Elam School of Fine Arts graduate Summer Agnew first made his mark with acclaimed documentary Minginui (2004), which he co-directed with fellow Elam graduate Adam Luxton. The film offered a moody portrait of a former mill town. The SPADA New Filmmaker of 2007 followed it with episodes of Let's Get Inventin' and New Artland — plus short film Patu Ihu, which played at festivals in Aotearoa and overseas. In 2016 Agnew and Luxton's 'speculative documentary' On an Unknown Beach was chosen to debut in the NZ International Film Festival. Agnew has also directed a run of music videos and commercials.
During his 34 years as a National Film Unit cameraman, Kell Fowler filmed throughout New Zealand, and travelled as far afield as China and the South Pole. Career highlights included his work as cameraman and director of Oscar-nominated Antarctic film One Hundred and Forty Days Under the World (1964), and the filming of the sweeping three-screen vistas that featured in Expo 70 hit This is New Zealand.
Janet Frame (1924 - 2004) is an icon of New Zealand literature and her international reputation rests on an original, "edge of the alphabet" use of language. She was twice rumoured to be short-listed for the Nobel Prize, and was acclaimed as "one of the great writers of our time" (San Francisco Chronicle). Her life and work have notably been translated to screen.
Kiwi Chris Dudman studied film at Ilam and London’s Royal College of Art; his graduation short was nominated for a student Oscar. After working on arts documentaries in the UK, Dudman returned to NZ in 1995. Since then he has directed drama shows (the high-rating Harry), documentaries (The Day that Changed My Life), attention-grabbing shorts (Choice Night), and a number of high profile ads for his company Robber’s Dog.
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.
After graduating from New Zealand Broadcasting School, Clarke Gayford created student show Cow TV. Presenting gigs followed for music channel C4, United Travel Getaway, and Extraordinary Kiwis. In 2016 he swapped his microphone for a speargun to launch Fish of the Day, a Choice TV show about his lifelong passion. In 2017 Gayford became NZ’s 'first bloke', when partner Jacinda Ardern became Prime Minister.
Dropping in on the Americans at the South Pole for afternoon tea, having driven there by tractor, was one of the most unusual events of Derek Wright's career as a National Film Unit cameraman. In his 40 years with the NFU he filled many other roles, from laboratory assistant to producer: but it is for his filming in the Antarctic that he is particularly remembered.
Sam Pillsbury's The Scarecrow was the first Kiwi movie to win invitation to the prestigious Cannes Film Festival. Starting at government filmmaking body the Natonal Film Unit, the part-Kiwi, part-American dlrector worked in documentary — including helming the controversial Birth with Dr. R.D. Laing — before making a run of feature films and TV movies, both in New Zealand and North America.
Award-winning creative collective The Candle Wasters unveiled the first of many "fierce, funny, feminist web series" in 2013. Claris Jacobs, Minnie Grace and sisters Elsie and Sally Bollinger had discovered a mutual love of Shakespeare at high school. After 190 webisodes and more than four million views on YouTube, they invited "token dude" Robbie Nicol to join in for their third series Bright Summer Night — the first to win funding from NZ On Air. The Hamlet-inspired Tragicomic (2018) centres on a lovesick teenager who vents her feelings through her comics. The comics can be viewed online as part of the story.
The familiar voice of radio announcer Peter Hutt was also heard on the soundtracks of many National Film Unit productions. From 1946, when Weekly Review put a few minutes each week of New Zealand scenes and people on cinema screens, until 1972, when television was presenting hours daily of the country and its people, Hutt also developed his talent for directing, writing and editing films. Image credit: Auckland Libraries Heritage Collections, ID 34-232 (detail). Photographer Clifton Firth