Hosted by Phil Keoghan not long before he left for the US, Short Sportz was a TV3 sports show encouraging kids to get involved in sports. Keoghan (later to win fame as host of Amazing Race) often kitted up himself Paper Lion-style: here he takes base against Black Sox pitches and cycles with future ironman champion Cameron Brown. This 1991 ‘best of’ show is notable for a segment presented by a rising Wainuiomata league star who’s just been signed by Newcastle Knights: Tana Umaga. Umaga’s NRL career was short-lived, and he went on to become an All Black legend.
An All-American boy from NZ, Christchurch born Riki Ellison (Ngāi Tahu) is the subject of this Māori Television documentary. After moving to the United States at age eight, he made a stellar career out of “kinetic energy intercept”. A fearless player with an intimidating “Māori look”, he was a champion college football defensive linebacker and three-time Superbowl winner with the San Francisco 49ers. Then, inspired by Ronald Reagan, he became a leading advocate for missile defence systems; while, along the way, reconnecting with his whānau and heritage.
Producer Julia Parnell’s CV boasts a diverse range of credits — from comedy (Wayne Anderson: Singer of Songs) to sport (Wilbur: The King in the Ring), music (The Chills - The Triumph & Tragedy of Martin Phillipps) and te ao Māori (Restoring Hope). Parnell’s production company Notable Pictures is behind a run of award-winning short films (Dive, Friday Tigers), plus long-running mini-documentary series Loading Docs.
Former guitarist Dane Giraud began his screen career by starring in and helping write 2001 movie The Waiting Place. Since then there hasn’t been much waiting around. Aside from directing feature drama Luella Miller, he has been a key player in a run of television shows and documentaries (Bring Your Boots, Oz, Both Worlds). Giraud is also creator of mockumentary series Find Me a Māori Bride.
Brother of pioneering aviator Jean Batten, Rotorua-born John Batten began acting in films while living in the United States. By the 1930s he was winning starring roles in England, including The Great Game and submarine drama Men Like This. Later he appeared in his only known New Zealand film, Rudall Hayward short Song of the Wanganui. Batten passed away in England in 1993.
Richard O’Brien made his mark in the history of musicals — and cult movies — after creating the tale of a sweet transvestite from Transylvania. The Rocky Horror Picture Show has played on cinema screens for decades. The stage show continues to win new fans. O’Brien has gone on to a wide range of projects, including movie Dark City and hosting New Zealand’s DNA Detectives and UK hit The Crystal Maze.
Ray Columbus, OBE, began hosting television shows at the tender age of 19. After Columbus and the Invaders topped Australasian charts with 1964 single 'She's a Mod', Columbus spent time as a musician in America. The song was covered multiple times. He later returned to Aotearoa to resume a long career as recording artist, TV presenter and talent manager. Columbus passed away in late November 2016.
Eight years after her TV debut on sketch show Funny Business, Lucy Lawless won global fame as the star of Xena: Warrior Princess. The series won her a devoted fan following, and invitations to guest star on everything from The Simpsons to bro' Town. Since the end of Xena's six season run, Lawless has acted in New Zealand and the United States, including as bad girl Lucretia in locally-shot series Spartacus.