Suzy Cato leapt from radio announcing into television as presenter of TV3's Early Bird Show, quickly claiming her place as one of New Zealand's most beloved children's presenters. Thanks to the success of Suzy's World and pre-school favourite You and Me, her television CV now runs to well over 2300 episodes. In 1999 she set up her own company, Treehut Productions.
Olly Ohlson is a pioneer of Māori language and Māori content on local television. As longtime presenter on daily children's show After School, his catchphrase “Keep cool till after school” (with accompanying sign language) was known to a generation of New Zealanders.
Richard Turner’s work as a director began with poetry-based works, pioneering Māori works for television, and Squeeze (1980), New Zealand’s first gay-themed feature. Since then he has made films largely in Australia.
Mairi Gunn began working in the camera department in the mid 80s. Since then she has shot music videos (including Outer Space for The 3Ds), short films, and the feature-length Gravity & Grace (directed by Chris Kraus). Gunn shot and co-produced award-winning documentary Restoring the Mauri of Lake Omapere, looking at the history and future of a Northland lake.
Sima Urale, Samoa’s first female filmmaker, has brought touching stories of Pacific peoples to the screen, often from an NZ outsider’s point of view. Urale credits her film success to determination and dealing with social issues close to her heart. Her lauded shorts (O Tamaiti, Still Life) were followed by her 2008 feature debut Apron Strings. Urale has also spent time as head tutor at Wellington's NZ Film and Television School.
Kiwi-born Samoan Nathaniel Lees began acting on stage in 1975, and on screen in 1984. Since then he has become a leading force in the development of Pacific Island theatre in Aotearoa, and brought his distinctive baritone voice to everything from The Billy T James Show to The Matrix.
There were times when the career of longtime National Film Unit director David Sims could have been cut short. Having survived close encounters with steam locomotives in mountainous terrain, he narrowly escaped being blown up, drowned and burnt alive at sea. Even filming a planned set-up on location had its hazards, as he found when his call of “action!” sent exploding rocks whistling by perilously close overhead.
Veteran actor Kate Harcourt was named a Dame Companion of the NZ Order of Merit in 1996, for her contribution to theatre. Her long performing career also encompasses many roles on screen (Plain Tastes, The Dig, Apron Strings), often playing maternal figures. In her ninth decade she won Best Actress at Rhode Island International Film Festival as the plucky rest home rebel in short film Pacific Dreams.
Rob Sarkies made his first film at age 10. His feature debut was 1999 hit Scarfies, followed by Out of the Blue, an acclaimed dramatisation of the Aramoana murders. Sarkies followed it with TV's This is Not My Life and black comedy Two Little Boys, based on a novel by his brother Duncan. Since then he has directed Moa-nominated TV movie Consent, and multi award-winning Jean Batten biopic Jean.
Throughout his 50 year career, John O’Shea was a pioneer and a champion of the independent New Zealand film industry. His name was synonymous with Pacific Film Productions, which he ran for over 20 years after Pacific founder Roger Mirams left for Australia. O’Shea was involved in the establishment of the New Zealand Film Commission, Ngā Taonga and the Wellington Film Society.