The career of pioneering documentarian Bill Saunders began in the early days of New Zealand television. He went on to champion a fly on the wall documentary style and win Feltex Awards for acclaimed films on Moriori, and the elderly. Saunders was the final remaining member of TVNZ’s documentary unit when it was disbanded in 1988, and an outspoken advocate of public service broadcasting until his death in 1995.
Annie Goldson, NZOM, is probably New Zealand's most awarded documentary filmmaker. Her work — including the feature-length An Island Calling, Brother Number One and Kim Dotcom: Caught in the Web — often examines the political through the personal. Goldson's films have played widely overseas, and won awards in New Zealand, England, Spain, France, the Philippines and the United States.
Christchurch-raised Anna Cottrell is a prolific documentary maker, with a keen interest in the stories that people tell. Her work ranges widely, from documentaries on immigrants (An Immigrant Nation) and family (Other People's Children), to five seasons of the bite-sized Great War Stories. Cottrell launched her company AC Productions in 2001.
In a turbulent media landscape, director/producer Kay Ellmers feels that the long-form documentary is still powerful. Her screen CV includes acclaimed doco He Toki Huna: New Zealand in Afghanistan, and popular series like Marae Kai Masters and Mīharo. Ellmers is Managing Director of Tūmanako Productions, and a consultant on documentary and factual programming for Māori Television.
Canadian-born New Zealand director Leanne Pooley has won a raft of awards for her work as a documentary filmmaker. The 2011 Arts Laureate's films include hit Topp Twins movie Untouchable Girls, 3D Everest first ascent saga Beyond the Edge, and euthanasia exploration The Promise. In 2015 her film 25 April, an animated feature about Gallipoli, was selected for the Toronto International Film Festival.
Justin Pemberton's work for the screen can be split roughly into two. His eclectic and award-winning run of documentaries includes motor-racing story Love, Speed and Loss and acclaimed Olympic saga The Golden Hour. He has also worked on many music projects, from music videos to documentaries about Anika Moa and the NZ Symphony Orchestra.
John Bates is a documentary director whose low profile and natural modesty belies his talent. His award-winning documentaries range across many iconic New Zealand people and events, including the 1951 waterfront dispute, the 1975 Māori Land March, late photographer Robin Morrison, and the history of television itself.
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.
When John Hyde first sought work in television he was advised to "get into the cutting room". His first job was as an editor at Television New Zealand, but Hyde soon made the jump to directing and producing. Today he reaches huge international audiences, helping command documentaries and reality series that focus on massive architectural structures, and showcase the wonders of the natural world.
Mark McNeill has been making documentaries for over 20 years. Along the way he has shown a knack for offbeat factual programming, including work with Te Radar and psychologist Nigel Latta. In 1999 McNeill launched company Razor Films. He and Latta went on to reshape The Politically Incorrect Parenting Show for a primetime Australian slot. In 2018 McNeill become the first Kiwi producer to make a series for Netflix.