His name was synonymous with entertainment in New Zealand. Dubbed Ol' Brown Eyes — Māoridom's version of Frank Sinatra — Howard Morrison's voice and charisma carried him through decades of success both here and abroad. From the Howard Morrison Quartet to time as a solo performer, Morrison's take on songs like 'How Great Thou Art' ensured his waiata an enduring place at the top of local playlists.
Twenty-five plus years spent working in Māori tourism proved valuable when Karen Te O Kahurangi Waaka-Tibble moved into television production. The Rotorua local was used to managing people and events, so making TV shows was a natural fit. Now general manager for Kura Productions, Waaka-Tibble has produced nine seasons of children's te reo show Pūkoro, and was line producer on movie Mt Zion.
Rūātoki-raised Reuben Collier cut his screen teeth reporting on Waka Huia. In 2001 he founded Maui TV Productions in Rotorua. Collier's producing and directing credits include Marae, Matatini coverage, award-winning documentary Sciascia, and long-running food show Kai Time on the Road. in 2017 Collier was made a Member of the New Zealand Order of Merit for services to the television industry and Māori.
Cliff Curtis alternates a busy diet of acting in the United States (where he's forged a reputation as the actor to call on, for roles of varied ethnicity) with smaller scale New Zealand projects — including co-producing Taika Waititi smash Boy. His CV of Kiwi classics includes playing Pai's father in Whale Rider, Uncle Bully on Once Were Warriors, and bipolar chess champion Genesis Potini in The Dark Horse.
Self-taught editor Cushla Dillon moved from shorter works to features with Harry Sinclair's Topless Women Talk about their Lives: both the bite-sized TV series then the movie, for which she won her first NZ film award. Dillon has gone on to edit shorts, documentaries, and many more features — including The Price of Milk, Orphans & Kingdoms, and award-winning documentary This Way of Life.
Ernie Leonard spent time as a soldier, a railways clerk and public relations officer. His first television job was as an actor on Pukemanu, and he became a household name co-presenting wrestling show On the Mat. In 1986 Leonard became the first head of TVNZ's Māori Programmes Department. When he retired, a search of the TVNZ Archives database yielded 38,000 references to him or programmes he'd been associated with.
Brother of pioneering aviator Jean Batten, Rotorua-born John Batten began acting in films while living in the United States. By the 1930s he was winning starring roles in England, including The Great Game and submarine drama Men Like This. Later he appeared in his only known New Zealand film, Rudall Hayward short Song of the Wanganui. Batten passed away in England in 1993.
Between getting his start in filmmaking with the National Film Unit, and returning to New Zealand to retire, John Feeney made his name as a director at the National Film Board of Canada; he also spent 40 years filming and photographing in Egypt. Some of his NFU films were considered to be outstanding documentaries, and two of his Canadian films were nominated for Academy Awards.
Temuera Morrison was acting on screen at age 11. Two decades later he won Kiwi TV immortality as Dr Ropata in Shortland Street, and rave global reviews as abusive husband Jake Heke in Once Were Warriors. Since reprising his Warriors role in a well-regarded sequel, Morrison has starred in Crooked Earth, Tracker and Mahana, hosted a talk show and a variety show, and played Jango Fett in two Star Wars prequels.
Kimo Houltham was raised in Rotorua, and grew up speaking Māori. He performed kapa haka for tourists as his first job, and got his screen break as a 16-year-old at a speech competition, when a TV producer suggested he audition for Māori Television’s flagship youth show HAA. Hosting gigs on music series LIPS, rangatahi shows I AM TV and talent quest The Stage - Haka Fusion followed. Alongside work as a high school teacher, Houltham has also acted: he was one of the warriors in te reo action feature The Dead Lands, and the heroine’s gay best friend in Rotorua-set TV drama This is Piki.