Lee Tamahori worked his way up the filmmaking ranks, before debuting as a feature director with 1994's Once Were Warriors. The portrait of a violent marriage became the most successful film in Kiwi history, and won international acclaim. Between Warriors and 2016's Mahana, Tamahori has worked mainly overseas, where he has directed everything from The Sopranos to 007 blockbuster Die Another Day.
Playwright turned director Toa Fraser grabbed the theatre world with award-winning play No.2, which he then directed for the screen. At the 2006 Sundance Festival it won the coveted audience award. Follow-up Dean Spanley won seven gongs at the 2009 Qantas Film Awards, including best director. Fraser went on to helm ballet documentary Giselle, te reo action movie The Dead Lands, and hostage drama 6 Days.
For three decades, playwright and critic Bruce Mason played intelligent, impassioned witness to many key developments in Kiwi theatre and culture; a number of them his own. His play The Pohutukawa Tree has spawned more than 180 productions, and was watched by 20 million after being adapted for the BBC. The End of the Golden Weather is both a classic solo play, and movie.
With the movie Savage Honeymoon and classic TV show Outrageous Fortune, Mark Beesley established himself as the man to call when dealing with rough and tumble families from West Auckland. Elsewhere the talented director and sometime producer has shown his gift for melding comedy and drama on The Almighty Johnsons, Insiders Guide to Happiness, and Xena: Warrior Princess.
David Blyth cemented his place in the Kiwi filmmaking renaissance with two films that left social realism far behind: 1978 experimental feature Angel Mine, and 1984's Death Warmed Up, New Zealand's first homegrown horror movie. Since then Blyth's work has included family friendly vampire film Moonrise, a number of documentaries on war, and varied works exploring sexuality.
Lisa Taouma has a laufala bag spilling over with Pasifika screen credits. She has directed on Tagata Pasifika, helmed TV2’s Polyfest and made documentaries on subjects from Samoan tattoo to fa’afafine. She produces pioneering PI youth show Fresh with Mario Gaoa, and in 2014 launched Polynesian online community Coconet. Taouma also wrote short films Brown Sugar and Talk of the Town.
Beginning as an actor, writer and director in local theatre during the 70s, John Banas increasingly focused on dramatic writing for television from the 80s on. After relocating to Australia, he established himself as a prolific TV screenwriter with a string of iconic shows, including Blue Heelers and City Homicide. His New Zealand scripts include award-winning telemovies Siege and How to Murder Your Wife.
After early screen work as a stuntman, Lawrence Makoare went on to don various disguises for The Lord of the Rings trilogy, including that of fearsome Uruk-hai Lurtz in the first film. In the same period he was nominated for an NZ Film Award for Crooked Earth, after co-starring opposite Temuera Morrison as a Māori radical running a dope operation. Since then he has played baddie Mr Kil in Bond movie Die Another Day, and was nominated again after playing a legendary warrior in Toa Fraser action film The Dead Lands. Makoare's work also includes big budget TV series Marco Polo and Cook Islands murder mystery Tatau.
Mike Westgate began working in sound in his native England. Since moving to New Zealand in the 1970s, he has contributed his skills to documentaries, drama series, and more than 20 features, and passed them on to a new generation, both on film sets and as a guest tutor at South Seas Film & Television School.
Seasoned stand-up comedian Rhys Darby played an inept band manager on cult hit Flight of the Conchords. It proved a springboard to wider fame. After acting in movies on both sides of the Atlantic, Darby starred in Kiwi rom com Love Birds. 2014 saw the debut of Darby's comedy show Short Poppies. He went on to act in the 2017 remake of Jumanji, and cameoed in local hit Hunt for the Wilderpeople.