The titles made under the Loading Docs banner combine two things Kiwi filmmakers have a proven record in — short films and documentaries. Designed to give directors an online platform for “work that inspires, pushes boundaries and moves audiences”, the result has been an annual series of roughly 10 shorts, each less than four minutes long. Loading Docs launched in 2014 and its films — ranging from bungy jumpers to queer identity — have screened internationally on high profile websites. Loading Docs is produced by Notable Pictures' Julia Parnell and Anna Jackson.
Islands of the Gulf was (narrowly) New Zealand’s first locally made TV documentary series — written, presented and produced by the country’s first female producer, Shirley Maddock. Intended as a one-off programme about the islands of the Hauraki Gulf, it ran to five half-hour episodes examining everyday life in the area, at a time when Kiwi faces were still a novelty on screen. Aviation legend Fred Ladd provided aerial footage. Maddock’s tie-in book was extensively reprinted and, in 1983, she revisited the area in a documentary for TVNZ. in 2018 Maddock's daughter presented an updated series.
This major documentary series chronicles the first half century of Kiwi television. Made for the Prime network (after being declined by TVNZ), it examines the medium’s evolution across seven episodes. After an opening 70 minute overview, individual programmes covered the stories of sport, entertainment, drama and comedy, protest coverage, New Zealand identity and Māori television — with an impressive array of interviews, and 50 years worth of telly highlights. John Bates was nominated for Best Documentary Director at the 2011 Aotearoa Film and TV Awards.
Tangata Whenua was a groundbreaking six-part documentary series that screened (remarkably in primetime) in 1974. Each episode chronicled a different iwi and included interviews by historian Michael King with kaumātua. These remain a priceless historical record. The Feltex Award-winning script was by King and director Barry Barclay. The NZBC said the series had "possibly done more towards helping the European understand the Māori people, their traditions and way of life, than anything else previously shown on television". Paul Diamond writes about Tangata Whenua here.
In 1987 producer and director Geoff Steven spent six months filming in the United States in a quest to understand what makes such a powerful and influential nation tick. Steven’s intention was to circumvent media stereotypes and the “facades set up by politicians and officials” and to talk to Americans from all walks of life and socio-economic groups. The result was this six part series fronted by journalist and author Gordon McLauchlan who introduces each episode and links the interviews with everyday people shot in their homes, factories and offices.
With the establishment of TVNZ in 1980, Lookout was introduced as TV1’s local documentary slot featuring 45 minute programmes on Friday nights. The series didn’t have a unifying theme but, instead, featured work made in-house and independently (with the latter including a number of NFU productions). As well as documentaries, Lookout also included a number of episodes of Trial Run where juries of everyday people examined current issues. In 1981, TV1’s documentary strand was renamed Contact but it returned sporadically as Lookout in 1982.
This three-part documentary series was made to mark International Women's Year in 1975; it provides rare and precious interview footage with three of New Zealand's most celebrated writers; Sylvia-Ashton Warner, Janet Frame and Dame Ngaio Marsh; who each reflect on their life and philosophy. In the case of Ashton-Warner and Marsh, these documentaries were filmed in the last decade of their lives. Three New Zealanders was produced by John Barnett for Endeavour Films.
Thinking that documentaries would benefit if film crews were much smaller, TVNZ producer Richard Thomas proposed that emerging directors take over much of the filming themselves, using consumer video cameras. Thomas organised camera workshops for First Hand's directors, and overcame opposition that this more intimate style of making documentaries wouldn't meet broadcast standards. The result gave early opportunities to a host of emerging filmmakers, including award-winners Leanne Pooley and Mark McNeill, and production executive Alan Erson.
This documentary series was presented by the legendary Selwyn Toogood. These New Zealanders was one of Toogood's first appearances for television, having previously become a household name as a radio host. The National Film Unit production was part-documentary, part-magazine, and part-travelogue, and took Toogood to six towns to capture their character and people. The towns visited were Gore, Benmore, Motueka, Huntly, Gisborne and Taupō. It provides a fascinating perspective of New Zealand life in the 1960s.
Our People Our Century was a documentary series from Ninox productions, that looked back over the past 100 years of New Zealand society as it turned over the millennium. Major events and changes over the century were shaped into six themed episodes: war, land, poverty and prosperity, families, state support and national identity, with apposite interviews providing personal and dramatic context. Our People Our Century won Best Factual Series at the 2000 NZ TV Awards, with Philip Temple winning a best documentary script award for the 'Families at War' episode.