Ted Coubray was one of Aotearoa's earliest filmmakers to sustain a full-time career. In the 1920s he began filming local events for screenings in town halls around the Manawatū. He went on to shoot a number of feature films, including his own hit Carbine's Heritage. When sound hit the film industry in the late 20s, the inventive Coubray pioneered his own sound on film system, Coubray-Tone. He died on 10 December 1997. Image credit: taken from Geoff Steven documentary Adventures in Māoriland
A pioneer of computer-generated imagery in New Zealand, John Sheils helped conjure angry cave trolls, flying buzzy bees and herds of roaming TV sets. Time as a camera operator fueled his interest in images unconstrained by gravity or nature. Sheils went on to work on The Fellowship of the Ring, Perfect Creature, Spartacus, and a run of video games and adverts — plus Red Scream, NZ’s first CG short film.
Surely the most famous comedian to rise from West Auckland, Ewen Gilmour won the first Billy T award in 1997, and a devoted following. The longtime petrolhead had begun making regular appearances on TV show Pulp Comedy in the mid 90s; there would also be live performances in Paris, Ireland, Montreal, and across the length of New Zealand. Gilmour passed away in his sleep in early October 2014.
Burton Silver has presented persuasive evidence that cats can paint, dogs can be remote-controlled, and hedgehogs can worry. Despite his supple comedic sense, much of this evidence has been accepted wholesale. Silver began by creating long-running Listener cartoon Bogor, about a hedgehog and a woodsman. He also wrote 1981 TV fantasy The Monster's Christmas, and was a key player behind a series of beloved hoax Country Calendar episodes. Since then he has written global bestsellers about cats that dance and paint, and invented a new sport: GolfCross, a variation on golf that's played with an oval ball.
John McKay is a veteran sound editor, sound designer, and mixer. He abandoned an early focus on directing to build a diverse, respected career in post-production. His credits include significant contributions to iconic films The Quiet Earth, Footrot Flats, Kitchen Sink, and Lord of the Rings. McKay is notable for an approach which combines creativity with a high level of technical craft and organisational rigour.
Jonathan Brough's short films have screened at Cannes, Edinburgh and America's Slamdance Film Festival. His directing CV includes episodes of Outrageous Fortune, the acclaimed The Insiders Guide to Happiness and mockumentary The Pretender, followed by a run of acclaimed Australian TV comedies (Rosehaven, The Family Law). He also edited award-winning documentary Colin McCahon: I Am.
Keith Hawke was behind the camera on landmark TV series Tangata Whenua, and many other productions besides. In the 80s he reinvented himself in Asia as a director/producer of television and corporate videos, working in Hong Kong, Singapore and Malaysia.
Having grown up in a musical family, Esther Stephens found it hard to decide between music or acting. So she did both. After training in performing and screen arts, she won an ongoing role as fashionista Olivia Duff in Go Girls. Since then, Stephens has had major parts in WWI drama When We Go to War and Westside. On stage, she won acclaim as suffragette Kate Sheppard in musical That Bloody Woman.
The late Margaret Thomson is arguably the first New Zealand woman to have directed films. Thomson spent much of her film career working in England, plus two years back in New Zealand at the National Film Unit. Her NFU short Railway Worker (1948) is regarded as a classic.
For three decades Peter Sinclair was one of New Zealand’s leading TV presenters. A radio announcer by training, he was the face of music television, fronting Let’s Go, C’mon and Happen Inn from 1964 to 1973. He reinvented himself as a quiz show host with Mastermind — and hosted telethons and beauty contests until the mid 90s. Sinclair returned to radio and wrote an online column until his death in August 2001.