedy, she became Head of Development at South Pacific Pictures.
It had a heart and a truth to it, and there was such a passion in the people who made it ... I love it, it was a drama series made from the heart. Rachel Jean, on The Market
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".
This award-winning short revolves around a Māori women’s rugby team. Rising star Phoenix (newcomer Ngawaea Taia) has to negotiate motherhood, her mateship with the crusty old coach (veteran Roy Billing), and her feelings for the captain (Maria Walker). Directed by Tim Worrall, and filmed in his Rotorua hometown, the short was one of six selected by director Christine Jeffs for 'New Zealand’s Best' at the 2015 NZ International Film Festival. Jeffs praised the film as "realistic and full of feeling". Worrall won Best Short Script at the 2015 SWANZ (NZ Writers Guild) Awards.
A prequel to classic TV3 series Outrageous Fortune, Westside travels back in time to meet young Rita (Antonia Prebble), Ted (David de Lautour) and their son Wolf West, on the make in West Auckland. This first episode opens with Ted leaving Mt Eden prison, then sets him on a safe-cracking plot that is aided by the 1974 Commonwealth Games. Prebble played Loretta West in Outrageous, and first took on the role of Rita in flashbacks from season four. Devised by Outrageous creators James Griffin and Rachel Lang, Westside won acclaim: "all the hallmarks of a classic", said Stuff.
In this acclaimed comedy series the life of a lawyer goes to the dogs, when his father’s death throws him into Auckland’s low-rent greyhound racing scene. In the second to last episode, Will’s mongrel crew have a new dog, trainer Marty does community service and Will takes on a retail job. The Downlow Concept production screened late Friday nights on TV3. Stuff television critic Chris Philpott thought it the best scripted comedy New Zealand had produced to date. Hounds won Best Comedy at the 2012 NZ TV Awards.
Combining sketches, pranks and parodies, Jono and Ben at Ten quickly gained popularity after it hit the airwaves in 2012. Critics praised the Jono Pryor (The Jono Project) and Ben Boyce (Pulp Sport) hosted series as one of the top shows that year. In this first episode, Pryor and Boyce hold their own Olympic Games, prank clothing store customers and get child versions of themselves to ask celebrities the hard questions. Meanwhile, comedian Guy Williams sings goodbye to rugby player Sonny Bill Williams at a press conference. The TV3 series was renamed Jono and Ben in 2015.
Actor Madeleine Sami transforms into five very different Aucklanders in this Taika Waititi directed comedy series. Cheerleader Pasha is desperate to hang on to her youth; Linda tries too hard with her middle-aged clique; Azeem the Iranian taxi driver is obsessed with Māori culture; homeless Georgie makes a shock discovery, and gym instructor Jo secretly loves a female colleague. Rachel House, Rose McIver and Antonia Prebble appear in this series opener. Super City creator Sami (The Breaker Upperers) co-wrote the scripts, and won an Aotearoa award for Best Actress.
Creating and playing all of the main characters in Super City made for a "physically exhausting" experience for Madeleine Sami. But the hard yakka paid off, with the first season winning Sami a best actress gong and rave reviews. The show weaved the storylines of very different Aucklanders (five in season one, and four new characters in season two): including a ditzy Indian cheerleader, an Iranian male taxi driver obsessed with Māori culture, and a homeless woman. Taika Waititi (Boy) directed the first series; Oscar Kightley (Sione's Wedding) took over for season two.
In the first 10 minutes of this TV3 comedy, Axl (Emmett Skilton) has a close shave outside the bottle store on the eve of his 21st birthday. But that’s nothing compared to the meteors, earthquake and a blood red Mission Bay that follow. By the end of the episode, Axl learns that he and his Kiwi bloke older brothers are also Norse gods. From Outrageous Fortune creators James Griffin and Rachel Lang, the light-hearted lad fantasy saga gained a loyal following and — in a rare example of a Kiwi TV export to the US — the three seasons screened on the SyFy channel from July 2014.
