This 1981 promotional short snaps the clapperboard on the National Film Unit’s new filmmaking facilities at Avalon. The Unit had moved from its Miramar birthplace to the Lower Hutt complex in 1978 (it was officially opened on 18 October that year). Narrated by Bob Parker and scored to a funky soundtrack, the film is a guide through NFU production processes. A montage of production scenes is followed by a look at film processing once the film is ‘in the can’. Tricks of the trade depicted include rear projection, film colouring and foley (sound effects).
This animated short follows a film editor being driven around the bend by the domino effect of various intrusions, which prevent him from getting on with his work. Animator Bob Stenhouse (later Oscar-nominated for The Frog, The Dog and The Devil) dramatises the challenge of maintaining creative focus while facing Kafkaesque bureaucracy, noisy interruptions and form-filling. Aside from exploring the psychology of creativity, the short is also a primer for how productions were edited in the pre-digital age: showing film physically cut and pasted together with a splicer.
Mini-series Bread and Roses recreates the early days of trade unionist and politician Sonja Davies. Behind the scenes, the $4 million production required 175 speaking parts, and dozens of sets — many built from plywood, “to make something out of nothing”. This documentary follows director Gaylene Preston and producer Robin Laing from preproduction and filming a dance scene in Wellington Town Hall, to (old-fashioned film) editing. Meanwhile lead actor Geneviève Picot talks about the challenges of portraying a character who often kept her vulnerabilities hidden.
In 1983, director Geoff Murphy stormed out of the scrub of the nascent Kiwi film industry with a quadruple-barreled shotgun take on the great New Zealand colonial epic. Set during the New Zealand Wars, this tale of a Māori leader (Anzac Wallace) and his bloody path to redress 'imbalance' became the second local film officially selected for the Cannes Film Festival, and the second biggest local hit to that date (after Murphy's Goodbye Pork Pie). A producer-driven recut was later shown in the United States. This 2013 redux offers Utu “enhanced and restored”.
Half-hour documentary Paper Boat uses off-screen interviews to follow the process of creating a book, from idea to book store. The chapters are built on interviews with an author; editor; designer; a printer and a binder; and finally a bookseller and a librarian — the latter talks about libraries as places of welcome and acceptance. The film's title was inspired by Gregory Kan's poetry collection This Paper Boat. Writer and ex librarian Alex Mitcalfe Wilson's debut film was one of three "advocating for art on the margins", which debuted on website The Lumière Reader.
This National Film Unit documentary provides a fascinating behind-the-scenes look at the various stages of 40s film production at the relatively nascent unit, from shoot to post production. It was made to be screened continuously (thus the ‘loop’ title) at exhibition theatrettes. There’s genial interaction among the cast and crew (see backgrounder for who they are). Directed by pioneer woman director Kathleen O’Brien, the filming took place at the unit’s Darlington Road studios in Wellington, close to where Weta Workshop and Park Road Post now operate in Miramar.
Directed by Jane Campion, An Angel at My Table is adapted from author Janet Frame's renowned three-part autobiography. It threads together a series of images and scenes to evoke Frame's dramatic life story. Originally made as a TV drama, the much-acclaimed dramatisation won cinema release in 35 countries; it established Campion as a global director, launched actor Kerry Fox, and introduced new audiences to the "mirror city" of Frame's writing. This excerpt follows Frame's life-saving escape from Seacliff Asylum, to first publishing success at Frank Sargeson’s bach.
Asked to pick her favourite Shortland Street storylines, Shortie longtimer Sally Martin starts with one of the show's most dramatic episodes — the 20th anniversary special from 2012. On board a helicopter when it crashed in the hospital grounds, Martin's character Nicole Miller was trapped in the wreckage. Martin has good memories of shooting the chopper scenes, which required overnight shoots. She also mentions a sickbed scene surrounded by admirers, and her struggles not to laugh while trying to teach first aid to an uncomprehending Bella (Amelia Reid-Meredith).
Continuing the Shortland Street tradition of packing surprises into its Christmas cliffhangers, the 2013 finale featured kidney transplants, mad doctors, marriage talk for Chris and Rachel, and this unexpected antidote to all the drama: a cast singalong of Mutton Birds classic 'Anchor Me', led by Chris on guitar. Actor Michael Galvin was hardly new to matters musical. In 1990 he won acclaim for a singing/acting role in play Blue Sky Boys. Being Shortland, this moment of tentative bonding as the sun set on the Warner family bach was unlikely to last. Downstairs, a bomb was ticking...
Since a spectacular truck crash just before the Christmas 1995 episode, the Shortland Street team have often pulled out the stops at Christmas time, and other special anniversaries. The 90 minute 20th anniversary special — which won acclaim in May 2012 — was no exception. Aside from Chris Warner being arrested for murder in his hospital bed, a dramatic helicopter crash injures Nurse Nicole Miller, a P addict is loose in the building, a heart has gone missing, and at least six former Shortlanders return. A fashion parade of old costumes from the clinic provides some light relief.