This 1949 episode of the National Film Unit’s Weekly Review newsreel series goes on a jaunty whistle-stop tour across the country. It takes off on TEAL’s new flying boat (Ararangi), from Wellington’s Evans Bay on a cruise over to the Marlborough Sounds and back. We then stop to smell the tulips on a South Canterbury tulip farm; before revving up for dusty motorhead bliss in Whanganui as a swarm of motorcyclists contest the Motorcycle Grand Prix. The reel pulls up in an Auckland factory for a fascinating look at the manufacture of glamourous nylon stockings.
Kiwi telly showed it could do sly as well as it could show the shearing of a sheep when, in a 1968 Wellington edition of regional news show Town and Around, reporter Erin Sinclair investigated an innovative farmer whose turkeys were shod in gumboots. The legendary hoax apparently fooled two executives from Skellerup who flew to Whanganui to secure a contract to manufacture the boots' lining. The wool-pulling is often wrongly remembered as a Country Calendar spoof — but that show’s first hoodwinker (a fence-plucking musical farmer) was nearly a decade away.
Ethical entrepreneur, medical pioneer and inaugural New Zealander of the Year, Sir Ray Avery traverses his life, work and beliefs in this episode from a TV One documentary series about spirituality. English-born Avery is a passionate and entertaining raconteur as he recounts his “overnight success story” which took 18 years and saw him overcome a childhood of neglect and abuse. His highly successful company has no permanent employees but has touched hundreds of thousands of lives with low cost, life saving medical devices manufactured in developing nations.
TrueBliss was the first manufactured pop group of the reality TV era. The series Popstars plucked Erika Takacs, Joe Cotton, Megan Alatini, Carly Binding and Keri Harper out of obscurity, chronicled their development and briefly turned them into chart toppers and household names. Debut album Dream and single 'Tonight' were both number ones with platinum sales, and there was a sold out tour. But TrueBliss faded once the momentum of the 1999 TV series had gone. Binding went on to a solo career while Cotton became a radio announcer and Takacs a TV Presenter.
In the late 1980s, Kiwi John Britten developed and built a revolutionary racing motorcycle. He pursued his dream all the way to Daytona International Speedway in Florida. In 1991 the underdog inventor came second against the biggest and richest manufacturers in the world. Britten: Backyard Visionary documents the maverick motorcycle designer as he and his crew rush to create an even better bike for the next Daytona. After arriving in Florida, another all-nighter is required to fix an untested vehicle with many major innovations. Costa Botes writes about the documentary here.
These New Zealanders was the first National Film Unit series produced for television. Presented by Selwyn Toogood (in one of his first TV roles), it looked at six Kiwi towns in the 1960s. In this episode Toogood visits the Waikato coal mining town of Huntly and learns about efforts to develop industry and opportunities for the local labour force, at a time when coal is being stockpiled. Existing businesses — the brickworks and an earthmoving equipment manufacturer — demonstrate the benefits of being located in Huntly.
This documentary is a hallucinogenic exploration of the allure of the foot and the cult of the shoe. What other item of clothing carries the promise of such pleasure or pain? A podiatrist, a ballerina, a cross dresser, a mistress, an academic, a transexual, a femme fatale and a couple of shoe salesmen journey into the depths of their soles. Selected for Venice Film Festival in 1996, Footage was an award-winning excursion into documentary making for feature director Niki Caro.
Popstars was a key part of the late 1990s reality television explosion. The series followed the creation and development of all-female pop band TrueBliss (Carly Binding, Keri Harper, Joe Cotton, Megan Alatini and Erika Takacs). The five singers went on to record several chart-topping singles, and a platinum-selling album. Also a hit was the series format, which sold around the world and helped inspire Pop Idol/American Idol, the franchise that would dominate reality television for years to come. Popstars was named Best Entertainment Programme at the 1999 NZ Television Awards.
Long-running travel series Intrepid Journeys took Kiwi celebrities (from All Blacks to music legends to ex-Prime Ministers) from the comfort of home to less-travelled paths in varied countries and cultures. The Jam TV series debuted in 2003 on TV One. With its authenticity and fresh, genre-changing take on a travel show (focusing on personal experience rather than objectivity), Intrepid Journeys was a landmark in local factual television. It managed to achieve the rare mix of high ratings and critical acclaim.
Peter Jackson has gone from being a shy, unknown fanboy making pastiche versions of his favourite fantasy movies, to a renowned master of his craft; from Pukerua Bay to Wellywood: today he has few peers in the realm of large scale filmmaking.