This telefeature imagines the build up to, and aftermath, of an Auckland volcanic eruption. The last big one produced Rangitoto, and scientist Clive de Roo (Mark Mitchinson from Siege) is the man who discovers under the mountain rumblings, 600 years later. Citizens are non-plussed until the top pops. Eruption was produced for TV3 by The Gibson Group and was one of the last projects completed by veteran screenwriter Graeme Tetley (Out of the Blue, Vigil) before his death in 2011. The Gibson Group had earlier produced 2008 earthquake in Wellington drama Aftershock.
Eclectic comedy show Radiradirah featured Taika Waititi, Rhys Darby, Madeleine Sami and the talents behind animated hit bro'Town. The fast-paced sketch show included Monty Python-style animated inserts, the laconic talking sheep of The Pen, and bro'Town-ers Oscar Kightley and Dave Fane as elderly women who've done it all. This first episode introduces a number of ongoing characters, including an oddball alien with a beard, and crusading space captain Hemi T Cook (both played by Waititi). Radiradirah was created by bro'Town's Elizabeth Mitchell and Oscar Kightley.
Television series Ride with the Devil follows a car-mad Chinese immigrant who arrives in New Zealand, and plunges into a world of car racing, burnouts and parties. In this first episode, Lin (Andy Wong, from TV movie Eruption) arrives in Auckland to stay with his aunt and start a business course. But by the end of his first night he finds himself in the middle of the action: trying to win a burnout competition in his cousin's car. Watching on is ex-con Kurt (Xavier Horan from Westside), who runs a custom car workshop. Kurt offers to help Lin get some wheels of his own.
Boy racer drama Ride with the Devil is a rare Kiwi television series to be built around an Asian character. In the second episode, Lin (Andy Wong) finds excitement and humiliation after moving from China to Auckland. He watches his new friend Kurt (Xavier Horan) in action at the race track. Things spin out of control during a party at Kurt's workshop — Lin is humiliated by his cousin after he slips off for some backseat fun with Pony (Anna Hutchison from Go Girls). But there is much worse to come, after a late night drag race goes badly wrong.
In the third episode of Ride with the Devil things rev up at "the holy grail of styley cars"— a car show. Lin and Kurt win attention for their vehicle, but they haven't banked on a visit from the police. Lin must decide whether to front up over a tragic accident. Meanwhile, Wendy (Lynette Forday, who was nominated for a Qantas Best Actress award for the role) discovers that her daughter has many secrets — including running a dodgy website involving the back seat of her car. Director Murray Keane created Ride with the Devil to represent New Zealand's boy racer culture.
In this episode of boy racer drama Ride with the Devil (a rare Kiwi TV drama built around an Asian character), Lin (Andy Wong) faces an uncertain future after telling police he was driving the car that accidentally killed a boy. This episode features Shortland Street veteran Angela Bloomfield, who was nominated for a Qantas award for her portrayal of grieving mother Shona. Meanwhile Wendy (Lynette Forday) reads the riot act to daughter Amy (Kellie Michelle Cheung) who continues to romance garage owner Kurt (Xavier Horan); and Kurt's enemy sees the chance for revenge.
Car-mad Chinese immigrant Lin (Andy Wong) is in a whole heap of trouble in episode five of boy racer drama Ride With The Devil. Not only is he facing deportation for his involvement in a fatal car accident, local tough guy Pinky (Ali Foa'i) plans to deliver some street justice. Amy discovers why her mum Wendy (Lynette Forday) seems to anticipate her every move, but payback for frenemy Pony plays out in an unexpected way. Plus Wendy and driving instructor Graham's mutual attraction hits new heights just as Lin's troubles go into overdrive in the last quarter.
Ride With The Devil brings The Fast and the Furious to Te Atatu. The sixth and final episode of this boy racer drama series features laughter, romance, burnouts and drama in equal measure. Chinese immigrant Lin (Andy Wong) is to be deported from New Zealand for his involvement in a fatal car accident, but there's unfinished business to attend to. Kurt (Xavier Horan) and Lin's mates from the garage celebrate endings and beginnings the only way petrol heads can — by burning serious rubber. At Lin's goodbye dinner new love is celebrated, but there's a brutal twist in the tale.
