Set in Auckland’s Indian community and partly inspired by Bollywood movies, rom-com Stars in Her Eyes is the third feature for director Athina Tsoulis (Jinx Sister). Leila Alexander stars as Anousha, who uses her astrology column to try to start a romance with a bank teller she admires. Also appearing are comedian Eli Matthewson as Anousha's not-so-helpful best friend, and Colin Mathura-Jeffree as her brother, an ex cricket star. The film was shot with the help of over 100 students from Unitec, where Tsoulis has worked in a number of roles, including teaching film direction.
Jono Smith was 14 when he won the starring role as teenager Ned Poindexter in 50s-era coming of age classic The Scarecrow. After leaving school, Smith joined TVNZ and became a camera assistant. Since relocating to England in 1993 he has shot a raft of television projects, short films, and four features. In 2010 he co-produced acclaimed movie Sus.
Michelle Turner has worked on everything from splatter classic Braindead to Bread & Roses. Her CV covers a wide range of behind the scenes roles, from production manager to producer. In 2001 she produced her first feature Stickmen. The tale of friends who enter an underground pool contest sold to more than 20 countries. Then she joined the producing team on London-set romance Bollywood Queen. Turner was a producer on documentary Children of the Migration and TV drama The Lost Children. She has also worked on the Fijian shoot for Tom Hanks hit Cast Away, and in sales for the NZ Film Commission.
Though Michael Heath helped create a run of pioneering examples of the Kiwi cinema of unease, his contributions to our culture defy easy categorisation. His scripts include many films which have made a comfortable home between genres: children’s vampire tale Moonrise/Grampire, nostalgic Ronald Hugh Morrieson chiller The Scarecrow, Heath’s work with director Tony Williams, and his acclaimed song-cycle A Small Life.
Colin Mathura-Jeffree found TV fame as the innuendo-dropping host of New Zealand’s Hottest Home Baker and New Zealand’s Next Top Model. Prior to presenting, his modelling career had taken him to Europe, Singapore and India, including work for Versace and Jean Paul Gaultier. He was born in New Zealand to an Indian mother (a model) and a European father. Mathura-Jeffree also acts; he was cast in 2008 Bollywood downunder movie Love Has No Language. In 2015 he competed on Dancing With The Stars, before playing a Kiwi cricket star in Athina Tsoulis' romantic comedy Stars In Her Eyes.
Julie Christie, DNZM, is one of New Zealand's most successful television producers. She built her company, Touchdown Productions, into the country's leading producer of entertainment television and exporter of programme formats. In 2006 she sold Touchdown to global company Eyeworks in a multi-million dollar deal; she stayed on as managing director until 2012.
Bailey Mackey's first television job was as a reporter for Māori news programme Te Karere. Later, while Head of Sport for Māori Television, he created long-running sports show Code. Mackey established companies Black Inc Media and Pango Productions, and co-created high profile 2012 reality series The GC. He also sold the format for Pango's hit show Sidewalk Karaoke to global company FremantleMedia.
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.
Rugby and league international, car wash entrepreneur and celebrity Matthew Ridge became – alongside fellow sportsman Marc Ellis – one of the twin onscreen towers of 90s and 2000s lad culture in New Zealand. The larrikin pair went adventuring in Aotearoa and overseas (Fresh Up In the Deep End, a run of Matthew and Marc’s Rocky Road series) and were panel captains on sports quiz show Game of Two Halves. Solo, Ridge was chosen to host the original version of high profile game show The Chair. He has also been a regular participant in a run of celebrity reality shows (Treasure Island, Top of the Class).
All Black, Auckland Warrior, juice entrepreneur, and onscreen larrikin, Marc Ellis’ first non-footy screen foray was co-hosting Sportscafe, where his antics regularly attracted headlines (including Nude Day appearances). A run of hosting roles followed – often with fellow sportsman Matthew Ridge – where the lads were fish-out-of-water in New Zealand (In the Deep End, Time of Your Life) and overseas (Matthew and Marc’s Rocky Road). The pair were team captains on quiz show Game of Two Halves; Ellis went solo for 2009's How the Other Half Lives. These days he is co-owner of advertising agency Media Blanco.