Richard Thomas has a passion for documentary. After directing for the BBC's legendary doco series Man Alive, he moved downunder and became head of Television One’s information programme department. Following a short spell as Director of Television at the ABC in Australia, he settled in New Zealand to make some compelling television documentaries — and inspire others to do the same.
Alongside his brother Jeff, Phill Simmonds has created a run of quirky short films, which utilise traditional animation to retell real-life stories. The films from the SPADA 2006 New Filmmaker of the Year (shared with Jeff) include family history tale A Very Nice Honeymoon and bickering band chronicle The Paselode Story. His latest project is an animated feature film based on Parihaka.
Best-known as an outspoken and award-winning columnist, Rosemary McLeod devised and was principal writer on iconic 80s soap Gloss. McLeod was a newspaper reporter for years before moving into broadcasting. She eventually became a sitcom writer and script editor both in New Zealand and Australia, and was among the first women to write a sitcom in either country.
From trainee reporter to TVNZ’s Head of Television and then on to Managing Director of Australia’s Special Broadcasting Service, Shaun Brown’s career spanned 45 years. And all but four of those years were linked directly to public broadcasting. While the latter half of his career saw him increasingly taking on executive roles, he brought with him the experience of having worked at almost every level of the business.
Veteran Australian-born producer Phil Wallington has 50 plus years of screen credits. A 1989 shift to New Zealand following 23 years at Australia’s ABC news saw him take on a run of executive producer roles on current affairs shows; he helped produce the controversial 1990 Frontline report on Labour Party campaign funding. The Top Shelf producer is also a regular media commentator.
Rachael Blampied’s screen roles range from war heroine to unhinged surgeon. Northland-raised Blampied graduated in acting from Unitec in 2006. She found fame on Shortland Street in 2011 as Doctor Bree Hamilton, the disturbed and manipulative sister of Beth Allen's character. In 2013 Blampied starred as Nancy Wake, the Kiwi-born hero of the French Resistance, in TV's Nancy Wake: The White Mouse. She has also acted in The Almighty Johnsons, Dirty Laundry and the NZ edition of Underbelly. For Outward Bound satire Darryl, the passionate snowboarder went outdoors to play a hard-nosed human resources manager.
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.
Ken Blackburn, MNZM, 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.
With Hunter's Gold, Gather Your Dreams and Children of Fire Mountain, Roger Simpson blazed a successful trail for Kiwi drama shows aimed at a younger audience. Though he has written further New Zealand projects, Simpson relocated to Australia in the early 70s. Since then he has written and produced on a long run of television dramas, most often alongside producing partner Roger Le Mesurier.
The career of pioneering documentarian Bill Saunders began in the early days of New Zealand television. He went on to champion a fly on the wall documentary style and win Feltex Awards for acclaimed films on Moriori, and the elderly. Saunders was the final remaining member of TVNZ’s documentary unit when it was disbanded in 1988, and an outspoken advocate of public service broadcasting until his death in 1995.