Ian Watkin's long acting career saw him playing mad doctors, priests, axe-wielding stepfathers, and American presidents. Part of the legendary Blerta troupe which toured Australasia in the 1970s, Watkin went on to appearances in everything from Beyond Reasonable Doubt and an iconic Crunchie bar commercial, to presenting Miss Universe New Zealand. He passed away in May 2016.
Derek Wooster is a veteran producer, director, reporter and writer who made milestone mainstream and Māori programming — from Mastermind to Marae — throughout his 30-year career with Television New Zealand. As well as creating and producing the country's longest running Māori current affairs series, Wooster has worked on significant national broadcasts including the tangihanga of Dame Whina Cooper and the Māori Queen.
Jude Dobson became a familiar television presence in the 1990s presenting a run of lifestyle shows, and then her own five night a week series. After beginning on quiz show Sale of the Century, she went on to helm almost 1000 episodes of 5.30 with Jude and its follow-up. In 2002 she set up production company Homegrown Television to make documentaries and educational films exploring parenting and family.
A meticulous, unflappable producer and director, John Lye’s career spanned three decades – most of it spent with TVNZ in Christchurch and Avalon. Lye did time as a cameraman and floor manager. Later he commanded two major productions of the 1980s — That’s Country and McPhail and Gadsby. After leaving TVNZ in 2000, he helped launch Big Brother Australia and live broadcasts of New Zealand Parliament.
Although she’d already done a few small acting roles, Sonia Gray was better known as a model when she jumped in the deep end at 21, playing Aleesha Cook on Shortland Street. The con-woman character targeted men on the street, gaining wealth and a job at the hospital. Gray has been most prominent on local TV screens as New Zealand’s second-longest serving Lotto presenter (she began in 2005). She was a co-host of roving reality show Ghosts and game show Wheel of Fortune. As well as helping Kiwis win big, Gray has acted in movie Love Birds and 2011 short film Blessed Are They.
After immigrating to New Zealand from South Africa when she was 11, Megan Alatini (née Cassie) became a contestant on reality show Popstars in 1999, soon winning a place in girl group TrueBliss. The band topped the Kiwi singles and album charts. In 2002 Alatini joined the main cast for the fourth season of The Tribe as warrior Java, acting alongside her real-life sisters Meryl and Monique. Alatini also acted in the short-lived Atlantis High. In 2006 she was a judge on New Zealand Idol; the following year she competed on the third season of Dancing With The Stars, where she ended up runner-up behind Suzanne Paul.
Robert Lord was writing full time at a point when few Kiwi playwrights made a living from their work. In 1988 he turned his play Bert and Maisy into a television series. He also had scriptwriting credits on TV's Peppermint Twist and big screen period drama Pictures. Lord's classic play Joyful and Triumphant was dramatised for television in 1993, soon after his death at age 46.
Julienne Stretton spent three decades documenting NZ people and culture for TV, as a researcher, producer and director. Her subjects have ranged from Katherine Mansfield and Hollywood actor Nola Luxford, to a young disabled couple in the groundbreaking Miles and Shelly documentaries. She researched major documentaries on Moriori and Gallipoli, and shared a 1992 Qantas Award for 60 Minutes.
Kiwi hair and makeup artist Lesley Vanderwalt won an Oscar and a Bafta for her work on Mad Max: Fury Road. She also collaborated with director George Miller on Babe 2, Nicole Kidman mini-series Bangkok Hilton and the second Mad Max movie. The onetime Wellington hairdresser had makeup duties on early Kiwi classics The Governor, Skin Deep and Bad Blood, before a slew of Australian credits (Shine, Moulin Rouge!).
Owen Hughes segued directly from university to a job at independent production company Pacific Films. Since establishing his own company Frame Up Films in 1977, Hughes has gone on to produce 40 plus documentaries and many dramas. Along the way he has nurtured the talents of a number of directors early in their careers, including Niki Caro, Fiona Samuel and Jessica Hobbs.