First Hand was a series of mid 1990s documentaries made for TVNZ. Newbie filmmakers were armed with consumer cameras, aiming to capture “natural human behaviour” with the new technology and minimal crew. This edition, directed by David Ambler, profiles 23-year-old Newstalk ZB late-night talkback host Mike Yardley, and introduces regular callers from his nationwide audience of 150,000: service station worker Lucas channels Oprah, Petone radio poet George rhymes about detached organs, and Merle dances to an organist. Radio veteran Marcus Lush narrates.
Launched on 5 April 1976, Winners & Losers heralded a new age in Kiwi screen drama. Indie talents Roger Donaldson and Ian Mune based their tales of success and failure on New Zealand short stories, after managing to negotiate funding from various government sources. Then the pair took the series to Europe, proving there was strong overseas demand for Kiwi stories. In the backgrounders, Mune recalls the show's origins. There are also pieces on its place in local screen history, and its 2018 restoration. Plus watch two video interviews on the series.
This morbidly funny short, made by students of Auckland's Media Design School, depicts the demise of 26 alphabetical and animated animals at the hands of nature’s greatest enemy — the human. Framed as a father possum (Phil Greeves) reading his children their favourite bedtime story, the alliterative animal deaths are undercut with cheerful giggling from the two young possums. The film won acclaim at festivals worldwide —screening at South by Southwest in 2016, and taking out Best Animated film in the Comic-Con Film Festival later that year.
Tales of the Mist was an 80s series for children that dramatised six folk stories by writer Anthony Holcroft. Narrated as a bedtime story, and imbued with animism (the belief that things in the natural world posses a ‘spirit’) each story features an otherwordly encounter. Girl in the Cabbage Tree sees a lonely farmer (Russell Smith) discover a young woman in a giant ti kouka. They marry but she remains a mystery; when she disappears he learns a lesson of freedom and love. The show was directed by NZ kids TV veteran Kim Gabara (Woolly Valley, Count Homogenized).
Anne and Gordon left high school unable to read or write to a basic level. This documentary follows their progress with the Auckland Adult Literacy Scheme, and culminates with the pair sitting the written and oral exam for their drivers' licence. Anne found innovative ways around the kids' bedtime stories, but froze when it came to filling in forms. Gordon has been driving illegally for years; he wants to ace his drivers' test and finds an acceptance within the Adult Literacy Scheme he never did at school. The First Hand series has a stripped back style, using small cameras and crews.
Launched on 5 April 1976, this television series heralded a new age in Kiwi screen drama. Indie talents Roger Donaldson and Ian Mune based their tales of success and failure on New Zealand short stories, after managing to negotiate funding from various government sources. Then the pair took the series to Europe, proving there was strong overseas demand for Kiwi stories. Winners & Losers became a perennial in local classrooms. In the backgrounders, Mune recalls the show's origins. There are also pieces on its place in local screen history, and its restoration in 2018.
Eight years after debuting on TV sketch show Funny Business, Lucy Lawless won international fame for her starring role on Xena: Warrior Princess. The series won her a devoted fan following, and invitations to guest-star on everything from The Simpsons to Bro' Town. Since the end of Xena's six season run, Lawless has mainly acted for American television, including a role as bad girl Lucretia in locally-shot series Spartacus.
After starting his TV career in his native New Zealand, David Ambler found himself in London, taking on global hit MasterChef. Ambler first honed his talents on 1990s series First Hand, then directed a run of documentaries and non-fiction shows, including Epitaph and My House, My Castle. Eventually relocating to England, he directed and produced a range of non-fiction titles, then became Head of Programmes at production company Shine TV. In 2010 he shared a BAFTA Award for MasterChef - The Professionals. In 2016 the MasterChef veteran took on the job of overseeing Britain's stable of MasterChef shows.
Chris Burt is an Auckland-based sound designer. Coming from a background in music (as a drummer in the Techtones and Stridulators, and as a sound mixer) he began in the screen industry as an assistant on 1983 movie Trial Run, and later designed the sound for classic short film Kitchen Sink. Since setting up his own studio The Inside Track in 1992, Burt has worked on dozens of projects — and won awards for his sound work on everything from In My Father's Den to TV movies Siege and Jean.
Richard Thomas has a passion for documentary. After directing for the BBC's legendary doco series Man Alive, he moved downunder and became head of Television One’s information programme department. Following a short spell as Director of Television at the ABC in Australia, he settled in New Zealand to make some compelling television documentaries — and inspire others to do the same.