With his 1973 book Tangi, Witi Ihimaera became the first Māori to publish both a novel and a book of short stories. Later his book The Whale Rider inspired a feature film which won international acclaim, and became one of the highest grossing 'foreign' titles released internationally in 2003. Ihimaera's work has also seen a number of television adaptations, including landmark big city tale Big Brother, Little Sister.
Ainsley Gardiner, MNZM, has been a producer on a run of successful short films and hit movies. She worked with Taika Waititi and Cliff Curtis on Oscar-nominated short Tama Tu, and features Eagle vs Shark and Boy. Then Gardiner launched Miss Conception Films with fellow producer Georgina Conder. Their work includes hit comedy The Breaker Uppers and documentary She Shears.
Moana Maniapoto (MNZM) is a musician acclaimed for fusing traditional Māori and modern sounds (Moana and the Moahunters, Moana and the Tribe). With partner Toby Mills she has made award-winning films exploring Te Ao Māori, from cultural IP to activist Syd Jackson. Maniapoto has also appeared onscreen as a political commentator, fronted 90s kids show Yahoo, and played Doctor Aniwa Ryan on Shortland Street.
Gerard Smyth began his screen career in 1969 as a cameraman for state TV. Since turning director he has made documentaries on everything from the disabled (many for TV series Inside Out) to the arts. Qantas-nominated for his doco on cinematographer Alun Bollinger, Smyth made his feature debut with When a City Falls, an acclaimed account of the quakes in hometown Christchurch. He followed it with Jean Watson doco Aunty and the Star People.
Māori and Cook Island producer and director Lanita Ririnui has made a career telling the stories of youth, women, Māori and Pacific Islanders. Her extensive CV includes Pasifika youth show Fresh, Māori Television's flagship sports show Code, and interactive website Poi 360.
Co-creator of anthology series Mataku, Bradford Haami is a producer, director and scriptwriter as well as an author, lecturer and Māori historian. His passion for storytelling and expertise in Māori culture has seen him work on television productions and act as a consultant to numerous local and international drama, documentary and features over the past two decades.
Don Selwyn, ONZM, was an actor, casting director and mentor to a host of talented Māori who went on to work in film and television. Selwyn’s long acting resume includes 1970s historical epic The Governor and police show Mortimer’s Patch. He also directed The Māori Merchant of Venice, the first feature film in te reo Māori.
Hone Kouka studied English Literature at Otago University, then acting at Toi Whakaari. A leading figure in Māori theatre, Kouka is an acclaimed playwright (including The Prophet, which was filmed for TV in 2012). He has also written for the screen; he studied screenwriting at Amsterdam's Binger Institute, and co-wrote dance movie Born to Dance and NZ TV Award-winning Treaty of Waitangi drama Ngā Tohu: Signatures. In the mid 2000s Kouka executive produced a run of successful short films (Nature’s Way, Run) and worked in development at the NZ Film Commission, advising on films like Boy and The Orator.
Filmmaker and artist Gaylene Barnes has used her grab bag of skills on film sets, in editing suites, and as a painter and multi-media artist. Nominated for awards as both a production designer and an editor, Barnes has also directed everything from Hunger for the Wild to documentaries and animated shorts.
Christchurch-raised Tearepa Kahi began acting and playing saxophone as a teen, then spent two years in a theatre troupe run by Jim Moriarty. He went on to study history and Māori at Auckland University, and act — including a role in landmark te reo film The Māori Merchant of Venice (2002). Since then he has directed documentaries, award-winning shorts, and movie Mt Zion, starring Stan Walker — the most successful local cinema release of 2012. Kahi followed it with two feature-length music documentaries: acclaimed, Moa-nominated hit Poi E: The Story of Our Song, and 2019's Herbs - Songs of Freedom.