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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
Anthony Stones worked in design for NZ television for over 20 years, with credits ranging from drama to current affairs. After five years as TV2's head of design, he returned to his English birthplace in 1983. Outside of television, Stones made well-known public sculptures in Aotearoa, the UK and China; he died in China in September 2016, aged 82. Image credit: Photo taken and supplied by Dave Roberts
Dean O’Gorman starred in his first movie (Bonjour Timothy) at the age of only 17. Since then he has had leading roles in another four, including a 2017 remake of classic road movie Goodbye Pork Pie. En route O'Gorman has played dwarves (The Hobbit), jealous brothers (The Bad Seed), American movie legends (Trumbo) and Norse gods (The Almighty Johnsons).
A passionate advocate for Māori creative control, director Merata Mita (1942 — 2010) chronicled landmark moments of protest and division in Aotearoa. Her work included Patu!, a documentary on the 1981 Springbok tour, and Mauri (1988), only the second feature to have a Māori woman as director. She features in documentaries Merata: How Mum Decolonised the Screen and Merata Mita - Making Waves.