The Beginner's Guide... was a series of half-hour documentaries made for TV ONE, and hosted by reporters Ian Johnstone, Caroline McGrath, Judith Fyfe, John Gordon and Philip Alpers. Veteran broadcaster Johnstone described the programmes as going "into areas of life which intrigue, mystify or frighten us". Topics included visiting a marae, prisons, wealth, bankruptcy, GST, the Census, divorce, cancer and the Freemasons. Three series of six episodes and one special screened between 1983 and 1986.
Pioneering series Pukemanu (the NZBC’s first continuing drama) was set in a North Island timber town. Its portrait of the town’s folk offered an archetypal screen image that Kiwis could relate to: rural, bi-cultural, boozy and blokey; viewers and reviewers praised its Swannie-clad authenticity. This first episode sees a culture clash as a motorcycle gang (including a young Bruno Lawrence) comes to town and causes trouble, running Ray (Geoff Murphy) off the road; and stranded townie Diana (Ginette McDonald) falls in love with a local axeman while hunting.
Made to mark 100 years of women's suffrage in New Zealand, Bread & Roses tells the story of pioneering trade unionist, politician and feminist Sonja Davies (1923 - 2005), who rose to prominence in the 1940s and 50s. Directed by Gaylene Preston and co-written by Graeme Tetley, the acclaimed three-hour production played on television screens, and also got a limited cinema release. Australian actor Geneviève Picot (as Sonja Davies) and Mick Rose (as her husband) won gongs for their roles at the 1994 NZ Film and TV Awards. Bianca Zander writes about Bread & Roses here.
Jemaine Clement is the bespectacled half of folk-comedy duo Flight of the Conchords, who achieved international cult status in their own HBO series. Clement's screen career began after he appeared on 90s sketch shows Telly Laughs and Skitz. Following his big screen debut in Tongan Ninja, he starred in misfit romance Eagle vs Shark. In 2014 he co-directed and acted in hit vampire comedy What We Do in the Shadows.
Dunedin-born Bridget Armstrong has found success in a range of British and Kiwi stage and screen roles. At 18 she joined the touring NZ Players, where she recreated characters as diverse as Anne Frank and Elizabeth I. Later in London, Armstrong showed her comedic talents and played Katherine Mansfield for the BBC. Back in New Zealand she acted on TV's Gather Your Dreams and Roger Hall film Middle Age Spread.
Danielle Cormack has showcased her naturalistic, seemingly effortless acting style on both sides of the Tasman. After roles in TV soaps Gloss and Shortland Street, she began a run of big screen starring roles — Topless Women Talk About Their Lives, The Price of Milk and Via Satellite (playing twins). On Australian TV, Cormack has starred as a prisoner (Wentworth), crime lord (Underbelly: Razor) and barrister (Rake).
Dianne Taylor's travels on the Asia Overland trail would inspire some of her later scripts, including 2017 Indian-Kiwi co-production Beyond the Known World. This movie about a divorced couple searching India for their missing daughter features Sia Trokenheim, Australian David Wenham, and France's Emmanuelle Béart. Taylor also co-wrote cross-cultural drama Apron Strings, which was nominated for a 2009 Qantas scriptwriting award, and spent four years chairing the board of Kiwi screenwriting organisation Script to Screen.
Globetrotting New Zealander Len Lye was a gifted innovator in many areas of the arts — film, painting, sculpture, photography, and writing. Inventing ways to make films without a camera, he became one of the pioneers of the genre later known as the music video. Later he moved to New York's Greenwich Village and became a leading figure in the kinetic art movements of the 1950s and 60s.
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.
Although Ginette McDonald's career is most associated with the gormless, vowel-mangling girl-from-the-suburbs: Lynn of Tawa, she is a woman of many parts. Alongside an extensive acting and presenting career, her work as producer and director spans three decades, and includes Shark in the Park, Gliding On, and kidult series The Fire-Raiser.