Director Tony Hiles has been making films and documentaries since the mid 1960s; from helming TVNZ staples such as Country Calendar, to independent docos whose subjects have ranged from the making of Peter Jackson's Bad Taste to architect Bill Toomath, and an ongoing series of films involving artist Michael Smither. In 1996 he won an NZ Film best director award for his debut feature Jack Brown Genius.
Shoot straight and don’t take no for an answer unless it’s the answer you want. Tony Hiles
The HeART of the Matter looks at major changes in New Zealand teaching which began after World War ll. A group of bureaucrats and arts specialists set about introducing a "thoroughly bicultural and arts-centred education system" to schools — in contrast to the rote learning of the past. Combining interviews and archival footage, Luit and Jan Bieringa (The Man in the Hat) examine this period of radical educational reform, and ask what lessons can be applied to the present. In the excerpts above, pupils and teachers reminisce about their time in the classroom.
The 17th century portrait St Jerome in his Study by Italian painter Antonello da Messina, intrigued Wellington architect Bill Toomath all his life. In 2002 Toomath designed and built a study for his house based on the painting. Toomath discusses this project, his architectural training and practice, and some of his clients. Time-lapse camera footage captures building progress, and the completed studio with replica desk emerges as a portrait of Toomath himself, and a tribute to architecture and ideas. Bill Toomath passed away on 20 March 2014.
This documentary offers an insight into New Zealand settlement through five generations of the Matthews family and the development of their romney stud farm - Waiorongomai Station. The story begins in the 1840s with an astute businesswoman and continues until the present day. Waiorongomai - Waters of Repute was originally made as an interactive television project.
Jack Brown Genius is the story of an obsessive flight of fancy. The spirit of a thousand year old Monk (Stuart Devenie) inhabits the mind of a contemporary New Zealand inventor (Tim Balme), who is inspired to turn the idea of human-powered flight into reality. Along the way he creates havoc for his pal Dennis (Marton Csokas), steals his girlfriend (Nicola Murphy), incinerates the factory of his Boss, and incurs the wrath of the Boss's financial backer Sylvia (Lisa Chappell). The film won director Tony Hiles a 1996 Film and Television Award.
Just days after finding out he had bowel cancer, Wellington actor Peter Vere-Jones invited a film crew to document his journey through the treatment process to the final outcome. This is a highly personal, and at times harrowing, account of a man coming to terms with his mortality. The documentary puts the audience squarely in Vere-Jones' corner. Although much of the doco is filmed inside Wellington Hospital, Vere-Jones' wit and insight paints a picture of a life far beyond those walls.
After concocting all manner of outlandish images on 8mm film, Bad Taste was Peter Jackson’s breakthrough; years in the making, it was the first feature to make it from his Pukerua Bay backyard to cinema screens, where it quickly began to rack up sales. An all-male cast of public service Alien Investigation and Detection Service operatives run amok with guns, food, vomit, rockets and misguided enthusiasm, to rid the earth of alien Lord Crumb and his fast-food gang — who want to turn earthlings into hamburgers. Jackson took two acting roles in this ‘splatstick’ sensation.
This documentary showcases some of the tricks of the trade used by Peter Jackson in the making of his first feature — the aliens-amok-in-Makara splatter classic, Bad Taste. Compiled following the film's 1988 Cannes market screening, it's framed around an extensive interview with a 25-year-old Jackson at his parents’ Pukerua Bay home. These excerpts offer fascinating insight into his ingenuity: from building a DIY Steadicam, to the making of the infamous sheep-obliterating rocket launcher scene, to PJ musing on the impetus that being an only child provided him.
This whimsical film starring New Zealand artist Michael Smither, animal wrangler Caroline Girdlestone, and cartoonist Burton Silver, documents Smither's quest to learn to fly. It is a documentary in the accepted sense but lyrical and full of surprises. Made by Wellington filmmaker Tony Hiles, edited by Jamie Selkirk (future Oscar winner for The Return of the King), and gorgeously shot on location at Farewell Spit and Wharariki Beach. Smither is well known for his idiosyncratic realist paintings, such as Rocks With Mountain.
New Zealand artist Michael Smither (well known for his idiosyncratic realist paintings, such as Rocks with Mountain) is a man of many theories and ideas. This film, made for TV, documents his experiments rebuilding eroded beaches around Taranaki with driftwood. Only partially successful, these experiments nonetheless reveal Smither as something of a visionary. They contrast with the New Plymouth City Council's own efforts to check sand erosion; and over two decades later, Smither's less orthodox methods look the more sensible, and sustainable.
Robin Morrison's photographic work was popular and accessible — he affectionately presented New Zealanders to themselves. The 1981 publication of The South Island of New Zealand from the Road cemented his reputation. The book featured ordinary New Zealanders in the environments they'd created. This documentary by Tony Hiles explores Morrison's earlier work: his gritty Bastion Point and Springbok tour series, and the projects which documented communities on the brink of change.
In this Good Day interview, Alison Parr talks to Sir Edmund Hillary as he discusses From the Ocean to the Sky, a book about his 1977 jet boat mission up India's holy river, The Ganges. A reflective Sir Ed talks adventure, spirituality and his 'escapist' relationship with Nepal; and Parr probes him on his reluctance to include single women on expeditions. On a more outspoken note, he expresses his dismay at a lack of "positive, inspirational leadership" in contemporary NZ in what is arguably a barely disguised attack on the style of Prime Minister Rob Muldoon.
This 1978 documentary casts a critical eye over a depressed NZ music industry, and asks what has changed since its 60s glory days of pop stars, screaming fans and C’mon. By the late 70s, few musicians are earning a living and chart hits have dwindled (although the recording industry is bullish). Ray Columbus waxes lyrical about ‘She’s a Mod’. Kevan Moore and Peter Sinclair are sanguine about TV’s role, a finger is pointed at radio airplay, and the careers of Craig Scott, Mark Williams, Sharon O’Neill and John Rowles are considered. The only thing not in short supply is blame.
NZBC series On Camera was an afternoon magazine show. It screened separately on each of the regional channels, but shared items and interviews. Subjects ranged from Rolf Harris and Alfred Hitchcock to VSA and ballet, and topics “of particular appeal to women”. Presenters included Julie Cunningham (Christchurch), Irvine Lindsay (Wellington) and Sonia King (Auckland), with Max Cryer reporting from Hollywood. Future head of TVNZ Māori programming Ernie Leonard (reporter) got early experience on the show, and future Quiet Earth composer John Charles was a director.
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.