A Portrait of Michael Smither

Television, 2007 (Full Length)

In this intimate documentary painter Michael Smither lays bare his life — from a stern Catholic childhood in New Plymouth to the inspiration of Central Otago to his senior years in Otama Beach, collaborating on natural artworks. Smither is best known for his unflinching portraits of family life, works like 'Sarah with Baked Beans' which capture the untamed energy of small children. Smither acknowledges the hardship behind these famous paintings, and the toll it took on his first marriage. Ex-partners (including novelist Rachel McAlpine) open up about their time with Smither. 

Inquiry - The Late Mr Norman Kirk

Television, 1974

In September 1974, NZ reels from the premature loss of Norman Kirk — dead at 51 after just 20 months as prime minister. For this NZBC current affairs show, reporters Joe Coté and George Andrews head to the provinces to find out how Kirk is remembered by the ordinary men and women he valued so much. In less than stellar Labour strongholds in Central Otago and Taranaki, they meet people won over by a politician prepared to listen and treat them as equals. Their palpable affection is shared by Pacific leaders Gough Whitlam, Albert Henry and Michael Somare.

Illustrious Energy

Film, 1988 (Excerpts)

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.

Great War Stories 4 - Victor Low

Television, 2017 (Full Length Episode)

For Kiwi-Chinese soldier Victor Low, World War I was fought mainly underground. Dunedin-born Low was a surveyor attached to the New Zealand Tunnelling Company, which created a network of caverns and tunnels in France before the Battle of Arras in April 1917. The complex was big enough to accommodate 12,000 soldiers and equipment. This episode of Great War Stories uses archive footage and modern laser scanning to map out the tunnels that still exist under the battlefield. Later, Low helped create the famous Bulford Kiwi which sits above Sling Camp in England.

The Mackenzie Affair - Tancred (Final Episode)

Television, 1977 (Full Length Episode)

The Mackenzie Affair told the story of colonial folk hero James Mackenzie: accused of rustling 1000 sheep in the high country that would later bear his name. This fifth and final episode sees the manhunt for Mackenzie over, with ‘Jock’ facing a sentence of hard labour and provoking sympathy from equivocal sheriff Henry Tancred. Adapted from James McNeish’s book, the early co-production (with Scottish TV) imported Caledonian lead actor James Cosmo (Braveheart, Game of Thrones) and veteran UK TV director Joan Craft. It was made by Hunter’s Gold producer John McRae.

Alone

Short Film, 2018 (Full Length)

This short film about a teen struggling to connect with his father took the top prize in NZ On Screen's inaugural ScreenTest film competition for high school students. Wakatipu High School pupil Lachie Clark made Alone with his Year 13 Media Studies classmates Ella Little and Alex Booker. Following the theme "coming of age", teen Charlie (Joel Malcolm-Smith) heads to the hills to escape his dad's harsh words. ScreenTest judge Jackie van Beek (The Breaker Upperers) praised the "beautiful landscapes, cinematography and editing". TV producer Philip Smith plays the dad.

Loading Docs 2014 - Stop/Go

Web, 2014 (Full Length)

The widescreen vistas of the Mackenzie Country provide the backdrop for this short documentary looking at the challenges and joys of being a traffic management worker. In the tradition of Heartland, the film delivers a warm-hearted combo of character and scenery, as veteran stop/go man Bernie muses on perks: “It’d be nice if someone gave me a winning Lotto ticket, but a Chupa Chup’s not too bad.” Directed by Greg Jennings, Stop/Go was part of Loading Docs: a series of low budget three-minute films made for online release.

Hunter's Gold - First Episode

Television, 1976 (Full Length Episode)

This classic kids’ adventure series follows a boy trying to find his missing father, amidst the 1860s Otago gold rush. The show displayed unprecedented production values, and demonstrated that Kiwi-made kids’ drama could be successfully exported. This first episode sees Scott Hunter (Andrew Hawthorn) steal away to Tucker’s Valley, spurred on by his unsympathetic uncle. In the background pieces, writer Roger Simpson recalls creating 13 scripts at high speed, and director Tom Parkinson writes about the Kiwi landscape as character, and finding the production team. 

Good Times Two

Short Film, 1968 (Full Length)

This 1968 tourism promo follows two Aussie sheilas, Helen and Beverly, on a champagne-fuelled trip across the ditch. The tour kicks off with an obligatory sheep's 'baa', but offers some surprises alongside the scenic wonderland way, such as a detour to a Kaingaroa Forest mill and an Otago gold rush history lesson. Surprisingly trippy, Blow Up-inspired opening credits, some bold cutting and a jazzy score enliven the jaunt; a highlight is the lasses and hip local lads Monkee-ing around a Māori village and geothermal power station ... it's not PC, but it's definitely pop-tastic!

Landmarks - A Land Apart

Television, 1981 (Full Length)

Presented by Kenneth Cumberland, Landmarks looked at New Zealand history through the landscape — and at man "coming to terms" with it. In this episode Aotearoa's "last, lonely, remote" geography is framed as a stimulus for ingenuity. A narrative of "triumph over the elements" finds its flagbearer in the DIY story of jetboat inventor Bill Hamilton. Cumberland is donnish but game in pursuit of telling landmarks: exposing seashells alongside the Napier-Taupō highway (700 metres above sea level) like a downunder Darwin, or in a gas mask on an erupting White Island.