The idea that New Zealanders often take for granted the depth of talent in the local screen industry is well illustrated by the career of Flux Animation founder Brent Chambers. Most Kiwis would have seen at least one example of his prolific output, yet few would be able to put a face or a name to his work. Chambers was tireless in building a competitive and viable international business, with a distinct local identity.
Ruth Harley has been a leader and change agent across 30 years in the screen industry. She was commissioning editor at TVNZ, then the first Executive Director of NZ On Air. From 1997 she spent a decade as CEO of the NZ Film Commission, then crossed the Tasman to head the newly created Screen Australia for five years. In 1997 Harley was awarded an OBE, and in 2006 was named a CNZM.
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.
Best-known as an outspoken and award-winning columnist, Rosemary McLeod devised and was principal writer on iconic 80s soap Gloss. McLeod was a newspaper reporter for years before moving into broadcasting. She eventually became a sitcom writer and script editor both in New Zealand and Australia, and was among the first women to write a sitcom in either country.
Sandy Houston's career in animation and visual effects has involved 70 plus movie projects — including animated classic Watership Down, visual effects landmark Jurassic Park, and Oscar-winners The Return of the King and King Kong. Along the way she has been on hand to watch computers become key tools in creating screen illusion.
A self taught stargazer, Peter Read’s passion for astronomy coincided with a budding television industry and the beginning of manned spaceflight. His programme, Night Sky, played in primetime from 1964; and his avuncular style inspired New Zealanders to look at the stars. It was the country’s longest running TV show when it was cancelled in 1974, and he was the longest serving presenter. Peter Read died in 1981.
Graeme Tetley began his long scriptwriting career with Vigil, one of the most acclaimed New Zealand films of the 1980s. He went on to co-create police show Shark in the Park, collaborate extensively with director Gaylene Preston (Ruby and Rata, Bread and Roses), and co-write Out of the Blue, the story of the Aramoana massacre. Tetley passed away on 13 March 2011.
Geoff Murphy was a leading figure in the new wave of Kiwi filmmakers that emerged in the 1970s. His movie Goodbye Pork Pie became the first blockbuster of the local film renaissance. He completed an unsurpassed triple punch with Utu and sci-fi classic The Quiet Earth. Noted for his skill at action, knockabout comedy, and melding genres, Murphy spent a decade in Hollywood before returning home.
Maurice Gee, who was named an Arts Foundation icon in 2003, is one of New Zealand's most acclaimed writers. His work for the screen includes creating 80s kidult series The Fire-Raiser and The Champion. Gee's novels have also inspired a number of adaptations, notably classic sci-fi series Under the Mountain and movie In My Father's Den.
Fed up with seeing animals unintentionally mishandled on set, former farm girl Caroline Girdlestone decided to do something about it. Now one of the most respected animal trainers in Australasia, she’s worked with almost any animal imaginable across more than 500 projects – ranging from the cute barnyard animals of Racing Stripes to the horrifying ovine creatures in Black Sheep.