TV3 Head of Drama and Comedy Rachel Jean has worked across a range of genres.
At university Jean studied English and Art History, following it with honours in Film and Television, and a Diploma in Media Studies.
In the 90s she began working alongside veteran producer Owen Hughes at his company Frame Up Films. By now Hughes was busy combining a busy slate of television documentaries, with excursions into one off-drama.
Jean has worked as a producer on more than 30 documentaries, many of them co-produced with Hughes. She also directed some herself, including 1996‘s Erebus - The Legacy and 2001's Are You My Father?, which follows a woman conceived by donor insemination investigating her genetic background.
At Frame Up she was also given the chance to develop her interest in drama. Early Niki Caro short Old Bastards was one of many short films produced by Jean, while Geoffrey Cawthorn black comedy Philosophy won best short at the 1999 NZ Film Awards. Alongside Hughes, she also shepherded seven shorts into production for the NZ Film Commssion (later she would be sole producer on acclaimed Katie Wolfe short Redemption).
Jean worked as associate producer on four one-hour TV dramas: Trifecta, Overnight, award-winner Home Movie, and Niki Caro's Plain Tastes. She helped Caro hunt down Rotorua locations for her feature film debut Memory and Desire, and later got the main producer credit on hour-long television tale Love Mussel. The offbeat comedy/drama featured the late Kevin Smith parodying himself, as host of a feel-good documentary about a shellfish with Viagra-like properties.
After forming her own company, Isola Productions, Jean was able to further her interest in working on ongoing television series, while still keeping her hand in documentary. After producing two seasons of teen spoof Secret Agent Men, she won funding to make drama series The Market, which some critics later argued was unfairly marginalised by going to air in a post 10pm slot. Shot on the streets in and around South Auckland’s Otara markets, the show featured many Māori and Pacific islanders among its cast and creative team.
In the same period, Jean also produced High Times: The New Zealand Drug Experience, which won the 2006 NZ Screen Award for best Documentary/Factual series. The three-part documentary explored the history of illicit and legal drug use in NZ, and featured interviews with drug users, former police officers, and addiction experts.
Jean was also turning the camera onto her own life — and that of her husband Paul O’Halloran, who was awaiting a lung transplant. When Jean began filming her husband, she was unsure if anyone would be permittted to see what she captured, beyond her own family; but five years later, the project had morphed into 2008 TV documentary Life, Death and a Lung Transplant. Jean co-directed, alongside Market talent Damon Fepulea’i.
The following year Jean was appointed Head of Drama and Comedy for TV3, where she launched series The Almighty Johnsons and 7 Days. The station’s programming director Kelly Martin said at the time that TV3 was “very much looking forward to reaping the benefits of having such a well-respected industry figure on board.”
As of August 2020, Jean is Head of Development at South Pacific Pictures.
'Rachel Jean - living and laughing' (Video Interview), NZ On Screen Website. Director James Coleman (Uploaded 18 April 2011. Accessed 18 April 2011
Tyler Jane Mitchel, ‘Popular brown TV shows stir debate’. Pacific Media Centre website, 7 October 2005. Accessed 15 April 2011
‘Rachel Jean new TV3 Head of Drama and Comedy’ (Press Release). the big idea website, 1 March 2009. Accessed 15 April 2011