Writer and comedian Jon Gadsby, QSM, likely spent more time being funny on NZ television screens than almost anyone — aside perhaps from his longtime partner in crime, David McPhail. After appearing together on breakthrough comedy show A Week of It, the two helped form the comic backbone of the long-running McPhail and Gadsby, satirical show Issues, and the outdoor escapades of Letter to Blanchy.
David McPhail's television resume is that of a genuine stayer. Working with Jon Gadsby, his longtime comic partner in crime, McPhail co-starred — and famously impersonated Sir Rob Muldoon — in landmark sketch shows A Week of It and McPhail and Gadsby. Later he helped create the Barry Crump-style yarns of Letter to Blanchy, and was the no-nonsense teacher in the acclaimed Seven Periods with Mr Gormsby.
For three decades, playwright and critic Bruce Mason played intelligent, impassioned witness to many key developments in Kiwi theatre and culture; a number of them his own. His play The Pohutukawa Tree has spawned more than 180 productions, and was watched by 20 million after being adapted for the BBC. The End of the Golden Weather is both a classic solo play, and movie.
Lawyer turned satirist AK Grant was writing partner to comedians David McPhail and Jon Gadsby. Together the three created breakthrough comedy hit A Week of It; Grant went on to write for McPhail and Gadsby, Letter to Blanchy and the sitcom version of The Billy T James Show. He passed away on 29 June 2000, at the age of 59.
Brit-born but long based in New Zealand, April Phillips has acted on television and film, and written a number of award-winning short films. She both wrote and starred in shorts Letter for Hope and Utu Pihikete, then stepped up to directing with 2016's REM. The horror tale won screenings and awards at a number of global film festivals. Phillips has a Masters in Scriptwriting from Victoria University's International Institute of Modern Letters. Her extensive CV of theatre work includes ensemble drama Motel. Her comic play STiFF has had seasons in Auckland, London and Melbourne.
Keith Hunter is an award-winning writer and documentary maker, known for his investigations into miscarriages of justice. His screen credits include The Remand of Ivan Curry, Out of the Dark, Staunch, and award-winner Murder on the Blade?, about the Scott Watson case. Hunter has also directed drama and comedy on shows such as Mortimer's Patch and Letter to Blanchy.
Paul Holmes, KCNZM, helped change the face of New Zealand broadcasting. In 1989 the actor turned radio host began presenting primetime news and magazine show Holmes in spectacular style, when guest Dennis Conner walked out of his interview. Holmes balanced the TV show and a popular radio slot for 15 years, followed by a stint with Prime TV and current affairs show Q+A. He passed away on 1 February 2013.
Christchurch-raised Anna Cottrell is a prolific documentary maker, with a keen interest in the stories that people tell. Her work ranges widely, from documentaries on immigrants (An Immigrant Nation) and family (Other People's Children), to five seasons of the bite-sized Great War Stories. Cottrell launched her company AC Productions in 2001.
Fred Barnes founded Country Calendar in 1966. The show would become one of the longest running on the planet; and as presenter, Barnes became one of New Zealand's most widely-known TV personalities. After commanding rural broadcasting for state television and radio, Barnes trained journalists in Malaysia and headed Radio New Zealand's overseas programming division. He died 13 March 1993, at 72.
The son of a Canterbury mayor and lay preacher, Winter Hall turned his early love of acting into a long and steady Hollywood career. He used friendships forged in Australasian dramatic companies to gain entrée into the silent film world, and became a valuable, “poised and distinguished” supporting actor in over 100 films, including 1925 silent epic Ben-Hur. His career continued unabated through the introduction of the ‘talkies’. Image credit: Alexander Turnbull Library, B-158-009 (detail)