By 1990, Billy T James, NZ’s most loved comedian, was recovering from a heart transplant - and trying his hand as a sitcom actor. His career was based on one liners and stand-up gags - but this Billy T James Show was a series of 26 half hour family based comedies with a clear debt to The Cosby Show. Billy was cast as a radio DJ with an Australian wife (Ilona Rodgers) and two daughters - but the trademark giggle was absent, the humour was gentler and the series never captured the public imagination. It was to be his last TV series — Billy T James died in 1991.
Kiwi Buddha follows the journey of seven-year-old Rinpoche as he becomes the first Buddhist High Lama incarnated in the Southern Hemisphere. ‘Venerable Pong Re Sung Rap Tulku Rinpoche', is a schoolboy from Kaukapakapa, north of Auckland. The film documents Rinpoche's journey as he leaves small town New Zealand behind (along with McDonalds and Pokemon) to travel to a monastery in the Himalayas where he will spend his next 20 years studying Buddhism. Kiwi Buddha sold to the National Geographic channel and to 60 territories.
Created by Outrageous Fortune’s James Griffin and Rachel Lang, this South Pacific Pictures-produced TV3 dramedy is about a family of Norse gods who wash up in 21st Century New Zealand. Emmett Skilton stars as Axl aka Odin, who must restore his brothers' lapsed superpowers and find his wife Frigg ("no pressure, then"). But he is thwarted by Norse goddesses and Māori deities. The combo of fantastical plot and droll Kiwi bloke banter won loyal fans, who successfully campaigned for a third (and final) season. Johnsons screened on the SyFy channel in the US in 2014.
A year on from moving in together, three friends and their surrogate flatmate drink and date their way around Auckland in this second series of Auckward Love. Flatmates Alice (Holly Shervey), Vicky (Lucinda Hare) and Grace (Jess Holly Bates), plus friend Zoe (Jess Sayer), face up to the harsh reality that life in your 20s can be full of tough lessons. Grace loses her sparkle when she finds herself in a polyamorous relationship, while Zoe has to compromise with her alcoholic father, played by John Leigh. Jennifer Ward-Lealand also features, as an enthusiastic sex toy shop worker.
This Wellington-set 80s TV series sees real estate agent Selwyn, TV producer Nardia (early turns from Temuera Morrison and Jennifer Ward-Lealand) and art student Ben (Kerry McKay) as a young trio united by a mysterious invitation. At an antique shop dinner the three adopted children discover that they share a colourful birth mother, before becoming players in a game for a legacy of $250,000 (and more existential prizes). This first episode features ouija boards and a funeral at Futuna Chapel; alongside 80s knitwear, a saxophone score and du jour animated titles.
Movie Vermilion follows composer Darcy (Jennifer Ward-Lealand) over a summer month, as her daughter prepares to marry. Darcy sees colours when she plays musical notes, but after seeing the colour vermilion she is prompted to secretly make her own plans. The exploration of motherhood, family and female friendship marks the feature debut of director Dorthe Scheffmann (Cannes-selected 1995 short film The Beach). The ensemble cast includes Theresa Healey, Goretti Chadwick (Game of Bros), and newcomer Emily Campbell. The production team were 85 per cent female.
Supposedly shot in five days on a budget of $423, the first season of award-winning web series High Road introduced audiences to lovable loser Terry Huffer, an ex rocker who DJs from a caravan in Piha. Writer/director Justin Harwood created the role of Huffer for his Piha neighbour Mark Mitchinson (Siege). Two further seasons were funded by NZ On Air. Video on Demand site Lightbox then compiled them into half-hour episodes, and commissioned a fourth. Harwood has played in indie bands The Chills and Luna, and the show's soundtrack offers fans of classic rock much to savour.
One of a select few Kiwi dramas about filmmaking, The Footstep Man centres on a man whose job is creating footsteps and sound effects for movies. Lonely, toiling under a demanding director, Sam (Brit Steven Grimes) gets trapped between real life and reel life. Cinematographer Leon Narbey’s second movie is a portrait of the strange pressure cooker of creating films, a luminous film within a film — with Jennifer Ward-Lealand as muse to painter Henri de Toulouse-Lautrec — and a reminder that for all the technology involved, moviemaking is about the human touch.
Born in Buenos Aires, artist Tom Kreisler arrived in New Zealand at age 13, studied painting at Canterbury University, taught art in New Plymouth, and spent time in Mexico. Shocked that he wasn't "in the mainstream canon of New Zealand art", documentarian Shirley Horrocks (Marti: The Passionate Eye) felt that the whimsical, subversive but publicity-shy Kreisler deserved to be better known. So Horrocks interviewed fans and friends of the late artist, and headed to Mexico to find out how the country influenced him. Tom Who? debuted at the 2015 Auckland Film Festival.
In this mockumentary series, two metrosexual Māori males have six months to find a Māori bride in order to win a hefty inheritance. Created by writer Dane Giraud, the show mines comedy from being a modern Māori in the city. NZ Herald reviewer Alex Casey praised it for adding "much-needed fresh perspectives to New Zealand television comedy." The cast of the Kiel McNaughton-directed hit includes Cohen Holloway (Boy), Amanda Billing (Shortland Street), Rachel House (Whale Rider) and Siobhan Marshall (Outrageous Fortune). Jennifer Ward-Lealand narrates.