Brit-born Helena McAlpine moved to NZ in her 20s. Soon she was DJing on The Edge and being headhunted by C4, where she became one of the music channel’s main hosts. After discovering she had breast cancer, she got busy on a large bucket list, including cameoing on Shortland Street, campaigning for the Breast Cancer Foundation, and flying a plane once again. McAlpine died on 23 September 2015.
Using the power of documentary film Frank Chilton made a difference to the lives of disabled children in New Zealand and around the world. The films he directed for the National Film Unit won many awards and he was honoured by the Queen with an OBE for services to the handicapped.
David Donaldson is one third of Plan 9, a musical collective whose CV of soundtracks includes short films, 20+ features, and over 130 hours of television. Donaldson and colleagues Janet Roddick and Steve Roche all played in celebrated band Six Volts. Since then they have won multiple soundtrack awards, including for films Predicament and Perfect Strangers. Donaldson also plays in Thrashing Marlin and The Labcoats.
Bret McKenzie is one half of musical-comedy duo Flight of the Conchords. McKenzie and Jemaine Clement found international fame with the cult HBO comedy, which followed the duo's fictional efforts to 'make it' in New York. An Oscar-winner after writing songs for The Muppets (2011), McKenzie's screen career began after a brief role in The Lord of the Rings trilogy helped win him a cult following.
Steve Roche is one third of Plan 9, a musical collective whose CV of soundtracks includes 20 plus features and over 130 hours of television. Roche first played with David Donaldson and Janet Roddick in celebrated band Six Volts. Since then they have won multiple soundtrack awards, and worked on everything from Forgotten Silver to What We Do in the Shadows. Roche also plays in bands Thrashing Marlin and The Labcoats.
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 feature acting roles on both sides of the Atlantic, Darby took the lead role in Kiwi romantic comedy Love Birds. 2014 saw the debut of comedy show Short Poppies, with Darby playing a different person in each episode. He continues to act and perform live.
Jemaine Clement is the bespectacled half of folk-comedy duo Flight of the Conchords, who achieved international cult status in their own HBO series. Clement's screen career began after he appeared on 90s sketch shows Telly Laughs and Skitz. Following his big screen debut in Tongan Ninja, he starred in misfit romance Eagle vs Shark. In 2014 he co-directed and acted in hit vampire comedy What We Do in the Shadows.
The same year she graduated from drama school Toi Whakaari, Dannevirke-raised Jessica Grace Smith won a starring role in Diagnosis: Death, as a young cancer patient investigating ghosts. Smith rejoined the film's director Jason Stutter to co-star in his black comedy Edwin: My Life as a Koont. Then she headed to Australia. A week before she was planning to relocate to Los Angeles, she scored an ongoing part in Aussie soap Home and Away. In 2019 Smith landed the role of a young Cheryl West for the fifth season of Westside. Smith has also directed programmes, including short Everybody Else is Taken.
Some jobs never make the headlines; in the screen industry, one of those unsung positions is the production manager. After seven years on film sets in Asia, Brian Walden returned home in the mid 70s to production manage the shoots of many classic TV dramas, from Hunter’s Gold to Hanlon. In 1985 he went freelance, keeping a firm hand on shoots involving horses, hospital porters, vampires and underwater aeroplanes.
Jason Stutter’s first movie was cult kung-fu caper Tongan Ninja (2002). Since then he has alternated features – self-funded comedy Edwin: My Life as a Koont, stylish Ronald Hugh Morrieson adaptation Predicament – with shorts, including the hit Careful... series, riffing on the dangers of inattentive tool use. His next feature, haunted house tale The Dead Room, was released in New Zealand in October 2015.