Aileen O'Sullivan's and Toby Mills' documentary follows Black Grace as they prepare for an appearance at premier dance festival Jacob's Pillow, in Massachusetts. The film also charts the personal journey of the dance group's founder, choreographer Neil Ieremia, from the community halls of Porirua to the global stage, powered by an unrelenting perfectionism that makes for some heated rehearsal footage. Shortly after the performances shown here, Ieremia fired the entire touring company, rebuilding his vision from scratch. Ken Sparks' editing won an NZ Screen Award.
Fresh-up in the Deep End saw sportsmen turned TV larrikins Marc Ellis and Matthew Ridge facing challenges far outside their comfort zones. This episode has the pair taking on dancing, from ballroom and latin styles, through to cabaret, contemporary and Irish. En route they try some body percussion with Black Grace Dance Company, and do the can-can under the watchful eye of cabaret legend Debbie Dorday. Then they must put their new found skills to the test in full on competition. Ridge and Ellis' skills with a rugby ball in hand don't always translate onto the dancefloor.
Aileen O’Sullivan has a significant screen pedigree, from acting to directing, producing and – most importantly – storytelling. Her work ranges from Gloss and The Billy T James Show to Holiday and The Great New Zealand Showdown specials. Under her production company Seannachie Productions, O'Sullivan's has helmed a number of well received documentaries including Witi Ihimaera, Black Grace – From Cannon’s Creek to Jacob’s Pillow, Life’s a Riot and Ngaio Marsh – Crime Queen.
Douglas Lloyd Jenkins and Fiona McDonald hit the Auckland area for this leg of their Big Art Trip. They meet up with Black Grace artistic director Neil Ieremia, who is running a mentoring programme for young dancers; sculptor/painter Roger Mortimer, who is transforming bland modern day business letters into replicas of beautiful old documents; sculptor Warren Viscoe, who is busy at a wood symposium, fashion designer Kate Sylvester, at her High Street boutique; and abstract painter Judy Millar, at work in her studio.
Toby Mills began as an actor (eg. short films Mananui and The Find). After managing theatre company Te Rakau Hua o te Wa o Tapu, he took up directing, and in 2000 was awarded for series Nga Morehu, which profiled Māori elders. Mills works often with his partner Moana Maniapoto; together they have won awards for docos on Syd Jackson and carver Pakaariki Harrison. Mills also helmed te reo short Te Po Uriuri.
Aileen O’Sullivan has helmed drama and documentary for a wide range of mediums. Her first screen job was an acting role in The Governor. After directing on Gloss and The Billy T James Show, O'Sullivan set up her production company, Seannachie Productions. She is a passionate advocate for telling NZ stories; her subjects have included writers Witi Ihimaera and Ngaio Marsh, and dance troupe Black Grace.
Julie Christie, DNZM, is one of New Zealand's most successful television producers. She built her company, Touchdown Productions, into the country's leading producer of entertainment television and exporter of programme formats. In 2006 she sold Touchdown to global company Eyeworks in a multi-million dollar deal; she stayed on as managing director until 2012.
Beloved ‘Mother of the nation' Judy Bailey fell for broadcasting while studying journalism in Wellington. After graduating she joined the NZ Broadcasting Corporation as a TV and radio reporter. In 1980 Bailey became a newsreader on regional magazine show Top Half, then co-hosted it with John Hawkesby. In 1986 she transferred to the revamped 6pm Network News. Initially she presented with Neil Billington, before kicking off an extended 15-year collaboration with Richard Long. Bailey has gone on to present Anzac Day coverage for Maori Television, and Prime TV series Decades in Colour.