Since the late 1980s Bryan Bruce has been a prolific documentary maker and presenter. Over more than 30 documentaries, plus three seasons of The Investigator, he has cast fresh eyes on some of the most famous crimes in New Zealand’s history, and asked tough questions about the country’s economic and social trajectory.
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.
Legendary filmmaker Rudall Hayward, MBE, directed seven features over five decades — decades in which the concept of Kiwi movie-making was still an oxymoron, or meant a foreigner was in charge. Inspired by NZ’s cross-cultural history, Hayward remade his own Rewi’s Last Stand in 1940. Later he married Rewi star Ramai Te Miha, launching a filmmaking partnership that lasted until Rudall’s death in May 1974.
Welsh-born James Harris played an important role in the founding of the National Film Unit in 1941. A well-educated, versatile filmmaker equally at home behind the camera, operating a splicer or wielding a pen, he spent 26 years with the NFU, mostly as a senior director. Photo credit: Archives New Zealand, reference AAQT 6401 A23,729
Ken Blackburn is a familiar face on New Zealand stage and screen. In a career spanning 50+ years he's appeared in iconic television shows (Gliding On, Shortland Street) and films — including a lead role in 1978 feature Skin Deep. Blackburn was awarded a New Zealand Order of Merit in 2005; in 2017 he received the a Lifetime Achievement award, acknowledging long-serving local actors.
Since the 1970s John Barnett has brought a host of uniquely Kiwi stories to local and international screens, from Fred Dagg and Footrot Flats, to Whale Rider, Sione's Wedding and Outrageous Fortune. As boss of production company South Pacific Pictures for 24 years, he was a driving force behind some of our landmark television dramas and feature films.
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.
Douglas Drury was one of a group of producers who lead an expansion of local television drama at a time — the mid 60s — where New Zealanders rarely saw their own stories on screen. Later, as second in command of state television’s drama department, he helped launch landmark series Pukemanu and initiated NZ's first situation comedy, Buck House. Drury passed away in Australia on 5 February 2016.
Roger Donaldson is notable for spearheading the New Zealand film renaissance with Sleeping Dogs (1977). He has been busy directing in Hollywood for much of the period since. Donaldson's first Kiwi story since acclaimed drama Smash Palace (1981) was Burt Munro biopic The World’s Fastest Indian (2005) — the most successful New Zealand film on home soil until the arrival of Taika Waititi's Boy in 2010.
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