Aaron Watson's career path has been anything but dull. He's acted in children's television programmes (eg InFocus and Oi), performed at the 1996 Edinburgh Festival Fringe with his friend Duncan Sarkies, and spent 14 years as a tour guide in Russia and Central Europe. Dunedin-raised, Watson turned to producing in 2011, working with friend Jackie van Beek on short films In Safe Hands (a 2012 NZ Film Award winner) and Go the Dogs (2012 Berlin Film Festival). In 2017 the pair released their first feature film The Inland Road. Watson has gone on to produce feature comedy This Town, from Wellington filmmaker David White.
Born in Greece and raised in Adelaide, Athina Tsoulis began making films after she moved to Auckland in the 1980s. Black comedy The Invisible Hand was invited to multiple festivals, including Clermont-Ferrand. Long keen to tell women's stories, Tsoulis made her feature film debut in 1998 with edgy comedy I'll Make You Happy. Her follow-up, small town drama Jinx Sister, starring Sara Wiseman, was Qantas-nominated for the Best Low-Budget Feature of 2008. Third feature Stars in Her Eyes (2016) involved both screen industry veterans, and students from Unitec — where Tsoulis has for a number of years taught directing.
Veteran animator Euan Frizzell brought his artist's hands to almost every form of the genre, from traditional cartoons to stop motion to computer generated animation. Along the way, he animated stories by local legends Margaret Mahy and Lynley Dodd, and directed and animated for Bugs Bunny, Road Runner and Fred Flintstone. Frizzell died on 23 September 2012.
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.
Christchurch-raised Matt Whelan made his screen debut playing himself — as an acting student on 2005 reality series Tough Act. His big screen break was 2008‘s Show of Hands. But it was three seasons as a lovesick finance man on Go Girls that brought him a wider audience. Three award-nominated roles saw him in starring roles at the movies: cross-cultural romance My Wedding and Other Secrets, travel drama Most Fun You Can Have Dying, and Radio Hauraki tale 3 Mile Limit. In 2017 he was Hugh Hefner in Amazon series American Playboy — before flying to Columbia to chase drug cartels, for Netflix hit Narcos.
New Plymouth-raised Melanie Lynskey made her screen debut as Pauline Parker in the Oscar-nominated Heavenly Creatures (1994). Since then she has starred in Kiwi films Snakeskin and Show of Hands, and cultivated a career in Hollywood. Her long stateside CV now includes Two and a Half Men, The Informant! and starring roles in indie movie Hello I Must Be Going and acclaimed cable TV series Togetherness.
Mark Lapwood began a career of taking pictures at his local newspaper in Palmerston North. At 20 he relocated to Sydney, slowly working his way up the ladder to become a cinematographer. Graduating from the Australian Film TV and Radio School in 2000, he shot his first feature soon after: Indian drama Maya. Three years later he was based in India and filming across the globe. Lapwood returned to NZ in 2011.
Raised in Taranaki with seven siblings and roughly as many books, Anthony McCarten went on to co-write global stage hit Ladies Night. In 1998 he made his directorial debut with a movie of his play Via Satellite, followed later by Show of Hands. In 2015 he won two BAFTA awards after writing Stephen Hawking biopic The Theory of Everything. Winston Churchill drama Darkest Hour and Bohemian Rhapsody followed.
Alan Erson captured the everyday lives of New Zealanders in 1990s documentary series First Hand. His directing credits also include Heartland and Nuclear Reaction. Since 2004 Erson has built a successful career in Australia as Head of Documentary and Factual Programmes for the ABC, and General Manager at Essential Media and Entertainment. In 2016 he became Managing Director at WildBear Entertainment.
Should Clive Sowry ever choose to enter Mastermind, his knowledge of the National Film Unit will give his competitors a definite run for their money. Sowry worked at the government filmmaking organisation for 14 years, including nine as the NFU's archivist. He went on to undertake a programme that saved 100s of local films, and has written often about filmmaking in New Zealand — including for NZ On Screen.