For 20 years Kathleen O'Brien was the only woman director at the government's National Film Unit. Her films were invited to festivals overseas. Known for her work involving children and education, O'Brien's directed comical road safety short Monkey Tale (1952), and the moving Story of Seven Hundred Polish Children (1966).
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.
Bill McCarthy’s wide-ranging television career spans 50 years and counting. McCarthy won a keen following when he anchored coverage of the 1974 Commonwealth Games. After five years presenting Television One’s network news (alternating with Dougal Stevenson), he became a producer and director, and did time as TVNZ’s head of sports. McCarthy set up his own company in 1990, and continues to make shows for cable television.
Welsh-born James Harris played an important role in the founding of the National Film Unit in 1941. A well-educated, versatile filmmaker equally at home behind the camera, operating a splicer or wielding a pen, he spent 26 years with the NFU, mostly as a senior director. Photo credit: Archives New Zealand, reference AAQT 6401 A23,729
Philip Sherry, MNZM, remains one of New Zealand’s longest serving newsreaders — including flagship bulletins for the NZBC, TV One, South Pacific Television, TV3 and Radio NZ. Sherry began television newsreading in 1963. After work in Canada and London he returned home, co-anchoring innovative twin city bulletin News at 10 with Tom Bradley. He joined TV3 for its launch in 1989, then did time in politics.
Miriama Smith began acting on screen as a teen. Over a dozen roles and a decade later, she joined the cast for three seasons of TV series Mercy Peak. She went on to star as feisty corporate boss Brady Truebridge in Filthy Rich. The versatile Smith has done screen time as a gang leader (The Tribe), mother (Stolen, Kaitangata Twitch), competitive dancer (Dancing with the Stars) and presenter (Finding Aroha).
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
Jude Dobson became a familiar television presence in the 1990s presenting a run of lifestyle shows, and then her own five night a week series. After beginning on quiz show Sale of the Century, she went on to helm almost 1000 episodes of 5.30 with Jude and its follow-up. In 2002 she set up production company Homegrown Television to make documentaries and educational films exploring parenting and family.
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.
Former journalist Nevan Rowe made a high profile big screen acting debut as Gloria, the estranged wife of Sam Neill’s Smith in landmark feature Sleeping Dogs (1977). She also co-starred in 1980 kids movie Nutcase, as mad scientist Evil Eva. Rowe worked off-screen in casting and as a production manager, and in 1989 directed short film Gordon Bennett, starring Andy Anderson. She passed away in April 2016.