A pioneer of the commercial use of 16mm film in post-war New Zealand, Robert Steele is arguably a lost name in the local screen industry. A portrait photographer who was making amateur films in 1930, he spent several years in his native Australia before returning to NZ for good in 1937. Steele screened his films at workplaces and trade fairs, and was a major producer of commercials in the first decade of Kiwi television.
As writer and presenter of The World Around Us, and producer of Looking at New Zealand, Conon Fraser was an early television celebrity. He joined the National Film Unit in 1969 and continued to make films documenting his adopted country’s landscape and history, and New Zealanders’ way of life. Fraser died on 17 June 2014, aged 84.
As an intrepid young cameraman for the National Film Unit, Don Oakley travelled to remote parts of New Zealand and brought to the screen scenes of the recently-rediscovered takahē, Opo the dolphin, and life in the backblocks. In a lengthy career, he also filmed in the studio and overseas, rising to be chief cameraman of the NFU.
Ken Duncum, who heads the scriptwriting programme at Victoria University, has written comedy (Skitz, Willy Nilly), detective shows (Duggan) and meta dramas about television itself (Cover Story). His extensive theatrical CV is laced with plays in which music plays a major part — including the acclaimed Waterloo Sunset, and hit show Blue Sky Boys.
Jacob Rajan’s play Krishnan’s Diary was a breakout success, named 1997 Chapman Tripp production of the year. Through company Indian Ink, the Malaysian-born, Kiwi-raised Rajan has since co-created and starred in a series of plays, winning sellout performances, awards in Edinburgh and a renowned American agent. He has also acted on screen in Outrageous Fortune, Shortland Street, and starred in award-winning Fish Skin Suit.
Danny Mulheron has approached comedy from almost every angle: as a writer, director, inside a hippo suit, and as co-creator of the politically-incorrect Seven Periods with Mr Gormsby. But laughter is only half the story. Mulheron has also acted in a run of productions, presented car series AA Torque Show, and directed everything from documentaries (The Third Richard) to several TV dramas about iconic Kiwis.
A National Film Unit cameraman for 36 years, Brian Cross worked on a large number of films, ranging from royal tours and rugby tours to industrial progress in forestry and electricity transmission, some as cameraman and director. He is particularly remembered for his record of the maiden voyage of HMNZS. Otago, and for his many films of New Zealand railways.Image credit: Archives New Zealand, ref AAQT 6421 B18889
Kevin Smith was the multi-talented actor who appeared in a host of television shows, starting with eighties soap Gloss. He also starred in three tele-movies as maverick private investigator John Lawless. His feature films include period melodrama Desperate Remedies, and offbeat drama Channelling Baby.
Canadian-born cinematographer and director Bob Lapresle had two careers in New Zealand filmmaking. Firstly, with the Government's National Film Unit as a director; secondly after his 'retirement', as a producer and consultant passing on his experience to the private sector.
James Bartle left his native Australia to work in New Zealand in the 1970s. Bartle made a stylish big-screen debut in 1982 with gothic tale The Scarecrow. His work ranges from shooting psychological drama (Heart of the Stag) to splatter movies (Death Warmed Up). In 1987 Bartle won a NZ Film and TV award for his work on end-of-the-world saga The Quiet Earth. Since then he has worked largely on US tele-movies.