After countless romances, breakups and revelations — plus the odd psycho and crashing helicopter — Shortland Street turned 25 in May 2017. Made on the run, sold round the globe, the Kiwi soap opera juggernaut has provided a launchpad for dozens of actors and behind the scenes talents. Alongside best of clips, the very first episode, musical moments and favourite memories from the cast, Shortland star turned director Angela Bloomfield writes about how the show has changed here, while Mihi Murray backgrounds how it began — and how it reflects New Zealand.
This first episode of this 2013 crime drama begins with a meth-fuelled bank heist gone very wrong. Harry is a Samoan-Kiwi detective (played by Oscar Kightley, a million miles away from Morningside) pursuing justice in South Auckland. Sam Neill, in his first role on a Kiwi TV series, plays Harry’s detective buddy. Off the case, Harry struggles with his teen daughter in the wake of his wife’s suicide. The Chris Dudman-directed series screened for a season on TV3. Broadcaster John Campbell tweeted: “Not remotely suitable for kids. But nor are many excellent things.”
The last novel by Taranaki author Ronald Hugh Morrieson revolves around a freezing plant worker (Peter McCauley) in an inter-racial marriage. The role of an English remittance man was expanded in a failed attempt to cast Peter O'Toole (the role ultimately went to NZ-born Bruce Spence). Morrieson's view of small town NZ is a dark one, as he explores racism, violence, murder, suicide and blackmail. Bruno Lawrence contributes to Jonathan Crayford's jazz-tinged score, and features in the wedding band. The freezing works scenes were shot at the defunct plant in Patea.
"Maybe if we looked after our living as well as we do the dead, he'd still be here." After returning to his marae from the city, Mana (Cliff Curtis) finds himself caught up in arrangements for a tangi. But when another local commits suicide, Mana finds himself caught between traditional values and his own sense of right. Meanwhile in the forest, it seems that other powers may have the final word. The short film also features George Henare. It was written and directed by former DJ and commercials director Poata Eruera.
In this feature film, Tama, a distressed young man, becomes entwined with five families coping with suicide on a journey from Parihaka to Te Rerenga Wairua. A mysterious woman, Hine-nui-te-pō, prompts Tama to confront the finality of death. Director Paora Joseph (Children of Parihaka) mixes drama and documentary, in the hope his film will provoke kōrero around mental health, and offer a pathway through darkness. Niwa Whatuira (The Dark Horse) and newcomer Hera Foley play the lead roles. Māui’s Hook was set to debut at the 2018 NZ International Film Festival.
Gina lives in a dark, silent, room in a Wellington rest home, unable to leave her bed, communicate except by a complex touch system, and barely able to move. A rare unnamed genetic disorder has left her living what she calls “an existence, not a life”. This documentary by Wellington film-makers Wendall Cooke and Jeremy Macey takes a look at her condition in relation to euthanasia, for which she is a passionate advocate. As Gina did not want to appear on camera, her sister Roslyn who suffers from the same condition, albeit less severely, portrays her in the film.
Actors Tane Williams-Accra and Ngahuia Piripi joined Shortland Street in 2015, as ambulance driver Ali Karim and Nurse Esther Samuels. Here they introduce their favourite Shortie storyline: the one involving Ferndale Strangler Joey Henderson (Johnny Barker). Cut from a longer clip which is viewable on NZ On Screen, the finale has the formerly sympathetic nurse and recently discovered serial killer escaping to the rooftop, where he is tackled by flatmate Kieran Mitchell (Adam Rickitt). When the police show up and make Kieran let go, Joey takes fate into his own hands.
In July 1998 Shortland Street added a tragically memorable entry to its catalogue of births, deaths and marriages. Pregnant nurse and fan favourite Tiffany (Alison James) is out shopping, when she sees suicidal patient Tim (Kelson Henderson) heading for the roof of a high rise. She races up the stairs and successfully talks him down, but then she falls. Knowing she is badly injured and brain-dead, her husband Johnny Marinovich (Stelios Yiakmis) has to make the difficult choice between letting her go, or keeping her on life support until their baby is born.
Hayley Robertson picked up Best Actress at Tropfest 2013 for her role as a mysterious young woman in this thoughtful short drama set in a bus stop somewhere in rural New Zealand. In gumboots and flannel shirt, her character arrives at the stop to find a confident well-dressed young law student, turning over a $20 bill in his hand. Passing time while waiting, she challenges him to a game; the playing of which slowly reveals their differing approaches to life, and the ourcome leads to the film’s shocking conclusion. Director Nick Garrett also composed the score.
Harry Varnham was scarred both physically and mentally by his experience of World War One. In this episode of Great War Stories, his family explain why they believe the trauma of war eventually led him to take his own life decades later. Wounded during the Battle of Messines in Belgium, Varnham returned to the front and was seriously wounded again at Le Quesnoy. He was evacuated to London; he was just 19 when his leg was amputated. Back in New Zealand, Varnham married later in life and had two daughters, but he never overcame the mental scars from his time serving in WWI.