Jess Charlton was behind the camera on three web series from creative collective The Candle Wasters — award-winning party tale Bright Summer Night, musical romance Happy Playland, and 2018's Tragicomic. Born in London but raised in Invercargill and Queenstown, Charlton has shot over a dozen short films, including Jessica Grace Smith's award-winning Everybody Else is Taken and coming of age tale Tama. She was one of the key creatives behind 2012 dystopian feature Existence, and shared two NZ Writers Guild awards for co-writing the script. Charlton has shot ScreenTalk interviews for NZ On Screen.
Niki Caro's near wordless Sure to Rise was nominated for best short film at the 1994 Cannes Film Festival. Four years later her debut feature Memory and Desire was invited to Cannes. Caro followed it with Whale Rider, winner of more than 27 awards, and still one of New Zealand's most successful films abroad. Since then Caro has directed everywhere from France to China, to mining towns in Minnesota.
From 2013 to 2015, newbie actor KJ Apa played Kane Jenkins on Shortland Street. The character was created to explore New Zealand's high rates of youth suicide. After a season on teen sci fi drama Cul de Sac, Apa got his American break, playing a teen quarterback alongside Dennis Quaid in family feature A Dog's Purpose, directed by Lasse Hallstrom (What's Eating Gilbert Grape). In the same period, Apa scored a lead role as archetypal American teen Archie in the high profile Riverdale — a television take on the classic Archie comics. In 2018 he signed on for romantic comedy The Last Summer.
Ron Skelley spent 36 years with the National Film Unit’s sound department, contributing to the soundtracks of Weekly Review, Pictorial Parade, and many other NFU and independent films. He started at the NFU in 1949, and was in charge of the sound department from 1977 until his retirement in 1985. Skelley died in March 1992. Image Credit: Photo from The Evening Post, courtesy of Fairfax Media
A pioneer of computer-generated imagery in New Zealand, John Sheils helped conjure angry cave trolls, flying buzzy bees and herds of roaming TV sets. Time as a camera operator fueled his interest in images unconstrained by gravity or nature. Sheils went on to work on The Fellowship of the Ring, Perfect Creature, Spartacus, and a run of video games and adverts — plus Red Scream, NZ’s first CG short film.
Since joining state television as a sound operator in the 60s, Ron Pledger has gone on to win a reputation for his assured coverage of a wide range of live events, from concerts to This is Your Life to the state funeral of Sir Edmund Hillary. A life long music lover, Pledger was awarded an MBE in 1992, helping recognise 40 years of service in a military band.
Since debuting on TV's SportsCafe in 1996 as an Olympic snail trainer, comedian Leigh Hart has donned moustaches, speedos and a variety of serious journalistic expressions. Post SportsCafe, Hart made and presented multiple seasons of Moon TV — two of them nominated for NZ Screen awards — plus Leigh Hart's Mysterious Planet. He went on to co-present web show Late Night Big Breakfast, with Jason Hoyte.
At high school Craig Parker was "the world's most uncoordinated kid". After discovering that taking drama would mean less time in PE, he picked acting. The decision launched a 30+ year career around the globe. His screen roles include Shortland Street, Mercy Peak, and TV movie Shackleton's Captain. Since winning a keen fan base for a bit part in Lord of the Rings, he has also acted in Spartacus and Reign.
New Zealand-born actor Barbara Ewing attracted early notice in 60s British horror films, and became a UK household name as buxom Agnes Fairchild on TV comedy Brass. Ewing was raised in NZ, before leaving to train at RADA in London. In 1979 she won a Feltex Award as the lead in NZ returning expat drama Rachel. Ewing has written plays and several acclaimed novels, including theatre-set bestseller The Mesmerist.
Pioneering current affairs reporter Dairne Shanahan brought social issues like abortion, transsexuality and poverty into the national conversation. Her credits include documentary Women in Power - Indira Gandhi, and current affairs shows Gallery, Close Up, Sunday and 60 Minutes in New Zealand, The Mike Willesee Show in Australia and W5 in Canada.