Fed up with seeing animals unintentionally mishandled on set, former farm girl Caroline Girdlestone decided to do something about it. Now one of the most respected animal trainers in Australasia, she’s worked with almost any animal imaginable across more than 500 projects – ranging from the cute barnyard animals of Racing Stripes to the horrifying ovine creatures in Black Sheep.
Grant Lahood made his name with a trio of short films featuring speedy snails, troublesome mice and squabbling animal activists. After taking The Singing Trophy and Lemming Aid to success at the Cannes Film Festival, Lahood has gone on to direct documentaries, commercials and two feature films — one of which (Kombi Nation) features an all human cast.
Veteran wildlife cameraman Robert Brown has filmed everything from polar bears to pukeko in places from the Arctic to the Antarctic. He shot the rare bird stories that led to the formation of state television's Natural History Unit (later NHNZ), and contributed to classic BBC David Attenborough series, such as Life on Earth and The Living Planet. In 1981 he won a Feltex Award for his work on Wild South.
Aged 17, Max Quinn joined the NZ Broadcasting Corporation as a trainee cameraman. At 25 he was filming landmark television dramas like Hunter’s Gold. In 1980 he moved into directing and producing. Since joining Dunedin’s Natural History Unit (now NHNZ) in 1987, Quinn's many talents have helped cement his reputation as one of the most experienced polar filmmakers on the globe.
Pioneering TV programmer Bettina Hollings can list the launch of Shortland Street and being the first female to head a major local television network among her credits. In 2000, she ‘jumped fence’ and formed Imagination Television. The company is responsible for making some of NZ’s most popular shows, including MasterChef New Zealand, New Zealand’s Got Talent and Grand Designs New Zealand.
Peter Hayden’s long storytelling career spans fact, fiction, feather and fur. Hayden has worked extensively behind the scenes on a run of nature documentaries, made for company NHNZ. His acting career includes roles in classic goldmining drama Illustrious Energy and Maurice Gee series The Fire-Raiser. In 2017 Hayden was made a Member of the New Zealand Order of Merit, for services to film and television.
Always happy to share his face with a wētā, entomologist and 'Bug Man' Ruud Kleinpaste is one of the insect world’s best friends. After moving to New Zealand from Holland in 1978, his work with MAF created a media profile for him which led to a long-running radio show, and a television career that saw Buggin’ with Ruud, his show for American cable network Animal Planet, screen in over 60 countries.
Julienne Stretton spent three decades documenting NZ people and culture for TV, as a researcher, producer and director. Her subjects have ranged from Katherine Mansfield and Hollywood actor Nola Luxford, to a young disabled couple in the groundbreaking Miles and Shelly documentaries. She researched major documentaries on Moriori and Gallipoli, and shared a 1992 Qantas Award for 60 Minutes.
Marriage brought Scottish-born Robert Bruce down under, where he wrestled on hit show On the Mat, and acted and did stunts for movies. The Robert Bruce Ugly Agency was born in 1978, representing both actors and stuntpeople. The agency's stable of actors would expand to include Cliff Curtis, Joel Tobeck and Temuera Morrison. Bruce died on 2nd March 2009, after a short illness.
Mike King has spent his life cracking people up, although it hasn't always been easy to laugh himself. Starting out in stand-up, he began a long TV career as a comedian, chat show host, reality star and presenter of the acclaimed Lost in Translation. From the face of NZ Pork to animal rights activist, from addict to suicide prevention campaigner, King's progression has been nothing if not eclectic.