The Lunatics' Ball

Film, 1999 (Excerpts)

Passion project The Lunatics' Ball follows an unorthodox psychologist who arrives at a psychiatric hospital and tries to use art, joy and respect to motivate his patients. First-timer Michael Thorp wrote the script partly out of worries that drug-based treatment programmes could prove more of a trap than a solution. After casting American-born oboist Russel Walder in the main role, and shooting on a shoestring, Thorp completed editing thanks to $400,000 in Film Commission funding, and help from some major industry names. The result won a jury prize at the Shanghai Film Festival.  

Birth with Dr. R.D. Laing

Television, 1977 (Full Length)

Framed by the distinctive burr of influential Scottish thinker RD Laing, this 1977 doco questions how the Western medical system handles childbirth: in Laing's view, "one of the disaster areas of our culture." Supported by arresting hospital footage and impassioned interviews with mothers, the film argues that women are often deliberately sidelined during the process of birth, and babies' needs ignored. Screenings in the UK and US saw it contributing to a debate about newborn care; one that remains ongoing. Birth won a Feltex award for best documentary.

Living the Dream - First Episode

Television, 2004 (Full Length Episode)

This TV2 take on The Truman Show sees Hawkes Bay vineyard worker Sam participating in a reality show where – unknown to him – all his housemates are fakes. In this first episode Sam’s flatmates play to the archetypes of reality TV, as host Mark Ferguson sets them ridiculous challenges (eg water bomb wet t-shirt reading). The Spinoff 's Alex Casey called it “a one off, never to be repeated format, and crikey it was good, bad TV.” The cast were only let into the show's secrets after winning their parts. Sarah Thomson ('rich bitch' Tiffany) was later an undercover cop on Shortland Street.

Men and Super Men

Short Film, 1975 (Full Length)

NFU drama Men and Super Men is a barbed chronicle of a workplace where harmony is a distant dream. Intended as a how-not-to guide for ‘management bodies’, the film sees patronising factory supervisor Ferguson (actor Eddie Wright in fine form) trying to increase productivity by constantly changing systems. Meanwhile a trio on the factory floor (Paul Holmes, Peter McCauley and Close to Home’s Stephen Tozer) react with bullying and barely suppressed defiance. It was an open secret when the film was made that some of the characters were inspired by NFU staff.

Chasing Great

Film, 2016 (Trailer)

This feature documentary follows All Black Richie McCaw on his 2015 quest to become the first skipper to defend the Webb Ellis Cup. Directors Justin Pemberton (The Golden Hour) and Michelle Walshe were given unprecedented access to the subject to create a portrait of McCaw the person, and chronicle the psychology of achievement in international sport. McCaw got involved as a chance to “inspire some young kids”, ending his policy of keeping “the private stuff private”. The film's opening day set a Kiwi record for a local documentary; in its first week, it beat all competition.

Series

Jim's Car Show

Television, 2000–2001

By the year 2000, popular TVNZ weatherman Jim Hickey had a programme with his name in the title. The motoring show looked at everything from the psychology of buying a car to road testing new editions and revisiting classics. Hickey's co-presenters were Mark Leishman and onetime MTV host Marie Azcona. After leaving in the second season, Azcona was replaced by Jeanette Thomas.  Jim's Car Show was produced for TV One by Dave Mason. Hickey and Mason formed company Rustic Road productions in time for the second season, and went on to make further programmes together.

How to Drown

Short Film, 1951 (Full Length)

In colonial times drowning was so rife it was known as 'the New Zealand death'. This jaunty 1951 educational film is an effort to rid our lakes, rivers and seas of the unfortunate tag through cunning reverse psychology, as swimmers, fishermen and skylarking lads learn "how to drown". It eschews the confrontational realism of many a later PSA for the light-hearted approach: mixing lessons on water safety with silent film-style tomfoolery, gallows humour and the odd bit of sexual innuendo. Features footage of surf lifesavers using the now-archaic rope and reel.

The Making of an All Black

Television, 1969 (Full Length)

This NZBC documentary goes behind the scenes of the All Blacks, as the 1969 edition prepares to face the Welsh tourists. Match-day superstitions and training routines are analysed: Colin Meads relays his fitness regime (up farm hills), Sid Going discusses being a missionary, and there is much musing on all-things All Black from players, punters and even footballers’ wives. Exploration of player psychology plays it up the middle, and though the film neglects to ask how many Weetbix a player can eat, it was nominated for Best Documentary at the 1970 Feltex Awards.

Wrestling with the Angel

Television, 2004 (Excerpts)

A documentary about author Janet Frame based on the eponymous biography by Michael King. It travels through the familiar Frame themes - her alleged mental illness, family tragedies, overseas stays, how she began writing. Its value, and fresh insight, lies in the interviews with Frame's close friends and key figures in her life. They shed light on her personality and achievements. King in particular provides a considered, often-amusing account of Frame's life. This was his last interview for film; he was killed in a car accident in 2004.

Restoring the Mauri of Lake Omapere

Film, 2007 (Full Length)

This 76-minute documentary looks at efforts to restore the mauri (life spirit) of Northland's Lake Omapere, a large fresh water lake — and taonga to the Ngāpuhi people — made toxic by pollution. Simon Marler's film offers a timely challenge to New Zealand's 100% Pure branding, and an argument for kaitiakitanga (guardianship) that respects ecological and spiritual well-being. There is spectacular footage of the lake's endangered long-finned eel. Barry Barclay in Onfilm called the film "powerful, sobering". It screened at the 2008 National Geographic All Roads Film Festival.