Billy T James ranks as a key figure in the development of Kiwi comedy. Billy honed his talents as a singer and comedian on stages worldwide, then brought them to a local TV audience on throwback show Radio Times. His self-titled comedy show was a major ratings hit. His turn as the Tainuia kid in Came a Hot Friday is still fondly remembered — as is Billy T's infectious chuckle, black singlet and yellow towel.
Trailblazing broadcaster Shirley Maddock, ONZM, was making and presenting television in 1960, when the medium first began in New Zealand. After doing theatre in London and radio in New York, she went on to produce and present a series of documentaries in her homeland, and wrote a bestselling book to accompany 1964 series Islands of the Gulf. Maddock passed away on 10 October 2001. She was 72.
Owen Hughes segued directly from university to a job at independent production company Pacific Films. Since establishing his own company Frame Up Films in 1977, Hughes has gone on to produce 40 plus documentaries and many dramas. Along the way he has nurtured the talents of a number of directors early in their careers, including Niki Caro, Fiona Samuel and Jessica Hobbs.
Keith Slater started his journalism career at South Pacific Television before becoming a director, then taking the helm as Auckland Bureau Chief in TV3's newsroom. Along the way he produced shows like Fair Go and Country Calendar, but his heart belonged to current affairs, where his list of credits included TV3's primetime news, 60 Minutes, 20/20, Nightline and Campbell Live. Slater passed away in June 2017.
Leon Narbey is one of New Zealand’s most prolific and lauded cinematographers. His talents have contributed to roughly 20 features, including Whale Rider, Desperate Remedies, The Price of Milk and No.2. Narbey's work as a director includes movies The Footstep Man and Illustrious Energy, an acclaimed drama about Chinese goldminers.
National Film Unit staffer Ron Bowie was a dedicated and cosmopolitan filmmaker, who overcame obstacles (including five years internment for his pacifist convictions) to pursue his chosen career. Among dozens of NFU films he contributed to, Bowie directed award-winning tourist romance Amazing New Zealand!, helped produce beloved Expo epic This is New Zealand, and edited the Oscar-nominated One Hundred and Forty Days Under the World.
Chris Burt is an Auckland-based sound designer. Coming from a background in music (as a drummer in the Techtones and Stridulators, and as a sound mixer) he began in the screen industry as an assistant on 1983 movie Trial Run, and later designed the sound for classic short film Kitchen Sink. Since setting up his own studio The Inside Track in 1992, Burt has worked on dozens of projects — and won awards for his sound work on everything from In My Father's Den to TV movies Siege and Jean.
There were times when the career of longtime National Film Unit director David Sims could have been cut short. Having survived close encounters with steam locomotives in mountainous terrain, he narrowly escaped being blown up, drowned and burnt alive at sea. Even filming a planned set-up on location had its hazards, as he found when his call of “action!” sent exploding rocks whistling by perilously close overhead.