James Cunningham made a name for himself after creating a run of stylish CGI-animated shorts — from 1997‘s Delf, and Cannes-selected Infection, through to acclaimed WWI tale Poppy. Now teaching 3D animation at Auckland’s Media Design School, Cunningham is also directing live action shorts, while developing a CGI feature with producing partner Paul Swadel.
Director and editor Lala Rolls has made short films, music videos and documentaries (Tupaia's Endeavour, Children of the Migration). She has gone on location throughout the Pacific Islands, and had her work invited to festivals in New Zealand and overseas.
Trevor Spitz, who died in March 2012, was a key player in the 1989 launch of channel TV3. The musician turned promoter had begun working in television in the 70s as a talent scout and producer of entertainment shows, and won success — and controversy — with hit television export That's Country. He was influential in the careers of many performers, including comedic duo McPhail and Gadsby and singer Suzanne Prentice.
John Knowles has held many leadership roles in broadcasting, and worked around the world. Ask Knowles to name his highlight and he’s very clear — being TVNZ's Head of Sport at precisely the right time. In 1979 he was one of the only television reporters to visit Antartica, to report on the Mount Erebus disaster.
Tim Woodhouse has cut some of New Zealand’s most celebrated documentaries since crossing from Australia in 1989. Although he won a Best Editing award for drama Staunch, Woodhouse has largely specialised in documentary. En route he has worked with director Leanne Pooley on Haunting Douglas, Topp Twins hit Untouchable Girls, Beyond The Edge (about Hillary on Everest), and animated film 25 April.
Nick Ward broke into screenwriting with pool comedy Stickmen. An instant Kiwi hit, the film won him a New Zealand Film Award for Best Screenplay in 2001. He went on to originate and co-write hit romance Second-Hand Wedding, then reconvened with Wedding director Paul Murphy for follow-up Love Birds. In 2019 he created television black comedy Fresh Eggs with Kim Harrop. Ward has also penned episodes of series Outrageous Fortune and Burying Brian, and horror flick The Ferryman.
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.
One of New Zealand's best known screen actors, Sam Neill possesses a blend of everyman ordinariness, charm and good looks that have made him an international leading man. His resume of television and 70+ feature films includes leading roles in landmark New Zealand movies, from a man alone on the run in breakout feature Sleeping Dogs to the repressed settler in The Piano.
Oliver Hilbert began lecturing at Auckland’s Media Design School in 2009. Hilbert has worked in visual effects for over 15 years, including animating computer models for the British arm of former games heavyweight Midway, on their popular Wheelman games. He has produced a number of Design School shorts, and wrote, directed and edited Cocked Up and Escargore, usually working with a team of students. Short films that he's been involved in — including Das Tub and Accidents, Blunders, and Calamities — have picked up awards both in New Zealand, and as far afield as the United States, Germany and Spain.
The career of Grant Bradley demonstrates that New Zealand producers can find many sources to fund their movies, beyond the beaten path to the Film Commission. Bradley set up company Daybreak Pictures in 1990. After producing more than 20 titles for Daybreak, he relocated to Australia in 2008 with his brother Dale. The duo established NZ and UK-based company Aristos Films in 2013.