Thomas Sainsbury is a chameleon with an eclectic CV. He is an accomplished playwright, he co-wrote TV series Super City with Madeleine Sami and has collaborated with others on web series Stake Out, Bachelor Pad and The Video Store. As the ‘Snapchat Dude’, he is best known for using wigs and face manipulation to parody people, such as Simon Bridges and Paula Bennett. Image: photo by Andi Crown
I feel like the finite idea of creativity is quite a negative thing. I’ve come to the conclusion that creativity can keep going: there’s an infinite amount of people to inspire you, or scenarios to inspire you. Writer/actor Thomas Sainsbury talking to Kathryn Ryan on Nine to Noon, Radio New Zealand, 19 December 2018
Funny As traces the history of New Zealand comedy through archive footage, and extensive interviews with local comedy talent. Debuting on TVNZ 1 in July 2019, the five-part series explores how Kiwis "have used comedy to navigate decades of profound cultural change". Funny As touches on everything from live and musical comedy, to pioneers of Kiwi screen humour (e.g. Fred Dagg, Lynn of Tawa) and the hit exports of later years (Flight of the Conchords, Rose Matafeo). The series was made by production/creative agency Augusto, and produced by comedy veteran Paul Horan.
As this promotional clip makes clear, Funny As features an impressive roll call of Kiwi comedy legends. The five-part series traces the history of New Zealand comedy through interviews and archive footage. In coming weeks NZ On Screen will be publishing extended interviews with the comedy talent captured on camera for the series. Funny As ranges all the way from the early days of live comedy to screen pioneers (Fred Dagg, the Week of It team), the legendary Billy T, and the Kiwi comedians who've made their mark internationally (Flight of the Conchords, Rhys Darby).
This hit TV series was spawned from big screen mockumentary What We Do in the Shadows (2014). After stumbling across the vampiric goings-on of the original movie, dim-witted police officers Minogue (Mike Minogue) and O'Leary (Karen O'Leary) are enlisted by a paranormal obsessed sergeant (Maaka Pohatu from The Modern Māori Quartet) to investigate unusual events— from cows up trees, to werewolves and zombie cops. Six episodes debuted on TVNZ 2 in 2018; four were directed by Shadows co-creator Jemaine Clement. A second season followed in 2019.
Internet comedy sensations Jimi Jackson and Thomas Sainsbury have a close encounter with some aliens in this big screen sci-fi comedy. On learning that a UFO has crash-landed near his Waikato town, Riko (Jackson) ends up clashing with Peter the 'alientologist' (Sainsbury), whose thoughts on aliens are far from friendly. Alien Addiction is the first movie from director Shae Sterling, who has directed music videos for artists including Stan Walker, Scribe, Brooke Fraser and Maisey Rika.
Created and directed by Brazilian-born Roberto Nascimento, this anthology web series looks at gay and queer dating life in the second decade of the 21st Century. In a series of stand-alone vignettes — some serious, some comical — urbanites of the digital age chase physical and emotional connection. The stories in Sui Generis were conceived in collaboration with "members and allies" of the LGBTQIA+ community. The first series of six episodes was set in Brazil, and won Best International Web Series at the 2018 Melbourne WebFest. The second set of six relocated to Auckland.
Pork Pie is a rare local remake — the source material is the 1981 movie which first got Kiwis lined up in blockbuster numbers, to see themselves on screen. This time round, the mini-driving rebels are played by James Rolleston (Boy), Dean O'Gorman (who also hit the road in Snakeskin) and Australian Ashleigh Cummings (TV's Puberty Blues). Writer/ director Matt Murphy is the son of Kiwi film legend Geoff Murphy, who directed the original Goodbye Pork Pie. The "reimagining" became the fourth highest grossing film in local release, during its first five days in New Zealand cinemas.
Every Moment sees a hypothetical date taken to the extreme as a young would-be couple plan the life they might lead together. Aaron McGregor (Choice Night) plays the young hotel worker trying to mend — and win over — the broken heart of his workmate (Bree Peters — the murderous Dr Pania Stevens on Shortland Street). Based on a section of Thomas Sainsbury's play Hotel and shot in a single night in a working hotel, Every Moment was awarded the top prize at Tropfest 2015, and was also voted viewers' favourite. Peters won for best actress.
The synopsis for this 2015 short film gets straight to the point: 'A man has a lot to think about when he wakes up dead'. Part black comedy, part tearjerker, Slabbed revolves around two men having a chat, one of whom has just worked out he'll never be getting that tattoo he always wanted. The man lying on the next slab has a speech impediment caused by his injuries. Stabbed won writer/director Ben Hobbs third prize at the local arm of short film contest Tropfest. Actor Preston O'Brien — playing the victim with the tattoos — scored for Best Male Actor.
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.
Shortland Street is a fast-paced serial drama set in an inner city Auckland hospital. The long-running South Pacific Pictures production is based around the births, deaths and marriages of the hospital's staff and patients. It screens on TVNZ’s TV2 network five days a week. In 2017 the show was set to celebrate its 25th anniversary, making it New Zealand’s longest running drama by far. Characters and lines from the show have entered the culture — starting with “you’re not in Guatemala now, Dr Ropata!” in the very first episode. Mihi Murray writes about Shortland Street here.