Mercy Peak - What She Least Expected

Television, 2001 (Excerpts)

Produced by John Laing and featuring a star-studded cast (Sara Wiseman, Tim Balme, et al), South Pacific Pictures' award-winning 'seachange' series Mercy Peak hit just the right note with its down-home sincerity and quirky-but-complex characters. In this excerpt from the first episode, Doctor Nicky Somerville (Sara Wiseman) discovers the cheating ways of her partner (a deliciously oily Simon Prast) and decides it's time to get out. On her way to finding her bliss in the tiny town of Bassett she has an inauspicious beginning: a minor collision with the town's iconic pig. 

Jackson's Wharf - First Episode

Television, 1999 (Excerpts)

Created by Gavin Strawhan and Rachel Lang, popular one hour drama series Jackson's Wharf was set in a fictional coastal town and revolved around a sibling rivalry between brothers Frank and Ben. Frank is the town policeman with a big secret; and golden boy Ben is a big city lawyer who has returned to town after their father's death. In this excerpt from the first episode of the South Pacific Pictures production, returning son Ben faces gossiping locals, simmering family tensions over the will (who will get the pub?) and an impending fishing tournament.

Putting our Town on the Map

Television, 1995 (Excerpts)

This documentary looks at the attempts by New Zealand's small towns to attract attention: ranging from giant statues of fish, fruit, and soft-drink bottles to festivals devoted to local vegetables or wild food. Actress Miranda Harcourt travels from Paeroa to Alexandra to explore the colourful expressions of small-town identity and pride. Shot by Leon Narbey, this was one of a series of documentaries directed by Shirley Horrocks about kiwi popular culture. A book by Claudia Bell and John Lyall (with the same title) was the film's starting-point.

Tutus & Town Halls

Television, 2001 (Full Length)

In March and April 2001 slippers met gumboots when The Royal New Zealand Ballet went on a five-week long heartland tour. The ballerinas performed in community theatres and halls in places like Twizel, Putaruru, Taihape, and Alexandra. This Gibson Group TV One documentary chronicles the challenges – injuries, fatigue, motel life, provincial performance diets (junk food, baking), dodgy stages and wiring, romance on the road – and receptive locals. The programme includes work from local choreographers to famous ballets, with music from classical to Head Like a Hole.

The Ground We Won

Film, 2015 (Trailer)

Described as "visually ravishing" (The Herald's Peter Calder), "strikingly beautiful"(Metro) and "pure social-commentary gold"(The Listener), The Ground We Won is a movie about men, rugby and the heartland. After discovering small town Reporoa en route to their earlier documentary How Far is Heaven, Christopher Pryor and Miriam Smith felt it the perfect place to chronicle the changing face of small town rugby. The film premiered in April 2015 during an autumn offshoot of the NZ International Film Festival; it was judged Best Documentary at the 2017 New Zealand Film Awards.  

Mega Time Squad

Film, 2018 (Trailer)

John (Anton Tennet) is a small town crim with a big time dream: to abscond from Thames to Paeroa with his boss’s sister. A robbery gone wrong and a mysterious Chinese bracelet send his plans into a spin, and he finds that going back to the future has a price. Hong Kong action movies, Kiwi slapstick and time travel head to the heartland in Tim van Dammen’s follow-up to Romeo and Juliet: A Love Song. Jonathan Brugh (What We Do in the Shadows) plays the villain; Milo Cawthorne and Yoson An are also in the cast. Mega Time Squad was selected for the Fantasia festival in Montreal.

Loose Enz - The Pumice Land

Television, 1981 (Full Length)

This episode of the Loose Enz series features small town intrigue in Hawkes Bay. Prickly, violin playing, ex-POW Austin (Derek Hardwick) refuses to retire despite handing over the farm to son Wesley (Goodbye Pork Pie director Geoff Murphy) — and the impending sale of the neighbouring property (to Japanese buyers) puts him on the warpath one boozy night at the local. Rural land politics and identities are nicely observed, the farmers’ band is delightfully chaotic (with Paul Holmes as a sax-playing fencer), and the Land Rover stuck in reverse is worthy of Fred Dagg.

Woodville (Episode Six)

Web, 2013 (Full Length Episode)

This six-part web series about a small town rising up against big business reaches its heartwarming conclusion in this episode. Sid (Byron Coll), is shooting the last few scenes of his doco on the proud Tararua town (including one with a frisky dog which is meant to be dying). Bella (Vanessa Stacey) makes her entrance as the Brockovich-ian lawyer who saves the day. As the town gathers for an open-air screening of the finished film, Sid gets another chance at love. Woodville, written by Christopher Brandon, was selected for London’s Raindance Festival in 2013.  

The Brokenwood Mysteries - First Episode

Television, 2014 (Excerpts)

When fishermen reel in a dead body in small town Brokenwood, Detective Mike Shepherd can't help but crack a joke: "I love a catch. Probably the one they wish had got away." In this excerpt from very first episode 'Blood & Water', new cop in town Shepherd (Neill Rea of Scarfies fame) pairs up with Detective Kristin Sims (Fern Sutherland from The Almighty Johnsons) to try to figure out what happened to drunk ol' Nate Dunn (Chris Sherwood). The detectives became a permanent team as the Prime TV series continued, working on deaths that plague the area. 

The God Boy

Television, 1976 (Full Length)

The God Boy is a portrait of a troubled teen Jimmy (Jamie Higgins) growing up in post-war small town New Zealand and wrestling with a repressive education and home front turmoil. Adapted from the Ian Cross novel by Ian Mune and directed by Murray Reece, the landmark film was the first NZ telefeature, gaining Feltex awards and front page reviews. With menace and Catholic guilt ever-present, it’s credited as a pioneer of what Sam Neill dubbed NZ’s “cinema of unease”. Higgins later starred in Australian TV show The Sullivans.