Globetrotting New Zealander Len Lye was a gifted innovator in many areas of the arts — film, painting, sculpture, photography, and writing. Inventing ways to make films without a camera, he became one of the pioneers of the genre later known as the music video. Later he moved to New York's Greenwich Village and became a leading figure in the kinetic art movements of the 1950s and 60s.
If director and producer Peter Coates was a superhero, he’d surely be ‘Renaissance Man’. His contribution to championing the arts on television is arguably heroic, and his career multi-faceted. From 1971 to 2004 Coates produced, directed or scripted hundreds of TV productions covering a smorgasbord of topics, from operas to soap operas, and from portraits of New Zealand artists to rugby coaching films.
Roy Good is the creative talent behind a wide range of set designs (1960s music show C'mon, Hudson & Halls, Top Half) and graphics (including iconic logos for South Pacific Television, and Television New Zealand's Southern Cross logo). Good started his television career painting sets and designing graphics for C'mon. The accomplished artist led a large design team at TVNZ for most of the 1980s.
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.
Bill Sheat has applied his legal and organisational skills across the arts in Aotearoa, to influential effect. He was pivotal in the setting up the NZ Film Commission, and was its inaugural chair from 1978 to 1985. Sheat also spent time as chair of the Queen Elizabeth ll Arts Council, helped fund John O’Shea's 1960s musical Don't Let it Get You, and played a role in ushering Geoff Murphy’s Goodbye Pork Pie to the screen.
Shirley Horrocks, ONZM, is one of New Zealand’s leading directors of documentaries about the arts. Her work has chronicled the work and lives of artist Len Lye, photographer Marti Friedlander, writer Albert Wendt and playwright Roger Hall. Her films have won awards, and screened at festivals from France and Italy to the United States.
Gemma Gracewood produced arts series Frontseat over five seasons, then followed it with the ambitious New Artland. Her career has also included stints as radio producer, arts publicist, Metro film reviewer, parliamentary press secretary, and musician.
Kiwi Chris Dudman studied film at Ilam and London’s Royal College of Art; his graduation short was nominated for a student Oscar. After working on arts documentaries in the UK, Dudman returned to NZ in 1995. Since then he has directed drama shows (the high-rating Harry), documentaries (The Day that Changed My Life), attention-grabbing shorts (Choice Night), and a number of high profile ads for his company Robber’s Dog.
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).
Geoff Steven's career spans documentary, experimental film and photography. In 1978, he directed acclaimed feature Skin Deep, the first major investment by the newly established NZ Film Commission. Steven followed it with Strata and a long run of documentaries, before time as a TV executive at both TV3 and TVNZ. He now heads the Our Place World Heritage Project.