13 Ways of Looking at a Blackbird

Film, 2013 (Excerpts)

This Richard Riddiford documentary collects together stories about the creative writing course at Victoria University. The storytellers are a roll call of names who have studied and taught there, from course founder Bill Manhire to current Insititute of Modern Letters director Damien Wilkins. Writers praise the gentle style of teaching and sense of community (and feedback). Eleanor Catton talks about the journey from her first novel The Rehearsal, written while at Victoria, to the first sentence of The Luminaries. The doco is named after the poem by American Wallace Stevens.

The Early Days

Short Film, 1971 (Full Length)

Made for the Post Office, this 1971 National Film Unit documentary offers a potted history of New Zealand, using postage stamps as the frame. Director David Sims ranges from Māori rock drawings, to Tasman and Cook. Once Pākehā settlers arrive, the film offers a narrative of progress (aside from two world wars) leading to nationhood and industry. Archive photographs, paintings, Edwardian-era scenes and reenactments add to the subjects illustrated on the stamps. The stamps include New Zealand’s first: a full-face portrait of Queen Victoria by Alfred Edward Chalon.

Ash: Ashley Thorndyke - Work in Progress

Short Film, 1995 (Full Length)

This film records the devising of a “work in progress” by theatre director Ashley Thorndyke (Jason Hoyte). The concept — by Duncan Sarkies (Two Little Boys, Scarfies) — mocks the gamut of thesp and drama school cliches: from ‘wanky’ director to wacky warm-up exercises (animal impersonations, primal screams, Love Boat theme song). Peter Burger, fresh out of Broadcasting School, co-directs, and the willing cast is drawn from the 90s Wellington theatre scene orbiting around Bats and Victoria University. Future Conchord Jemaine Clement memorably learns to get loose. 

The Write Stuff - Emily Perkins and Bill Manhire

Television, 1997 (Full Length Episode)

This edition of the mid 1990s TV One arts series sees host Alison Parr interviewing literary rising star Emily Perkins, then 26, while the expat author is visiting from London. Perkins talks about her time at drama school, her debut short story collection Not Her Real Name (whose Generation X life stories won international notice), and nerves about her upcoming first novel. The episode opens with poet Bill Manhire talking about book Mutes and Earthquakes, which anthologised the work and processes of his Victoria University creative writing programme. Perkins was a graduate.

Radio with Pictures - 'Valentine's Day is Over' by Billy Bragg

Television, 1987 (Excerpts)

In this 1987 Radio with Pictures excerpt, visiting English singer Billy Bragg performs a song in the Victoria University Student Union Hall. The Bard of Barking is intercut with Wellington street scenes: pensioners, punks, and pigeon feeding in a pre-bus lane Manners Mall. Taken from album Workers Playtime (1988), Bragg’s Valentine’s Day song is far from a Hallmark card, with droll rhyming couplets telling of a bruised, but defiant lover: “For the girl with the hour glass figure time runs out very fast / We used to want the same things but that's all in the past.”

Four Shapes for Four Spaces

Short Film, 1972 (Full Length)

This National Film Unit production records the making of four large-scale sculptures for a 1971 international symposium to commemorate Auckland City’s centennial. Helen Escobedo (Mexico) nodded to the skyline’s masts and cranes with Signals in Parnell Rose Garden; Opened Stone by Hiroaki Ueda (Japan) was balanced near Auckland Art Gallery for 35 years; and American Fred Loopstra's Homage to Will still ploughs Victoria Park. A central city scrap metal work by Canadian Tom Burrows was removed in 1977, perhaps achieving his stated aim: to “disturb” its viewers!

The Civic Reception of Lieutenant John Grant VC

Short Film, 1919 (Full Length)

This is a silent film record of the civic reception of returning World War I hero, Lieutenant John Grant. The Hawera builder won a Victoria Cross aged 28 for raiding several German machine-gun 'nests' — by leaping into them — near Bapaume, France on 1 September 1918. Grant's citation noted he "displayed coolness, determination and valour". Grant is wearing the NZ Army's 'lemon squeezer' hat as he plants a tree and poses for portraits in front of the crowds, and receives the supreme award for battlefield bravery given to Commonwealth servicemen.

Live At Mainstreet - Dance Exponents

Television, 1983 (Full Length)

This concert from May 1983 finds Dance Exponents — one of five bands filmed for a Radio with Pictures live series — with their star on the rise, but yet to release their debut album. An irrepressible Jordan Luck and band mates Dave Gent, Brian Jones and Mike Harralambi perform six songs in front of an enthusiastic full house, at Auckland's premier venue Mainstreet Cabaret. Highlights include a sparse, urgent 'Victoria' and a barnstorming 'Airway Spies'. Opening song 'Perfect Romance' was only ever released in this version on a companion live album.

Radio with Pictures - Billy Bragg

Television, 1987 (Excerpts)

English singer/songwriter Billy Bragg chats with Richard Driver in this interview, shot in a pre-bus lane Manners Mall in Wellington, for TVNZ’s hippest music show. They have unlikely company in the form of Alice, an elderly passerby, and the affable Bard of Barking happily includes her in the conversation. With a rare Top 10 hit single on his hands, Bragg discusses commercialism, his brief army career, and writing both love songs and political songs. A pre-concert performance of his track ‘Days like These’, recorded at Victoria University, bookends the interview.

Making Music - Jordan Luck

Short Film, 2005 (Full Length)

Exponents lead singer Jordan Luck discusses his career and approach to songwriting in this episode from a series for secondary school music students. Luck recalls his own first musical steps at Geraldine High School and the realisation that he could write his own material. He performs an acoustic version of his classic song 'Victoria' which he wrote about the toll of domestic violence on his landlord at the time — an example of his preference for writing from personal experience. He also previews 'Finesse', a work in progress about Invercargill.