Long-running travel series Intrepid Journeys took Kiwi celebrities (from All Blacks to music legends to ex-Prime Ministers) from the comfort of home to less-travelled paths in varied countries and cultures. The Jam TV series debuted in 2003 on TV One. With its authenticity and fresh, genre-changing take on a travel show (focusing on personal experience rather than objectivity), Intrepid Journeys was a landmark in local factual television. It managed to achieve the rare mix of high ratings and critical acclaim.
Globetrotting director Dean Cornish's credit reel ranges from Intrepid Journeys to bold buildings, Extreme Tribes to Rachel Hunter, sex trafficking to This Town. Trained at Christchurch's NZ Broadcasting School, Cornish has produced films in more than 90 countries and crafted a reputation as a go-to guy for travel stories. He shared a Best Director gong at the 2011 Aotearoa Film and TV Awards for Making Tracks.
Proud to be a world citizen, US-raised Chinese-Hungarian Sándor Lau did a masters in film at Auckland University, after time in Mexico and Europe. His epic walk to Cape Reinga is documented in 2003's Behaviours of the Backpacker; then came feature doco Squeegee Bandit, about a charismatic Māori car washer. It was invited to 20 international festivals. Lau is now a partner in a US finance company.
Lynda Topp is half of the Topp Twins, the singing sisters who have plucked their way across the country and the globe with their unique brand of comedy and country music. 2009 Topp Twins documentary Untouchable Girls is the most successful local doco released to date in local cinemas. In 2014 the twins presented TV series Topp Country, which became the third most watched local programme of the year.
Sally Martin was first spotted by a casting director while acting on stage at a Wellington high school. Since international hit The Tribe in 2002, she has rarely been off television screens: she co-starred as ninja hero Tori Hanson in Power Rangers Ninja Storm, and played the feisty Sasha in backpacker TV comedy Welcome to Paradise. In 2009 Martin joined the cast of Shortland Street for an extended run as nurse Nicole Miller, on and off partner of Maia Jeffries.
Tandi Wright was nominated for a best supporting actress award for her role in 2006 true-life drama Out of the Blue. Her extensive television resume includes long-running roles in Shortland Street, Being Eve, plus comedy Willy Nilly and hit series Nothing Trivial.
Bret McKenzie is one half of musical-comedy duo Flight of the Conchords. McKenzie and Jemaine Clement found international fame with the cult HBO comedy, which followed the duo's fictional efforts to 'make it' in New York. An Oscar-winner after writing songs for The Muppets (2011), McKenzie's screen career began after a brief role in The Lord of the Rings trilogy helped win him a cult following.
Melanie Rakena partnered with Jane Andrews in 2002 to create JAM TV, who specialise in popular factual television, much of it involving travel. JAM programmes such as Intrepid Journeys, Off The Rails and Global Radar have managed to achieve both popular and critical acclaim.
After graduating from New Zealand Broadcasting School, Clarke Gayford created student show Cow TV. Presenting gigs followed for music channel C4, United Travel Getaway, and Extraordinary Kiwis. In 2016 he swapped his microphone for a speargun to launch Fish of the Day, a Choice TV show about his lifelong passion. In 2017 Gayford became NZ’s 'first bloke', when partner Jacinda Ardern became Prime Minister.
The late Keith Bracey's impeccable diction, dashing goatee and impish sense of humour made him a household name as presenter of Town and Around in Auckland. His interview with musician Acker Bilk (where he dressed identically) left a lasting impression on viewers. Bracey fronted the crime fighting show Police 5 from 1976 until 1986, when his familiar face and voice disappeared from television screens.