Sam Neill has acted in forgotten Kiwi TV dramas (The City of No) and classic Kiwi movies (Sleeping Dogs, The Piano, Hunt for the Wilderpeople). His career has taken him from the UK (Reilly: Ace of Spies) to Hawaii (Jurassic Park) to dodgy Melbourne nightclubs (Death in Brunswick). As Neill turns 70, this collection celebrates his range, modesty and style — and the fact he was directing films before winning acting fame. In these backgrounders, friends Ian Mune and Roger Donaldson raise a glass to a talented, self-deprecating actor and fan of good music and pinot noir.
Off his own bat, Ilam art student Glenn Standring got his third-year short into competition at the Cannes Film Festival. The minimal plot — hipster private eye Lenny Minute dryly narrates, before facing his nemesis, a rampaging giant blue “sheila doll” — allows Standring to conjure up a distinctive collage-styled cityscape, mined from a grab-bag of Americana inspirations: 50s sci-fi, jazz, the hardboiled detectives of Dashiell Hammett, and star Marlene Dietrich. After this early computer-aided short, Standring joined the Gibson Group as an animator, then directed two stylish features.
The title provides pointers towards the film noir intentions of this stylish short film. A well-travelled set-up — drifter rolls into a seedy motel diner — springs surprises as the time -travel plot unravels. Jet Black features Leighton Cardno (Shortland Street's Dr Adam Heyward) as Jet, burdened by murderous guilt, and fellow Shortlander Marissa Stott as the winsome waitress. The screenplay was written by director Kezia Barnett, novelist Chad Taylor (Heaven) and adman Karl Fleet. It was part of a series of shorts promoting Schweppes, by advertising agency Publicis Mojo.
This short film takes its title from Russell Corgi's famous 1942 Buffalo Courier Express photograph of the exterior of the Genesee Hotel. Directed by Jonathan Ogilvie, the film is a series of close-ups of the photo coolly unfurling to reveal the full image. The snippets are overdubbed with a beguiling film noir-styled narration that imagines the context behind the extraordinary shot. Divorcee screened at many film festivals including in competition at Cannes in 1995. Corgi's photo was also referenced in the 'Passengers' issue of Neil Gaiman's Sandman comics.
"It was the beginning of the end of the world..." Award-winning actor Tim Balme (Braindead) narrates this rain-lashed tale of being trapped in a world where all the women have disappeared. The film noir stylings, Blade Runner climate and tough-talking dialogue come to the fore when Balme encounters a beautiful woman with an attitude (Balme's real-life partner Katie Wolfe), and finds desire playing tricks with his mind. Planet Man was judged best short film in the Critics' Week section of the 1996 Cannes Film Festival.
This collaboration between dancer Douglas Wright and director Gregor Nicholas was one of a series of music and movement-based shorts that established Nicholas’ reputation. A dramatised film noir sequence leads to a cross-dressing dance duel between Wright and Debbie McCulloch, shifting between an Orwellian cityscape and retro nightclub. Wright choreographs the bodies, and Nicholas the bold and sensual visual rhythms (shot by Stuart Dryburgh). Nicholas went on to direct high profile commercials and movie Broken English. Wright passed away in 2018.
As a trench coat-clad protagonist enters the room, the jazzy soundtrack and copious shadows promise a claymation exercise in film noir. But the room advertised in director Barry Prescott’s first short film is no ordinary rental. It soon becomes apparent that a more unusual threat is responsible for the lack of furnishings and tenants — and it threatens the man and his oversized revolver. Television has been accused of rotting brains, but this short takes the allegation to the next level. Unfurnished Room for Rent screened at the Palm Springs and Seattle film festivals.
Production company Krafthaus won an International Digital Emmy Award for this front-running interactive web series for young people, in which the audience texted in suggestions to drive the plot. Evoking a certain series of blockbuster vampire films, dark-haired beauty Beth Connolly (Beth Chote) arrives in a new town, where people are odd and the sky is permanently overcast. After a very strange reception from her classmates, brainbox Monika (Michelle Ny) shows Beth a picture of missing schoolgirl Tara — whom Beth is a dead ringer for.
Who Laughs Last profiles Roger Hall, New Zealand’s most successful playwright. Three decades after the opening of Hall's Middle Age Spread became a hit, the original cast return for 2006 follow up Spreading Out. The Shirley Horrocks doco explores the secrets behind Hall’s successful brand of comedy (25+ stage plays, plus TV series and musical comedies) and closely explores the popularity of Middle Age Spread and Spreading Out. Among those interviewed are John Clarke, Ginette McDonald, the late Grant Tilly, and Hall himself.
It's a Wonderful Life meets driver education in this NFU film that aims to scare those who would be careless in bad weather conditions. This now-quaint precursor to 2011's Ghost Chips road safety ad sets up a low-key mystery plot, as five naive unfortunates find themselves at a bus stop in pea-soup fog. Purgatorial befuddlement — the bus goes via 'Infinity Terrace' and a saucy angel is handing out harps — turns to moralizing, complete with flashbacks and a lecture from the weather god, as they discover why they've ended up en route to 'Elysian Fields'.