There were times when the career of longtime National Film Unit director David Sims could have been cut short. Having survived close encounters with steam locomotives in mountainous terrain, he narrowly escaped being blown up, drowned and burnt alive at sea. Even filming a planned set-up on location had its hazards, as he found when his call of “action!” sent exploding rocks whistling by perilously close overhead.
Armagan Ballantyne made her feature film debut in 2009 with The Strength of Water, the tale of two children in an isolated coastal town. The Kiwi-German co-production was invited to festivals in Berlin, Rotterdam and Auckland. After winning an award for an Emma Paki music video back in 1996, Ballantyne studied film in Sydney and Prague. Her CV includes commercials, episodes of acclaimed children's show Being Eve, and award-winning short films (Whistle She Rolls). In 2008 she was one of 22 filmmakers from around the globe selected to make a short for United Nations anthology film Stories on Human Rights.
Christchurch-raised Anna Cottrell is a prolific documentary maker, with a keen interest in the stories that people tell. Her work ranges widely, from documentaries on immigrants (An Immigrant Nation) and family (Other People's Children), to five seasons of the bite-sized Great War Stories. Cottrell launched her company AC Productions in 2001.
Kathleen Mantel began directing television documentaries in the late 90s. Since then she has won awards in the United States for Kiwi-made docos on problem gambling (It's Not a Game), teenage pregnancy (KIDS) and the Exclusive Brethren (Leaving the Exclusive Brethren). In 2012 her doco The Green Chain won the NZ Television Award for Best Popular Documentary.
Globetrotting director Dean Cornish's credit reel ranges from Intrepid Journeys to bold buildings, Extreme Tribes to Rachel Hunter, sex trafficking to This Town. Trained at Christchurch's NZ Broadcasting School, Cornish has produced films in more than 90 countries and crafted a reputation as a go-to guy for travel stories. He shared a Best Director gong at the 2011 Aotearoa Film and TV Awards for Making Tracks.
Palmerston North-born Michael Dean won fame as a longtime presenter on pioneering BBC arts show Late Night Line-Up. Although his three decade broadcasting career was mostly spent in England, Dean also did time downunder. In 1972 he presented an opinionated Survey special on how New Zealand had changed, followed by talk show Dean on Saturday. He passed away in England on 5 October 2015.
Brit-born Martin Baynton has authored more than 30 children's books. After emigrating down under in 1987, he began developing television shows based on his work. After joining Richard Taylor and Tania Rodger to adapt his book series Jane and the Dragon for TV, the trio founded company Pūkeko Pictures and made successful pre-school export The WotWots. The sometime actor also narrated on WotWots.
Special effects man and designer Richard Taylor got his break making puppets for 1980s comedy series Public Eye. He has gone on to become a key part of the Weta effects empire, supervising the creation of orcs, zombie mishaps and miniature cities for movies and TV shows. A passionate advocate for Kiwi talent, Taylor and his team have scored five New Zealand screen awards, four BAFTAS and five Academy Awards.
Greg Broadmore is creator of colonial-styled, raygun-toting planetary explorer Dr Grordbort. Grordbort paraphernalia is sought after by fans around the globe. Broadmore went on to spend more than five years working on pioneering game Dr. Grordbort's Invaders, which uses Augmented Reality technology to combine animation with the real world. The dinosaur-mad artist illustrated over 30 children's books before sending his folio to Weta Workshop. Since then he has been part of the design team on King Kong, and oversaw the Weta team designing technology and weaponry for 2009 hit District 9.
South African-born but New Zealand based from 2006, Nathalie Boltt first won fame with a four year run on South African soap Isidingo. She followed it with a number of movie roles, including the South African-set sci fi hit District 9. AFTA-nominated as wife to a murderer in Kiwi telemovie Bloodlines, she went on to co-star in telefilm Nights in the Garden of Spain. In 2016 Boltt won an ongoing part on international hit Riverdale, as evil mother Penelope Blossom. Also a director and scriptwriter, Boltt co-directed award-winning short The Silk, which won awards at a trio of United States film festivals.