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.
Beginning as an actor, writer and director in local theatre during the 70s, John Banas increasingly focused on dramatic writing for television from the 80s on. After relocating to Australia, he established himself as a prolific TV screenwriter with a string of iconic shows, including Blue Heelers and City Homicide. His New Zealand scripts include award-winning telemovies Siege and How to Murder Your Wife.
Stelios Yiakmis got his screen break as heartthrob doctor Johnny Marinovich on Shortland Street, a role he played for five years. The part Greek, part Kiwi actor has gone on to act on both sides of the Tasman, including hit show McLeod's Daughters, acclaimed 2006 movie Jindabyne, and Kiwi crime drama The Blue Rose.
Having grown up in a musical family, Esther Stephens found it hard to decide between music or acting. So she did both. After training in performing and screen arts, she won an ongoing role as fashionista Olivia Duff in Go Girls. Since then, Stephens has had major parts in WWI drama When We Go to War and Westside. On stage, she won acclaim as suffragette Kate Sheppard in musical That Bloody Woman.
Composer Marc Chesterman has brought his experience of playing drums in bands and sound designing for the theatre, to the screen. Chesterman has worked on a run of films with director Florian Habicht, including composing the soundtrack for Woodenhead and Spookers. He has composed music for Zia Mandviwalla short Eating Sausage, and was sound designer for Rita Angus documentary Lovely Rita.
New Zealand-born Erroll Shand majored in acting at the University of Southern Queensland, then returned home in the early 2000s after early roles on Australian television. Shand has gone on to carve out a memorable gallery of bad guys — from drug kingpin Terry Clark in Underbelly: Land of the Long Green Cloud and the dodgy boyfriend in witness protection tale Safe House, to terrifying gangleader ‘Chocka’ Fahey in cop drama Harry. The roles haven't all been criminal. In movie The Z-Nail Gang he was a surfer and family man, while 2017 series Dear Murderer saw him playing a crown prosecutor.
Since cutting his teeth on 1978 soap Radio Waves, Mike Smith has built one of the longest directing CVs in local television, winning awards en route for both drama and comedy. In 2005 he produced the debut season of Outrageous Fortune, and played a hand in its casting. He has also created or helped create shows Heroes, hit comedy Willy Nilly, The Lost Children and campground comedy Sunny Skies.
Dan Musgrave donned 70s style threads to star as charismatic ‘Mr Asia’ Marty Johnstone in Land of the Long Green Cloud, NZ’s contribution to the Underbelly franchise. The Blenheim-raised graduate of Toi Whakaari has co-written a series of theatre comedies to complement his acting career — which includes playing criminal Lefty Munroe in Outrageous Fortune prequel Westside.
Art department veteran Dan Hennah worked on a range of screen projects before becoming an art director and set decorator on The Lord of the Rings trilogy. Five times Oscar nominated, he won an Academy Award for his work on The Return of the King. Since then Hennah has graduated to production designing on a number of features, including taking on the job for Peter Jackson's three-parter of The Hobbit.
In the course of a 32-year career, Rod Cornelius experienced seismic changes within New Zealand’s television industry firsthand. From his first job with the NZ Broadcasting Corporation through the turbulent remakings of state television in the late 80s and 90s, Cornelius held several key management roles — including TVNZ Controller of Programming and Managing Director of Avalon Studios.