Bruno Lawrence was a widely popular and prolific actor, musician and counter-cultural hero. His inimitable and charismatic screen presence was central to Kiwi legends Smash Palace, The Quiet Earth and Utu. Lawrence was also known for his influential and anarchic travelling theatre troupe, Blerta.
Composer Stephen McCurdy's screen music has crossed the gamut — from jazz, chamber pieces, rock, and pop, to the faux Peggy Lee song which opened each episode of 80s soap Gloss. McCurdy won NZ Film Awards for his scores to Came a Hot Friday and The End of the Golden Weather.
In the tradition of novelty songs, ‘Culture?’ was catchy to the point of contagion. Fuelled by carnival keyboards, it was The Knobz response to Prime Minister Rob Muldoon’s refusal to lift a 40% sales tax on recorded music (originally instituted by Labour in 1975), and Muldoon's typically blunt verdict on the cultural merits of pop music (“horrible”). The giddy, hyperactive video comes complete with Muldoon impersonator (Danny Faye), and casts the band as the song’s 'Beehive Boys'. In the backgrounder, Mike Alexander writes about his time as the band's manager.
Sam Pillsbury's The Scarecrow was the first Kiwi movie to win invitation to the prestigious Cannes Film Festival. Starting at government filmmaking body the Natonal Film Unit, the part-Kiwi, part-American dlrector worked in documentary — including helming the controversial Birth with Dr. R.D. Laing — before making a run of feature films and TV movies, both in New Zealand and North America.
In director Geoff Murphy's cult sci fi feature, a global energy project has malfunctioned and scientist Zac Hobson (Bruno Lawrence) awakes to find himself the only living being left on earth. At first he lives out his fantasies, helping himself to cars and clothes, before the implications of being 'man alone' sink in. As this awareness sends him to the brink of madness — see the excerpt above — he discovers two other survivors. One of them is a woman. The Los Angeles Daily News called the movie “quite simply the best science-fiction film of the 80s”. Read more about it here.
With Hunter's Gold, Gather Your Dreams and Children of Fire Mountain, Roger Simpson blazed a successful trail for Kiwi drama shows aimed at a younger audience. Though he has written further New Zealand projects, Simpson relocated to Australia in the early 70s. Since then he has written and produced on a long run of television dramas, most often alongside producing partner Roger Le Mesurier.
A key player behind the scenes, Gary Hannam’s ability to find and exploit mechanisms for financing movies was a key driver in the rapid growth of the NZ film industry during the 1980s.
Producer and Co-President of SPADA (the Screen Production and Development Association), Richard Fletcher has worked on Vincent Ward's River Queen, and helped arrange foreign finance for movies The Strength of Water and Under the Mountain. Fletcher is Managing Director of production company Libertine Pictures.
Cinematographer John Cavill was trained in the glory days of state television. After entering the industry at the age of 17, he went on to film everything from comedy to sports — then from the late 1990s, globally successful shows like Hercules, Xena and Spartacus. His CV reflects his experience in shooting action and visual effects. In 2018 Cavill won a Daytime Emmy for Chinese-American production Scars of Nanking.
Morton Wilson began composing for film while playing in band Schtung. Hagen and fellow band member Andrew Hagen went on to provide music for a quartet of Kiwi movies, including The Scarecrow and Kingpin. In 1981 they moved to Hong Kong and got even busier, composing commercials. Wilson went on to oversee Schtung sound studios in Hong Kong, Singapore and Shanghai, while Hagen launched Schtung in Hollywood.