Keen for Kiwi children to see themselves on the big screen, Tony Simpson made his movie directing debut in 2012 with trolley tale Kiwi Flyer (also known as Derby Dogs). The film was inspired by memories of racing in Nelson’s annual trolley derby as a child. After completing 2016's A Mindful Choice, a documentary about mindfulness, he began work on Santa downunder movie, Kiwi Christmas. Simpson's screen career began long before any of these; he has directed for Shortland Street, created 2002 animated series The Adventures of Cumie the Cloud, and worked on a run of titles as an assistant director.
I think in every story you really need something heartfelt at the core of it — even if you are making a comedy. Tony Simpson on Radio New Zealand National, 27 September 2012
In this family-friendly feature, Santa (Finnish actor Kari Väänänen) does a runner to a beach in Aotearoa days before his big night of the year, fed up with bureaucracy and brats. It falls to two Kiwi kids to get him out of the southern sun, and back to global gift giving. Director Tony Simpson (Kiwi Flyer) pitches the North Pole native against Kiwi biosecurity and a bickering camping family (including Step Dave's Sia Trockenheim). Sunday Star Times critic James Croot praised the trio of writers for delivering "a rare 21st century effort that evokes the memory of the great kidult dramedies."
Kiwi Flyer (also known as Derby Dogs) sees 12-year-old Ben (Edward Hall) and his mate trying to win a local trolley derby in memory of Ben’s father. In their way are schoolboy loan sharks, competition from Australia — a family led by Wayne (Vince ‘Beaureparies’ Martin) — plus getting permission from Mum (Tandi Wright). There’s plenty of Boy’s Own action and slapstick (aided by comedian Dai Henwood playing a bumbling teacher), as Ben channels the DIY spirit and races for glory. Tony Simpson’s low-budget heartwarmer was based on Nelson’s annual Collingwood St Trolley Derby.
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.
As a member of the Ulster Volunteer Force, Brian Deeds (Belfast-born actor Ian McElhinney) grassed on 23 fellow terrorists in Northern Ireland. Now living in New Zealand under a new identity, Deeds has to come clean to his girlfriend (Judy McIntosh) when a hit squad arrives in town for him. This clip sees guns and car crashes on the streets of Dunedin. Made in NZ, the Anglo-Kiwi funded TV movie won solid audiences on UK television, before local release on video. Ian Mune (Came a Hot Friday) directs; Marshall Napier and Temuera Morrison are the cops playing catch up.