Reality series Tough Act follows first-year students at New Zealand's most famous drama school. In this episode personal lives clash with professional aspirations. The students' first professional production looms. As they rehearse scenes from Shakespeare, distractions are everywhere. Hollie is grieving after news of an accident and class romances are put to the test when partners perform intimate scenes with colleagues. When Sophie sleeps in and misses a rehearsal, she faces serious consequences. The series was nominated for two local awards for Best Reality Series.
Tough Act follows the 2005 intake of first-year acting students at Toi Whakaari, New Zealand's most famous drama school. This episode concentrates on two group assignments: a performance describing the students' journey after being accepted into the school, and a performance in te reo, using song and movement. The pressure involved in creating, rehearsing and performing to deadlines reveals striking personality differences within the class. This episode was one of two nominated for Best Children's Programme at the 2007 Air New Zealand Screen Awards.
In 2005 director Stuart McKenzie brought a camera crew into the studios and rehearsal spaces of Toi Whakaari, New Zealand's top drama school, to follow the progress of its first-year acting students. The class included future names like Dan Musgrove and Sophie Hambleton (Westside) and Matt Whelan (Go Girls). Tough Act was nominated for Best Reality Show at the 2007 Qantas Television Awards and the 2007 NZ Screen Awards. The concept was custom-made for reality TV: tough auditions to find 22 diverse young people, who chased the same dream and faced a multitude of challenges.
Act of Kindness follows the search for one very helpful man, in a country of 11 million people. In 1999 Kiwi Sven Pannell arrived penniless in Rwanda, after bribing himself out of a worrying encounter with rebel militia in Burundi. He was saved by a street beggar who spoke perfect English. Eight years later Pannell got the chance to return to Rwanda with camera in hand, and say thanks — if only he can track his saviour down. Directed by Pannell and Costa Botes (Forgotten Silver), the documentary is a portrait of compassion, obsession, and a nation recovering from tragedy.
This film documents Miranda Harcourt taking her stageplay Verbatim (written by Harcourt and William Brandt) to prison audiences. The play is a six-character monologue made up of accounts of violent crime, all performed by Harcourt. Director Shirley Horrocks captures the reactions of the prison inmates watching their own lives unfold on stage. Harcourt’s powerful performance is augmented with revealing testimonies of the broken men and women who agree to be interviewed. The documentary won the premier prize at the 1993 Media Peace Awards.
In the theatre world of the 70s and 80s, playwright Mervyn Thompson was an outspoken figure. He wrote, directed, and acted in theatre that presented New Zealand working class history and experience. This doco features a rare interview with Thompson before he died in 1992, as well as footage from his last work Passing Through (1991). Thompson discusses his upbringing on the West Coast of the South Island, his approach to theatre, and alludes to some of the controversies that beset his career.
Miranda Harcourt got her screen break playing the bitchy Gemma on iconic 80s soap Gloss. Since then the versatile Harcourt has hardly taken a break - directing, teaching, plus acting in prisons, tele-movie Clare, and feature film For Good, among many other roles.
Tandi Wright spent some of her childhood in the dressing room at Avalon TV Studios - waiting for her actor parents to finish work on Close to Home. But rather than encouraging her to follow suit, Wright insists they were always 'realistic about how nearly impossible it is to make a career out of acting'. She agrees - but seems to have pulled off the impossible anyway. Wright has been acting for television since the age of six, playing lead roles in some of New Zealand’s top productions including Shortland Street, Willy Nilly, Being Eve, Serial Killers, Outrageous Fortune, This Is Not My Life and Nothing Trivial. Her film credits include Not Only But Always, Black Sheep, and Out of the Blue.
Katie Wolfe made her small screen acting debut in the early 90s. Fresh from drama school she played the daughter of Andy Anderson's character on TV series Marlin Bay. Many acting roles later, Wolfe moved into directing, including well-travelled short film This is Her and TV movie Nights in the Gardens of Spain.
Actress and TV presenter Miriama Smith made her acting debut in cop show Shark in the Park. At 20 she graduated to Shortland Street, playing nurse Awhina Broughton. Since then, Smith has appeared in a raft of TV shows including Mercy Peak, Mataku and Serial Killers. She played lawyer Donna Hall in tele-feature Stolen, was a contestant on Dancing with the Stars, and a judge on the Prime Television version of New Zealand’s Got Talent.