Established in 1989, NZ On Air has funded many of the television shows featured on NZ On Screen. Compiled to mark the 25th anniversary in 2015, this collection features a range of TV content funded in the agency's first year. With one representative from each genre, there’s the self-titled Billy T James sitcom, Richard Driver documentary Hokonui Todd and kids puppet show Bidibidi. Tainui Stephens' classic Māori Battalion documentary represents Māori programming, while long-running TVNZ series Tagata Pasifika tags ‘minority interests’.
The primetime current affairs interview is the heavyweight contest of screen broadcasting. They can woo hearts and minds, speak truth to power, turn elections, end strikes, enrage or reveal subjects, and enshrine or tarnish reputations. This collection puts the spotlight on iconic Kiwi contributions to the genre, from headline-making clashes (Muldoon versus "smart alec" Walker, Clark versus "sanctimonious little creep" Campbell, Pilger versus "just read" Hill, Conner versus Holmes) to warmer encounters (David Frost charmed by Big Norm Kirk, Paul Holmes bemused by the Ingham twins).
Mystery and menace abound in this debut film from Alison Maclean (Crush, The Rehearsal). Made when Maclean was an Elam art student, the experimental short plays with gender and racial stereotypes by constantly thwarting narrative expectations. What there is of a plot consists of a woman emerging from the sea and a 'centrepiece' pursuit leading to a confrontation between two characters: a man and a woman. Scripted, shot and edited by Maclean, it marked the beginning of a fertile collaboration between Maclean and producer Bridget Ikin.
The title points the way towards this stylish short's film noir intentions, but a generic set up - a drifter rolls into a seedy motel diner — springs surprises as a tainted love time-travel plot unravels. Convincing performances from Leighton Cardno (Shortland Street's Dr Adam Heyward) as the eponymous Jet, burdened by murderous guilt, and Marissa Stott as the winsome waitress, realise a screenplay co-scripted by writer Chad Taylor. Black was directed by Kezia Barnett as part of a short film series to promote Schweppes by advertising agency Publicis Mojo.
WA$TED gave an eco twist to the DIY renovation genre, by giving homes a green makeover. In this first episode the young family learning about sustainability are the Petelos, a household that guzzles gas and churns out trash. Patrick Petelo learns that if his example (taking the train a couple of days a week) was widely followed, Aotearoa’s carbon emissions would be reduced by 15%. Created by Carthew Neal, the show's format sold overseas, including to US channel Planet Green (now Destination America). Co-presenter Francesca Price later launched sustainability mag Good.
This film tells the story of the world’s rarest wading bird, the black stilt (kakī). With its precise beak and long pink legs the stilt is superbly adapted to the stony braided riverbeads of the McKenzie Country, but it is tragically unable to deal with new threats (rats, ferrets, habitat loss). An early doco for TVNZ’s Natural History Unit, the magnificently filmed drama of the stilt’s struggle for survival makes it “stand out as a classic of its genre” (Russell Campbell). It won the Gold Award at New York’s International Film & TV Festival (1984).
Seventies genre-shifters Schtung hit the road in this energetic clip for their first single, donning their white boiler suits and cramming into an open-top Morris Minor. Along the way there are glimpses of one of Schtung's genius moments: signing their record deal underwater. The video was shot in Shelly Bay in Wellington, although there is a brief jump indoors when the band go latino, and Andrew Hagen grabs the microphone from vocalist Paul Jeffery. After that watch for possible slips in the space-time continuum, involving moving saxophonists and the band swapping vehicles.
In this odd couple tale set in the American west, Cohen Holloway (Until Proven Innocent, Boy) plays an outlaw who abducts an upper class Brit. Calamity ensues when the hardman fails to have his wicked way with her. The self-funded film screened at the Santa Barbara Film Festival, winning praise from critic Leonard Maltin. While Utu took the Western genre and applied it to NZ's colonial history, Good for Nothing mines South Island scenery for the first 'Pavlova Western'. Long-time Weta staffer Mike Wallis directs; and the rousing score is by composer John Psathas.
This four-part TVNZ series from 1986 surveyed the history of soul music, with a roll call of talented Kiwi performers belting out the genre's classics. In this first episode — presented by Dalvanius with Stevie Wonder braids — the focus is on the influential 60s soul music of New York label Atlantic Records. Singers include Bunny Walters, Debbie Harwood, The Yandall Sisters, Peter Morgan and more. Ardijah chime in with their contemporary soul hit ‘Your Love is Blind’. The series writer was Murray Cammick, founder of music magazine Rip It Up.
In the 1980s country and western music was a big part of the Kiwi music landscape, and arguably its best-loved star was Patsy Riggir. 'Beautiful Lady', from 1983 album Are You Lonely, was a song she wrote herself (unusual in a genre then heavy on covers). It won Most Popular Song at the 1983 NZ Music Awards, where Riggir was named Composer of the Year, and was a finalist in the APRA Silver Scroll Awards. This performance is from a 1985 variety gala celebrating 25 years of television in New Zealand. The following year Riggir would front six-part TV series Patsy Riggir Country.