Jim Hopkins presents this documentary — based on his bestselling book — about backyard inventors and their inventions. Some of these “sheddies” are seeking their fortunes, but others seem to simply derive a quiet satisfaction from their ingenuity. They might come from a tradition of number eight wire, string and chewing gum, but amphibious planes and hovercraft feature prominently (with one basement boasting a wind tunnel). A rural bent extends to fence brackets, gate openers, shearing tables, possum pluckers and a serious rat trap (designed by a poet).
'No 8 wire' Kiwi ingenuity is defined by problem solving from few resources (No 8 wire is fencing wire that can be adapted to many uses, an ability that was particularly handy for isolated NZ settlers). Embodied in heroes from Richard Pearse to PJ, Kiwi ingenuity is a quality dear to our national sense of self. It has been memorably celebrated, and sometimes satirised, on screen.
On 8 June 1987 Nuclear-free New Zealand became law. This collection honours the principles and people behind the policy. Prime Minister Norman Kirk put it like this: "I don't think New Zealand's a doormat. I think we've got rights — we're a small country but we've got equal rights, and we're going to assert them." In the backgrounder, journalist Tim Watkin explores the twists and turns of Aotearoa's nuclear history.
Reporter Jim Hopkins nudges Country Calendar territory as he looks at a new way of weighing sheep in TVNZ's 1980s science and technology show, Fast Forward. His subject, the Warp 485, is a labour saving device which will allow one farmer and a "good dog" to weigh and draft 600 sheep an hour, and deliver stock of the desired weight to the works at the right time of the year. Hopkins has a few visual tricks up his sleeve (including some stop frame animation) but largely contents himself with throwing in as many variations of weigh/way as he can muster.
Big business and a small, struggling rural support town are on a collision course in this good-natured comedy made on a shoestring budget with extensive community goodwill. Policeman, author and film director Stefen Harris reunites the cast from his debut The Waimate Conspiracy, but moves the action up SH1 to Temuka. An adaptation of his novel The Hydrosnipe, it features Mark Hadlow as an amoral corporate trouble-shooter threatening the town’s only petrol station after its recently deceased owner may have stumbled on a priceless scientific breakthrough.
This sketch comedy series screened over two years in the early 90s. Many of the Gibson Group show's skits were tested and filmed in a theatre, in front of a paying audience. This first episode sees laughs come from Watties spaghetti and a roll call of emerging comic talent of the era. Danny Mulheron and Hori Ahipene act up, Tim Balme plays Trivial Pursuit, Kevin Smith gets his vernacular on negotiating NZ customs, Peta Rutter crushes on Steve Parr, and Facial DBX comedians Jon Bridges and David Downs are teenage skaters who talk digital watches while wearing day-glo.
This Christchurch-based TVNZ science and technology show put science in primetime in the 1980s (notably on Friday nights before Coronation Street). The successor to Science Express, it sought to explain how science was changing everyday NZ life; and reporters (including Jim Hopkins, Liz Grant, Peter Llewellyn and Julie Colquhoun) attempted to engage the public without alienating the scientific community, and vice versa. Its run ended in 1989 when TVNZ decided it couldn't compete with the runaway success of Australian counterpart Beyond 2000.
Around 31 March 1903, eccentric farmer Richard Pearse climbed into a self-built monoplane and flew for about 140 metres, before crashing into a Waitohi gorse bush. The amount of control he maintained and exact date (before the Wright brothers?) has been oft-debated. This award-winning TV film (an early script for Hunter's Gold's Roger Simpson) dramatises the life of the reclusive young inventor and his flying machine, from his youth up until the flight itself. Actor Martyn Sanderson captures 'Mad Dick's' obsession in a Feltex-winning performance.
Feeling burnt out, director Tony Williams takes his seachange literally and sets off with three mates in his recently restored 66-foot motorboat, with a grown-up son as cameraman. The plan: journey from Sydney to the Coral Sea. They witness an eclipse, find paradise in Vanuatu, and island-hop their way through New Caledonian reefs, soon after witnessing French victory in the 1998 (soccer) World Cup. Near journey’s end, a reflective Williams realises that he has experienced not just a holiday, but also “an opportunity to look at your own world from a distance”.
In the 1950s, driven by a desire to power around the shallows of the Mackenzie Country's braided rivers, inventor and "South Island sheep man" Bill Hamilton developed an improved method of jet boat propulsion. This NFU film explains the concept and Hamilton demonstrates the 'turbo craft': cruising Lake Manapouri, waterskiing Lyttelton Harbour, and heading up the Whanganui. Then it's spin outs and shooting rapids (and deer) with Commander Philip Porter from the icebreaker USS Glacier...who clearly loves the smell of the Waimakariri in the morning.