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.
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.”
Host Richard Driver introduces this short Radio With Pictures segment on the “band that made Milwaukee famous”. For the Violent Femmes it’s a long way from Wisconsin to Wellington. RWP hands control of the camera to the band: after goofing around in the ivy in front of Victoria University’s Hunter Building, the Femmes are presented with their first gold record in a nearby graveyard (New Zealand is “obviously a country with a high level of taste”). The first Femmes break up occured the following year. The band's cover of T. Rex classic ‘Children of the Revolution’ plays on the soundtrack.
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.
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.
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.
Ken Bliss’s brief description of his father’s service in the Boer War is just one of the stories that make this interview essential viewing. Ken’s own military career began when he was called up at 18, in 1941. Too tall to be a pilot in the RNZAF, he became a radio mechanic and served in the war against the Japanese in the Pacific. Forming a surf lifesaving team on Bougainville to rescue American servicemen who couldn’t swim was an unexpected wartime duty. And having survived the war, a missed train in 1953 meant Ken also survived the Tangiwai disaster.
Richard Driver investigates late 80s campus radio for music show RWP, and finds stations that have outgrown modest beginnings. They have longer broadcast hours, a national co-ordinator (former Netherworld Dancing Toy Graham Cockcroft) and a profile in the industry. Further positives include their own style (a certain informality in presentation, perceived as a plus by many) and a commitment to alternative music and local talent. But there are also concerns about estrangement from student associations, and commercial success breeding advertiser pressures.
In this 1973 current affairs interview, Albert Wendt discusses his first novel Sons For the Return Home on the occasion of its publication. The Pacific Island Romeo and Juliet tale was a seminal exploration of Samoan migrant life in New Zealand. Wendt muses on the inspiration for his work; facing discrimination at school and from girlfriends' parents; the differences between NZ Samoans and Samoan Samoans; returning ‘home’, and the difficulty of finding the solitude to write in Samoa. Author Maurice Shadbolt praises the book at its launch. It would be adapted into a film in 1979.
In 1996 Tony Sutorius got his hands on a new digital video camera, days before the start of an election campaign in Wellington Central. Made on the proverbial shoestring, this feature-length documentary chronicles five of those battling for the crown as a new political age — MMP — dawns. Richard Prebble joins a new party called Act, the National candidate joins United New Zealand… and one of the five will be sacrificed by their own party. Sutorius sat through 55 hours of footage to forge the result, which won enthused, sellout audiences at the 1999 NZ Film Festival.