In his early career, feature film director Roger Donaldson put himself in risky positions while filming adventure documentaries, including The Adventure World of Sir Edmund Hillary. With his friend Ian Mune, he created Winners & Losers, a landmark series of dramas based on stories by New Zealand writers, which in turn inspired the pair to adapt CK Stead’s novel Smith’s Dream into feature film Sleeping Dogs. The major turning point in Donaldson’s career was his feature Smash Palace, which screened at Cannes and earned rave reviews. Since Smash Palace, Donaldson has thrived in Hollywood, working with notable actors including Tom Cruise, Mel Gibson, Kevin Costner and Pierce Brosnan. He returned to New Zealand to make the Burt Munro biopic The World’s Fastest Indian, starring Anthony Hopkins.
Production manager Brian Walden proved a near unstoppable force during the mid 70s dawn of Kiwi TV drama. Known as 'the Sarge' to those who worked with him, Walden was on location to bring in a slew of classic dramas, on time and budget: among them were Hunter’s Gold, The Mackenzie Affair, Gather Your Dreams, Mortimer's Patch and legal classic Hanlon. In the mid 80s he left TVNZ to go freelance, and helped produce everything from vampire movie Moonrise to TV's The New Adventures of Black Beauty.
Tom Parkinson is a veteran television producer and director who has worked on iconic Kiwi TV shows such as Hunter’s Gold, Hudson and Halls and Telethon. Parkinson was a key force behind many of our hit comedies in the 70s and 80s, including Billy T James’ shows, A Week of It, Issues, and Letter to Blanchy. Parkinson is also a former Head of Entertainment Programmes at TVNZ, and helped launch TV3.
The globetrotting Sandy Houston began her career in animation and visual effects, after she left New Zealand for London. In the 90s she joined powerhouse American effects company ILM and Walt Disney Pictures, then Weta Digital in 2003. En route, she worked on a number of landmark films in modern visual effects, including Jurassic Park, the Oscar-winning Avatar, and Peter Jackson's remake of King Kong.
Radio and TV host Jim Mora began his career reporting for regional news show The South Tonight. From there, he moved on to One News and then joined Holmes when it debuted in 1989. Over the years Mora became a household name voicing and presenting popular shows including Tux Wonder Dogs, Maggie’s Garden Show and the long-running Mucking In. Mora was also involved with the creation of animated TV shows The Adventures of Massey Ferguson and Staines Down Drains, and is a regular host on RNZ National.
Producer/director Michael Firth first made his mark directing ski movie Off the Edge. A key early film in the NZ 'new wave', the documentary earned an Academy Award nomination in 1977. Firth went on to direct dramatic features Sylvia, Heart of the Stag and Vulcan Lane. But he loved the outdoors best: he went off the edge again in 1987 with zany adventure movie The Leading Edge, and was behind internationally successful TV series Adrenalize and fishing show Take the Bait.
John Clarke was one of New Zealand’s best-loved comic performers. His 1970s farming character Fred Dagg became an icon of Kiwi comedy. Clarke worked as a comedian, actor, writer and director. His satirical television series The Games was an Australian Film Institute award-winner. Although based in Australia since 1977, he lent his unmistakeable comic voice to Kiwi TV comedies bro’Town and Radiradirah. In a departure from our usual ScreenTalk format, this extended audio interview was produced and recorded by Andrew Johnstone and Richard Swainson with the assistance of Hamilton Community Radio and The Film School.
David Beatson's career spanned reporting for 1960s magazine show Town and Around, editing The Listener, and being chairman of NZ On Air.
David Beatson was a broadcasting veteran with more than 50 years experience in journalism. Beatson began his television career as a reporter on magazine show Town and Around, before developing a reputation for a no-nonsense interviewing style on shows like Gallery and Eyewitness. Later in his career Beatson became the editor of the Listener, chief press secretary to PM Jim Bolger and chairman of NZ On Air.