Shot for an Australian Travel Agents Seminar, this short film seeks to portray 1969 New Zealand as a hip and happening place. The tourism clichés of a scenic wonderland remain, but the film attempts to present a more sophisticated NZ to entice jet-set Aussies east. After all, we "got rid of six o'clock closing ages ago." To complement the Anzac staples of sport, beer and gambling there are mountains and Māori. Nightclubs offer show bands and strippers for "relaxation" after strenuous days of sightseeing. C’mon is a fascinating snapshot of a nation in transition.
Made for the New Zealand Government Tourist Bureau by independent company Neuline, this 1950 film promotes “New Zealand’s big-sea fighting fish” as an overseas tourist attraction. First stop is Mayor Island near Tauranga, then it’s off to the Bay of Islands to land mako shark and marlin. Neuline was one of a handful of independent production companies in postwar New Zealand; Neuline boss Robert Steele pioneered the commercial use of 16mm film here. Although the narration purports to be that of an overseas visitor, it is actually Selwyn Toogood, who narrated many of Steele’s films.
A pioneer of the commercial use of 16mm film in post-war New Zealand, Robert Steele is arguably a lost name in the local screen industry. A portrait photographer who was making amateur films in 1930, he spent several years in his native Australia before returning to NZ for good in 1937. Steele screened his films at workplaces and trade fairs, and was a major producer of commercials in the first decade of Kiwi television.
Mortimer’s Patch was a popular drama series following Detective Sergeant Doug Mortimer (Terence Cooper) at work in the town of Cobham. Mortimer plays a city cop returning to his rural roots; Don Selwyn is Sergeant Bob Storey. The series was NZ’s first police drama, and a rare local drama to top ratings. Mortimer's Patch was made when the archetype of the ‘community cop’ everyone knew was still a powerful one, and it was a counterweight to the faceless riot policing of the Springbok Tour. Three series were made.
Lee Tamahori worked his way up the filmmaking ranks, before debuting as a feature director with 1994's Once Were Warriors. The portrait of a violent marriage became the most successful film in Kiwi history, and won international acclaim. Between Warriors and 2016's Mahana, Tamahori has worked mainly overseas, where he has directed everything from The Sopranos to 007 blockbuster Die Another Day.
Although he may not be keen to do so, Bill Toepfer can claim a place in global television history as the man behind the Popstars reality TV juggernaut. Toepfer has enjoyed a long and accomplished career in New Zealand television, editing and producing hundreds of hours of documentaries and TV specials.
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.
The late Tama Poata's wide-ranging contributions to our culture can be glimpsed through his appearances on-screen: from Poata's campaigns for Māori land rights (in 1975 doco Te Matakite O Aotearoa) and against the Springbok tour (Patu!), to his many acting roles, his move into documentary-making, and as writer of landmark 1987 movie Ngati — the first feature written (and directed) by Māori.
Since joining state television as a sound operator in the 60s, Ron Pledger has gone on to win a reputation for his assured coverage of a wide range of live events, from concerts to This is Your Life to the state funeral of Sir Edmund Hillary. A life long music lover, Pledger was awarded an MBE in 1992, helping recognise 40 years of service in a military band.
The idea that New Zealanders often take for granted the depth of talent in the local screen industry is well illustrated by the career of Flux Animation founder Brent Chambers. Most Kiwis would have seen at least one example of his prolific output, yet few would be able to put a face or a name to his work. Chambers was tireless in building a competitive and viable international business, with a distinct local identity.