Starring one cow and two elderly guitarists, Michael Bennett's first short film Cow was invited to screen at the 2002 Cannes Film Festival. Since then he has written and/or directed a wide range of projects, from children's television (Kaitangata Twitch) to award-winning shows about Māori architecture (Whare Māori). His feature film work includes ensemble feature Matariki, and the script for Cliff Curtis comedy Jubilee.
Samoan-born and South Auckland raised, Anapela Polataivao began acting at age eight. After graduating from Toi Whakaari she launched theatre group Kila Kokonut Krew in 2002, with Vela Manusaute; the two were prime movers behind musical The Factory, which morphed into a 2014 web series. Polataivao is also one half of comedy duo Pani and Pani; with Goretti Chadwick, she created and presents hit Māori TV reality show Games of Bros. Polataivao's CV also includes an award-winning lead role in short Night Shift, a nomination for series The Market, and work as an acting tutor at the Pacific Institute of Performing Arts.
The first Niuean to graduate from drama school Toi Whakaari, Vela Manusuate scored a 1997 Chapman Tripp award for comedy, as part of duo The Brownies (alongside Canada Alofa). Facing limited roles for Pacific Island actors, Manusuate helped found theatre and music group Kila Kokonut Krew in 2002. The team's biggest hit to date has been The Factory, based partly on his father's move to NZ; in 2014 it was reborn as a web series.
Joe Lonie began making music videos while playing bass for legendary band Supergroove. Since then his 60 plus music clips — four of them Tui award-winners — have included one-shot wonders Gather To The Chapel (for Liam Finn) and Blowin’ Dirt (for Goodshirt). On top of a busy commercials career, and a Cannes Gold Lion award, Lonie began adding drama to his CV in 2012, thanks to two short films set in a moving vehicle: foulmouthed, festival-hopping taxi tale Honk if You're Horny, and rock band short Shout at the Ground. He also directed South Auckland-set web series The Factory.
A proud son of the West Coast, Peter Hawes was a fixture on NZ television in the late 70s and early 80s. After writing for A Week of It, he presented Yours for the Asking, giving free rein to his irreverent wit and fondness for wordplay as he sought answers to viewer questions. Hawes has also written extensively for the theatre and authored a number of well-received novels.
Robin Scholes is one of New Zealand’s most experienced and respected producers. Her credits range from feature films (Once Were Warriors, Mahana, Mr Pip) to iconic TV shows (Magic Kiwis) and documentaries (Colin McCahon: I Am). In 1997 she was made an OBE for services to the film and television industry.
Justin Hawkes knew from age 10 that he wanted to work in television. He was an avid collector of international TV guides, and at age 13, sent TV3 a new programming schedule. Hawkes began his career as a tape operator at TVNZ, before honing his directing skills at music channel M2. Hawkes has directed for Netflix travel show Dark Tourist, and edited a run of documentaries (e.g. Stan, Awa: Born This Way).
Ray Woolf’s career as a performer spans from rock’n’roll to jazz, including touring shows of The Rocky Horror Picture Show and The Sound of Music. Born in England, but New Zealand-based since the early 60s, Woolf’s television work includes singing, acting, and hosting his own talk show. He was New Zealand Entertainer of the Year in 1975.
One time cheerleading champ Kimberley Crossman won a keen following playing Sophie McKay on Shortland Street. Over four years from late 2006, her lively head girl character had romantic encounters with a bully and a paraplegic, before marrying older barman Kieran Mitchell. Crossman then departed for LA; she returned home to juggle a role on Kiwi drama Step Dave with co-presenting Cadbury Dream Factory.
Entrepreneur Brooke Howard-Smith first won fame for his skating skills. In the 1990s he was part of the team behind both a series of hit American skating films, and skating accessories company Senate. After returning home in the late 90s, he began an extended run as co-host of consumer affairs show Target, and owned an Auckland nightclub. Howard-Smith has also presented Cadbury Dream Factory and a range of sports coverage, including extreme sports show XSTV. Now heading management company We Are Tenzing, he has organised many charity events — from Cure Kids to 2011 telethon Rise Up Christchurch.