The final episode of director Geoff Steven's USA road trip provides a number of different takes on the American experience. A mother working as croupier in Reno, Nevada, puts a more modern and respectable face on the state’s previously disreputable gambling industry. An 82 year old professional banjo player in Virginia City recalls his days as a cowboy, while a TV reporter still rides the range on his days off. An upmarket health spa is flourishing in Tucson, Arizona; and, in Florida, Miami has been reshaped by a massive influx of refugees from Cuba.
The Country Touch was a widely popular country and western music show from the 60s, that screened on Saturday nights. Produced by Bryan Easte for NZBC the show was filmed on an Auckland hay barn set and featured musical numbers, from folk, fiddles, and banjos to bluegrass, introduced by the legendary Tex Morton. Regulars included The Hamilton County Bluegrass Band, Brian Hirst’s Country Touch Singers (with a team of 20 square dancers), and Kay and Shane. Has Auckland ever been this close to the Appalachians?
Four shorts in one, starring the claymation character who represents "the bad-tempered little knot we all have inside." Decaff originally debuted in two short videos. Funded by grants and a student loan, this 35mm film adds two new stories to remakes of the originals. Decaff made a strong impact on the short film scene, gained a cult audience and the character co-hosted TV show Short Cuts, a showcase for Kiwi shorts. Decaff's creator Greg Page, drummer, artist and music video-maker is the director behind horror film The Locals.
Country and western music legend Tex Morton presents this popular 60s Saturday night music show. The Auckland studio audience is seated on hay bales in a barn-styled set and provide the chorus to the musical numbers. The Hamilton County Bluegrass Band, The Country Touch Singers and Square Dancers, Jan Butler, fiddler Colleen Bain, and resident guest singers Kay and Shane perform. Tex himself sings a novelty number about the good ol’ days, and applauds Butler: “Isn’t she a redheaded little spark? I wish we had colour television!” The times they have a changed!
In this 2013 short, a possum-trapping nature boy is challenged when a woman moves into a house on the edge of the bush, looking for a fresh start. Cinematographer Ginny Loane captures the wintry central plateau landscape where the fable of life and death plays out. Director Leo Woodhead co-wrote the script with Paul Stanley Ward; the result followed Woodhead’s short Cargo (2007) to the Venice Film Festival, and won the Jury Prize at the 2014 Hong Kong Film Festival. Director Andrew Adamson (Shrek) called it “a well structured, beautifully shot narrative.”
White Water Ride scoffs a fry-up, zips up a life jacket, straps on a helmet and joins a guided rafting trip down the Mohaka River (with extra scenes shot on the Tongaririo and Rangitikei). There’s a rafter overboard and 70s era wetsuits, but no menacing locals or duelling banjos here (à la backwoods rafting classic Deliverance) — just a jaunty guitar and harmonica soundtrack, and the thrills and spills of a white water paddling trip, with a friendly splash war to finish. The narration-free NFU short played in NZ cinemas alongside Bond movie For Your Eyes Only.
Fish Out of Water manages to unfurl its light-hearted tale of young man and the sea, without a word of dialogue. Avoiding the morning traffic jams, our man (Nick Dunbar) finds peace by rowing each day to work in the city. But when a seductive blonde unexpectedly enters the picture, he finds his morning boat ride heading in unexpected directions. Directed by Lala Rolls (Land of My Ancestors), Fish Out of Water was invited to play in the 2005 NZ Film Festival, plus another 10 overseas fests. Victoria Kelly composes the brass and banjo-inflected soundtrack.
David Donaldson is one third of Plan 9, a musical collective whose CV of soundtracks includes short films, 20+ features, and over 130 hours of television. Donaldson and colleagues Janet Roddick and Steve Roche all played in celebrated band Six Volts. Since then they have won multiple soundtrack awards, including for films Predicament and Perfect Strangers. Donaldson also plays in Thrashing Marlin and The Labcoats.
As longtime presenter of alternative music show Radio With Pictures, Karyn Hay won fame for daring to speak in her own accent. Since leaving the show in the late 80s, Hay has worked on both sides of the microphone, directing music videos, managing radio station Kiwi FM and writing award-winning novel Emerald Budgies.