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.
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
Barbara Darragh's screen costumes have been worn by ghosts, prostitutes, Māori warriors and Tainuia Kid Billy T James. An award-winner for The Dead Lands, River Queen and The End of the Golden Weather, Darragh's CV includes TV shows Under the Mountain and Greenstone, plus more than a dozen other features. She also runs Auckland costume hire company Across the Board.
Globetrotting New Zealander Len Lye was a gifted innovator in many areas of the arts — film, painting, sculpture, photography, and writing. Inventing ways to make films without a camera, he became one of the pioneers of the genre later known as the music video. Later he moved to New York's Greenwich Village and became a leading figure in the kinetic art movements of the 1950s and 60s.
The son of legendary Pacific Films producer John O’Shea, Rory O’Shea made his mark as a camera operator and lighting cameraman of sensitivity and skill. His artistically-composed images complemented and enhanced the vision of key collaborators like directors Tony Williams and Barry Barclay.
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.
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.
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.
Colin McKenzie joins Rudall Hayward and Ted Coubray as one of the earliest New Zealanders to make feature films on Kiwi soil. McKenzie was a technical innovator, responsible for a number of international filmmaking firsts. His unfinished epic Salome finally premiered in 1995, six decades after his death.
Andrew Niccol is one of the rare Kiwis to have made a career in Hollywood, and to boot he has done so largely with films based on his original ideas. His directing debut was dystopic GE future tale Gattaca, and he wrote one of the most acclaimed films of the 90s, reality TV saga The Truman Show. He has directed A-list actors Al Pacino, Ethan Hawke, Uma Thurman, Nicolas Cage, and Justin Timberlake.