Rod Morris has more than three decades experience as a wildlife photographer and filmmaker. After working on the quest to save the Chatham Island black robin, he joined TVNZ's Natural History Unit (now independent company NHNZ) in 1980. His name is found on more than 30 books, and his photography has helped spur generations of Kiwis to share his passion for the natural world.
Rob Whitehouse began his producing career in style with The Scarecrow, the first Kiwi film to win official invitation to the Cannes Film Festival. In tandem with late producing partner Lloyd Phillips, he brought Hollywood down under for Battletruck and big-budget adventure Savage Islands, and made mini-series Heart of the High Country. Since then he has produced and financed films in the US, UK and beyond.
Kiwi-born Samoan Nathaniel Lees began acting on stage in 1975, and on screen in 1984. Since then he has become a leading force in the development of Pacific Island theatre in Aotearoa, and brought his distinctive baritone voice to everything from The Billy T James Show to The Matrix.
In 2010, thanks to his work on James Cameron's Avatar, Kim Sinclair joined the short list of Kiwis to have scored both an Academy Award and a Bafta. His globetrotting career as a production designer has seen him working in locations from Mexico to Thailand to the Southern Alps, and for directors Martin Campbell (Vertical Limit), Steven Spielberg (The Adventures of Tintin) and Robert Zemeckis (Cast Away).
Dropping in on the Americans at the South Pole for afternoon tea, having driven there by tractor, was one of the most unusual events of Derek Wright's career as a National Film Unit cameraman. In his 40 years with the NFU he filled many other roles, from laboratory assistant to producer: but it is for his filming in the Antarctic that he is particularly remembered.
PI Kiwi Oscar Kightley is a writer, actor, presenter and director. After co-creating The Naked Samoans, he worked with the comedy troupe on five seasons of hit series bro’Town, NZ's first animated show to play in prime-time. Kightley has also worked with the Samoans as an actor and writer in hit feature Sione’s Wedding and its 2012 sequel. In 2013 he took on a serious role, starring as the detective in TV series Harry.
Stephen Stehlin has been involved with flagship Pacific show Tagata Pasifika for over 30 years. Alongside Ngaire Fuata and John Utanga, he launched SunPix in 2015. The company took over Tagata Pasifika after Television New Zealand outsourced its stable of Māori and Pacific programmes. Of Samoan descent, Stehlin has been honoured as both a Samoan matai chief, and as a Member of the NZ Order of Merit.
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.
As writer and presenter of The World Around Us, and producer of Looking at New Zealand, Conon Fraser was an early television celebrity. He joined the National Film Unit in 1969 and continued to make films documenting his adopted country’s landscape and history, and New Zealanders’ way of life. Fraser died on 17 June 2014, aged 84.
Trailblazing broadcaster Shirley Maddock, ONZM, was making and presenting television in 1960, when the medium first began in New Zealand. After doing theatre in London and radio in New York, she went on to produce and present a series of documentaries in her homeland, and wrote a bestselling book to accompany 1964 series Islands of the Gulf. Maddock passed away on 10 October 2001. She was 72.