Illustrious Energy sees Chan and his older mate Kim prospecting for gold in 1890s Otago. Marooned until they can pay off their debts and return to China; they’ve been fruitlessly working their claim for 12 and 27 years respectively. Chan faces racism, isolation, extreme weather, threatening surveyors, opium dens and a circus romance. The renowned feature-directing debut of cinematographer Leon Narbey provides a poetic evocation of the Chinese settler experience; especially vivid are Central’s natural details — desolate schist and tussock lands, rasping crickets.
Veteran producer and production designer Grahame McLean helped organise the shoots of a run of landmark Kiwi productions, from The Games Affair to Sleeping Dogs. Later he brought TV success Worzel Gummidge down under, and became the first — and will likely long remain one of the few — New Zealanders to direct two feature films back to back.
Trailblazing broadcaster Shirley Maddock, ONZM, was making and presenting television in 1960, when the medium first began in New Zealand. After doing theatre in London and radio in New York, she went on to produce and present a series of documentaries in her homeland, and wrote a bestselling book to accompany 1964 series Islands of the Gulf. Maddock passed away on 10 October 2001. She was 72.
Ian Watkin's long acting career saw him playing mad doctors, priests, axe-wielding stepfathers, and American presidents. Part of the legendary Blerta troupe which toured Australasia in the 1970s, Watkin went on to appearances in everything from Beyond Reasonable Doubt and an iconic Crunchie bar commercial, to presenting Miss Universe New Zealand. He passed away in May 2016.
Actor Ilona Rodgers made her name with a starring role as magazine editor Maxine Redfern in prime-time soap Gloss. But Rodgers' career began in her native England; her globetrotting career has seen her acting alongside Doctor Who, The Beverly Hillbillies, and the inhabitants of Marlin Bay.
David McPhail's television resume is that of a genuine stayer. Working with Jon Gadsby, his longtime comic partner in crime, McPhail famously impersonated Sir Rob Muldoon in landmark sketch shows A Week of It and McPhail and Gadsby. Later he helped create the Barry Crump-style yarns of Letter to Blanchy, and played the no-nonsense teacher in Seven Periods with Mr Gormsby.
Former Spot On presenter Ian Taylor, CNZM, is the founder of computer graphics company Animation Research Limited. ARL made its name providing real-time sports graphics at the 1992 America's Cup, and has gone on to apply their technology to golf, cricket, tennis and Formula One car-racing around the globe.