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 with 2009 drama The Strength of Water, which was invited to festivals in Rotterdam, Berlin, Sydney and Auckland. Ballantyne studied film in Australia and Europe, and developed Strength of Water partly through the prestigious Sundance lab. Her CV includes episodes of acclaimed children's show Being Eve, plus award-winning shorts (Whistle She Rolls) and music videos.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
Jan Haynes has worked on numerous projects across film and TV, organising projects as diverse as Telethon, The Insider’s Guide to Happiness and The WotWots. She started her career as a legal advisor before moving into production management and producing roles.
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.