The broadcasting career of so-called 'Mr Country Calendar' Frank Torley spanned almost half a century. He worked on the iconic rural series as reporter, producer and narrator, and a number of other programmes besides. In 2002, he was awarded the ONZM for services to broadcasting. Torley died of cancer on 27 March 2016, just weeks after Country Calendar celebrated its 50th year on air.
One of the earliest New Zealand women to work in movies, the late Hilda Hayward collaborated with her husband Rudall on four silent feature films in the 1920s. Author Deborah Shepard argues that her coverage of the 1932 Auckland riots make her New Zealand’s first known camerawoman. Hilda Hayward passed away in 1970.
Producer Colin Follas worked on a long line of agriculture-related TV shows: from Country Calendar (which he regularly fronted, with such aplomb he was known as 'One Shot Follas') to specialist productions Ag Report and Farming with Pictures. He set up company Tiger Films, and produced shows ranging from corporate videos and food promotions to award-winning Treaty of Waitangi drama Nga Tohu: Signatures.
2013 Arts Foundation Laureate Dean Parker has written extensively for stage, television, radio and print. Alongside his own projects, he has shown himself as a skilled adaptor of everyone from Nicky Hager (The Hollow Men) to Ronald Hugh Morrieson (movie classic Came a Hot Friday).
Owen Hughes segued directly from university to a job at independent production company Pacific Films. Since establishing his own company Frame Up Films in 1977, Hughes has gone on to produce 40 plus documentaries and many dramas. Along the way he has nurtured the talents of a number of directors early in their careers, including Niki Caro, Fiona Samuel and Jessica Hobbs.
Ronald Sinclair began his movie career at age 11 as Ra Hould, when he appeared in Down on the Farm (1935), a contender for New Zealand’s first feature-length drama made with sound. The following year he went to Hollywood, where MGM changed his name to Ronald Sinclair for movie Thoroughbreds Don’t Cry. After war service with the US Army he worked for more than two decades as a film editor.
Trevor Spitz, who died in March 2012, was a key player in the 1989 launch of channel TV3. The musician turned promoter had begun working in television in the 70s as a talent scout and producer of entertainment shows, and won success — and controversy — with hit television export That's Country. He was influential in the careers of many performers, including comedic duo McPhail and Gadsby and singer Suzanne Prentice.
Ian Watkin's long acting career saw him playing mad doctors, priests, axe-wielding stepfathers, and American presidents. Part of the legendary Blerta troupe which toured Australasia in the 1970s, Watkin went on to appearances in everything from Beyond Reasonable Doubt and an iconic Crunchie bar commercial, to presenting Miss Universe New Zealand. He passed away in May 2016.
The late Margaret Thomson is arguably the first New Zealand woman to have directed films. Thomson spent much of her film career working in England, plus two years back in New Zealand at the National Film Unit. Her NFU short Railway Worker (1948) is regarded as a classic.
Director Michael Firth was an unheralded figure in the Kiwi film renaissance. His debut movie, ski film Off the Edge, was the first New Zealand feature to be Oscar-nominated. Noted US critic Andrew Sarris praised drama Sylvia, based on teacher Sylvia Ashton-Warner, as one of 1985's best films. Firth's subjects ranged from incest to fishing; his TV series Adrenalize sold to 50 countries. He passed away on 9 October 2016.