Dropping in on the Americans at the South Pole for afternoon tea, having driven there by tractor, was one of the most unusual events of Derek Wright's career as a National Film Unit cameraman. In his 40 years with the NFU he filled many other roles, from laboratory assistant to producer: but it is for his filming in the Antarctic that he is particularly remembered.
Natural history and adventure cameraman Mike Single has worked everywhere from Death Valley to Antarctica, and filmed everything from BASE jumping to the birthplace of kung fu. A long association with company NHNZ has scored him a swag of awards, including an International Emmy for his Antarctic film The Crystal Ocean. Single's work has screened on Discovery Channel and National Geographic.
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.
Charlotte Purdy’s CV ranges from reality TV to Antarctic disaster. After a television OE in the United Kingdom, she helmed documentaries and factual TV back home. Under her Rogue Productions banner she created reality format The Big Experiment, and made Reel Late with Kate. After a decade producing current affairs, she co-directed docudrama Erebus: Operation Overdue and rugby doco By the Balls.
Neil Harraway was with natural history company NHNZ, back when it first began as TVNZ's Natural History Unit. The reporter turned producer would later work extensively in colder climes — producing 1989 documentary Under the Ice, which saw him diving in the Antarctic, writing penguin tale Emperors of the Antarctic, and directing on Journeys across Latitude 45 South and early award-winner Island of Strange Noises. Harraway stayed on at NHNZ in development and marketing until 2013. These days he runs Dunedin-based tour company Monarch Wildlife Cruises, with his partner Anita Chan.
As writer and presenter of The World Around Us, and producer of Looking at New Zealand, Conon Fraser was an early television celebrity. He joined the National Film Unit in 1969 and continued to make films documenting his adopted country’s landscape and history, and New Zealanders’ way of life. Fraser died on 17 June 2014, aged 84.
Karen Olsen’s work as a meteorologist and weather reporter has seen her stationed on sub-tropical Raoul Island and presenting from the blistering cold of an Antarctic winter. After 21 years reporting the weather on TV One News, often alongside much loved weatherman Jim Hickey, Olsen left TVNZ in November 2015.
During his 34 years as a National Film Unit cameraman, Kell Fowler filmed throughout New Zealand, and travelled as far afield as China and the South Pole. Career highlights included his work as cameraman and director of Oscar-nominated Antarctic film One Hundred and Forty Days Under the World (1964), and the filming of the sweeping three-screen vistas that featured in Expo 70 hit This is New Zealand.
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.
Wallace George Lowe got interested in cameras as a child in Hastings. As a climber he was pivotal in helping his mate Hillary summit Everest, and he filmed the mission after the official photographer got pneumonia. The Lowe-directed doco The Conquest of Everest, was nominated for an Academy Award in 1954; the film he directed on the first trans-Antarctic crossing was also Oscar-nominated. Lowe died on 20 March 2013.