Wayne Tourell is a prime contender for having the longest CV of any director in local television. Tourell began as an actor and presenter. The multiple Feltex award-winner has gone on to direct documentaries (Landmarks, Moriori), drink driving campaigns, teen movie Bonjour Timothy — not to mention episodes of Mortimer’s Patch, Shortland Street, Gloss and his beloved legal drama Hanlon.
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.
In 2010, thanks to his work on James Cameron's Avatar, Kim Sinclair joined the short list of Kiwis to have scored both an Academy Award and a Bafta. His globetrotting career as a production designer has seen him working in locations from Mexico to Thailand to the Southern Alps, and for directors Martin Campbell (Vertical Limit), Steven Spielberg (The Adventures of Tintin) and Robert Zemeckis (Cast Away).
A proud son of the West Coast, Peter Hawes was a fixture on New Zealand television in the late 70s and early 80s. After writing for A Week of It, he presented Yours for the Asking, giving free rein to his irreverent wit and fondness for wordplay as he answered viewer questions. Hawes also wrote extensively for the theatre and authored a number of well-received novels. Hawes passed away on 29 October 2018.
Whai Ngata worked in Māori broadcasting at Television New Zealand for 25 years, a period when the quantity of Māori broadcasting underwent a major expansion. Starting as a reporter, he rose to become TVNZ's general manager of Māori Programming, a post he held from 1994 until retiring in 2008. Ngata was named an Officer of the Order of New Zealand Merit in 2007. He passed away on 3 April 2016.
Keith Aberdein is probably best known for playing the small-town policeman who arouses Bruno Lawrence's ire, in Kiwi screen classic Smash Palace. But his screen work covers almost every angle: from covering the Wahine disaster as a reporter, to directing, to writing scripts for some of the most ambitious television dramas of the 1970s.
Cliff Curtis alternates a busy diet of acting in the United States (where he's forged a reputation as the actor to call on, for roles of varied ethnicity) with smaller scale New Zealand projects — including co-producing Taika Waititi smash Boy. His CV of Kiwi classics includes playing Pai's father in Whale Rider, Uncle Bully on Once Were Warriors, and bipolar chess champion Genesis Potini in The Dark Horse.
Welsh-born James Harris played an important role in the founding of the National Film Unit in 1941. A well-educated, versatile filmmaker equally at home behind the camera, operating a splicer or wielding a pen, he spent 26 years with the NFU, mostly as a senior director. Photo credit: Archives New Zealand, reference AAQT 6401 A23,729
James Cunningham made a name for himself after creating a run of stylish CGI-animated shorts — from 1997‘s Delf, and Cannes-selected Infection, through to acclaimed WWI tale Poppy. Now teaching 3D animation at Auckland’s Media Design School, Cunningham is also directing live action shorts, while developing a CGI feature with producing partner Paul Swadel.
Described by author Emma Jean Kelly as a flamboyant "champion of New Zealand culture", Jonathan Dennis was the founding director of The Film Archive in 1981 and led the organisation into a bicultural era. Dennis, who headed the Film Archive for nine years, was praised for making films more accessible. He also made documentaries (Mouth Wide Open, Mana Waka) and presented Radio New Zealand's Film Show.