This documentary chronicles a shameful passage in New Zealand race relations: the controversial mid-70s raids on the homes and workplaces of alleged Pacific Island overstayers. Director Damon Fepulea’i examines its origins in Pacific Island immigration during full employment in the 1960s, when a blind eye was turned to visa restrictions. As times got tougher, that policy changed to include random street checks by police, despite official denials. Resistance by activists and media coverage helped end a policy which has had a long term effect on the Pacific Island community.
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’.
A TV network hires actor Kevin Smith to front a documentary about a town divided by an unusual discovery. Gooey Duck — a shellfish with reputed aphrodisiac qualities — has appeared off Ureroa. The quota is owned by a local couple but the rest of the town, big business, the government and the local iwi all have their own ideas. Smith's involvement gets complicated when he innocently consumes the mollusk while watching Prime Minister Jenny Shipley on TV. Writer Stephen Sinclair satiries television, celebrity, gender, politicis, small town New Zealand and penises.
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).
Christmas time can mix joy and stress in equal measure. Both feature in this documentary, which follows four New Zealand families in the lead up to Christmas Day celebrations. Jenny Johnson is preparing for an "old-fashioned" Christmas with her two adult daughters back in town, while the Hinds children adjust to Christmas post divorce. The Thayer family remind us that no one loves Christmas more than kids, but for Piripi and his grandparents the focus is spiritual, not material. As the day arrives, presents are ripped open and new memories are formed.
This debut feature from director Niki Caro follows a Tokyo woman and her fiance who elope to New Zealand. A stunted beginning to their sexual relationship is overcome in a cave on an isolated West Coast beach. Shortly afterwards he drowns. She returns to a suffocating Tokyo before being drawn back to the cave. The restrained study of eroticism and grief was based on a short story by Peter Wells (itself inspired by a true story). Desire was selected for Critics' Week at Cannes (1998), and won best film at 1999's NZ Film Awards and a special jury prize for Caro.
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 documentary is a hallucinogenic exploration of the allure of the foot and the cult of the shoe. What other item of clothing carries the promise of such pleasure or pain? A podiatrist, a ballerina, a cross dresser, a mistress, an academic, a transexual, a femme fatale and a couple of shoe salesmen journey into the depths of their soles. Selected for Venice Film Festival in 1996, Footage was an award-winning excursion into documentary making for feature director Niki Caro.
This short film follows the efforts of schoolgirl Nina to recover her red clogs, a cherished birthday gift from her Yugoslavian nana. Nina lost the shoes playing hopscotch at school; she follows muddy footprints to find the thieves, where a playground insult prompts her to question her identity. The story was inspired by first time filmmaker Annalise Patterson's own upbringing, where her family didn't acknowledge either its Māori or 'Dally' heritage. 'Dallies' largely came to New Zealand from the Dalmatian coast of Croatia (formerly a part of Yugoslavia).
In this award-winning Montana Sunday Theatre drama, Cliff Curtis plays Jim, a grungy rocker who can’t (and doesn’t want to) commit to a straight life with his misguidedly hopeful girlfriend Sina (Sarah Smuts-Kennedy). A night of emotional turmoil in the city ensues as Sina does her best to avoid the reality of her situation (as well as home invasion and Jim’s dodgy manager). Fiona Samuel's darkly funny script and top-notch casting underpin this look at the not-so-delicate nature of relationships amongst a group of Generation X Aucklanders.
A plain tale about the swollen secretions of suburban love. In middle class Auckland vulnerable passions break the surface as Laura (Meryl Main from Highwater) aggressively pursues love and acceptance, finding something very like it right next door. For director Niki Caro this one-hour drama was a watershed in her career. It was her ultimate drama production before embarking on a feature film career; it screened as part of the Montana Theatre series on TV One in 1995. Plain Tastes features Marton Csokas and Kate Harcourt. Producer Owen Hughes writes about Plain Tastes here.
Whale Rider director Niki Caro’s fourth short film is comprised of six vignettes — each focusing on a different elderly man. With minimal supporting cast (Joel Tobeck has a cameo as a competence-challenged waiter), the men talk mainly to themselves or the camera. Shot on Super 8mm (with graphics from an overhead projector), Old Bastards attempts to “subvert our kindly and slightly condescending view of old men”; its dark alternative view instead paints the aging male as vigorously intolerant, lecherous, impotent, trapped or just lost.