Described by New Zealand Geographic as the "doyen of New Zealand diving", Wade Doak was an author, marine ecologist and conservationist. Along with Kelly Tarlton he was a pioneer of underwater exploration and filming in Aotearoa. Behind and in front of the camera, he contributed to documentaries for Wild South and production company NHNZ, and showcased Aotearoa’s undersea world to wide audiences.
Barry Barclay — director of landmark TV series Tangata Whenua and feature film Ngati — was a longtime campaigner for the right of indigenous people to tell their own stories, to their own people. In 2004 he was made an Arts Foundation Laureate, and in 2007 a Member of the NZ Order of Merit. Barclay passed away on 19 February 2008, after publishing his acclaimed book Mana Tuturu.
There were times when the career of longtime National Film Unit director David Sims could have been cut short. Having survived close encounters with steam locomotives in mountainous terrain, he narrowly escaped being blown up, drowned and burnt alive at sea. Even filming a planned set-up on location had its hazards, as he found when his call of “action!” sent exploding rocks whistling by perilously close overhead.
The versatile Peter Young began writing and directing at TVNZ's Natural History Unit in 1989. After moving into camerawork, he launched his own company Fisheye Films in 1997. Since then Young has shot images around the world, directed acclaimed passion projects about post-quake Christchurch and the Ross Sea, and helmed TV series showcasing local landscapes and cuisine (Hunger for the Wild, Get Fresh with Al Brown).
While still in his 20s Chris Thomson was given command of a number of landmark New Zealand TV dramas, including genre-hopping colonial tale The Killing of Kane and The Alpha Plan (1969), Aotearoa’s first dramatic TV series. After time working for the BBC, he moved to Australia and began a busy career as a director, including credits on high profile mini-series 1915 and Waterfront. Thomson died on 1 July 2015.
New Zealand-born Erroll Shand majored in acting at the University of Southern Queensland, then returned home in the early 2000s after early roles on Australian television. Shand has gone on to carve out a memorable gallery of bad guys — from drug kingpin Terry Clark in Underbelly: Land of the Long Green Cloud and the dodgy boyfriend in witness protection tale Safe House, to terrifying gangleader ‘Chocka’ Fahey in cop drama Harry. The roles haven't all been criminal. In movie The Z-Nail Gang he was a surfer and family man, while 2017 series Dear Murderer saw him playing a crown prosecutor.
After working at the National Film Unit, the BBC and Canada's National Film Board, John Laing made his feature film debut as a director with Arthur Allan Thomas drama Beyond Reasonable Doubt (1980). Since then he has directed another six features, and many television shows and tele-movies. Laing has also produced for both Outrageous Fortune and Mercy Peak.
Tama Poata's wide-ranging contributions to our culture can be glimpsed through his appearances on-screen: from campaigns for Māori land rights (in 1975 doco Te Matakite O Aotearoa) and against the Springbok tour (Patu!), to his many acting roles. He also directed documentaries and wrote landmark 1987 movie Ngati, the first feature written (and directed) by Māori.
Alun Falconer started his film career at the National Film Unit in 1946. Early in 1948 he and cameraman Roger Mirams left the NFU and founded the Pacific Film Unit. A year later he went to China where he worked as a journalist and was an eyewitness to the fall of Shanghai. He left in 1950 for London where he returned to film production and later made his name as a television script writer.