In 1865, Wellington became the Kiwi capital. In the more than 150 years since, cameras have caught the rise and fall of storms, buildings, and MPs, and Courtenay Place has played host to vampires and pool-playing priests. Wind through our Wellington Collection to catch the action, and check out backgrounders by musician Samuel Scott and broadcaster Roger Gascoigne.
Fifteen-year-old James is a suburban kid who tries to have it all one night on Courtenay Place. A sensitive lead turn from newcomer Aaron McGregor captures the intensity of being taken by the night, as booze and hormones derail romantic intentions. Choice Night was a second short collaboration between director Christopher Dudman and writer Paul Stanley Ward, loosely based on the latter’s experiences as a teenager in 90s Wellington. It was selected for the Clermont-Ferrand (in competition) and BFI London film festivals, and won Best International Short at Geneva.
Boy director Taika Waititi teams up with his Eagle vs Shark star Jemaine Clement to present this bloody comedy about the travails of a flat of vampires. Reality TV-style cameras tag the vamps as they struggle to get into Courtenay Place nightclubs, squabble over chores and face off werewolves. A roster of Kiwi comedic talent (including Jonathan Brugh and Rhys Darby) feature. After winning fangtastic reviews at America's Sundance and SXSW festivals, Shadows won a run of global sales, local success and four Moa awards, including Best Self-Funded Feature.
Filmed in 2002, this documentary observes a group of people living on the streets of Wellington. After being moved on from Cuba Mall, the group makes their home by the Cenotaph (near Parliament) and sets up a "village of peace". Led by the dreadlocked 'Brother' they attempt to gain an audience with the government; their self-proclaimed marae provokes police, public, politicians and media. Reviewer Graeme Tuckett called the film a "landmark in New Zealand documentary making". Brother (aka Ben Hana) later gained a local profile as Courtenay Place's 'Blanket Man'.
Stunt driver Judd (US Oscar winner Cliff Robertson) and his mechanic Casey (ex child star Leif Garrett) are in NZ racing 'Shaker' — their pink and black Trans-Am — when they're enlisted by scientist Dr Christine Ruben on a fast and furious dash from Dunedin. Unknown to the Yanks, Ruben (Lisa Harrow) has stolen a deadly virus that she's aiming to smuggle to the CIA, and away from the NZ military — who plan to use it for bio warfare! Touted as "fantasy car violence", the chase and stunt-laden Run was one of dozens of films sped out under an 80s tax break scheme.
The quarter acre dream is in full flower in this colourful celebration of Kiwi gardening. Director Conon Fraser surveys the symbols (tool sheds, trimmed edges) and rituals (broken window, cricket ball), and muses on the role of gardens: from civic pride to “escape from the house”. A wide range of public and private landscapes are honoured, both reverentially — a time-lapse of blooms in Wellington's Lady Norwood Rose Garden — and whimsically — eg talking pests, and a couple rolling on the lawn in front of a knitting oldie. The film won top prize at a US Horticultural Society Festival.
This final episode from series two of the arts series is presented by Taika Cohen (aka Taika Waititi) and his alter ego, silly German Gunter Schliemann. Taika makes short film Tama Tū, performs as vampire Diego (later reborn in What We Do in the Shadows) and performs Taika’s Incredible Show at Bats Theatre. Included are scenes from his early, little-seen short film John & Pogo. Also featured are artist Siren Maclaine (aka Siren Deluxe) and her feminist erotica; Caroline Robinson’s large-scale Auckland motorway sculptures; and comics artist Colin Wilson (Judge Dredd, Blueberry).
The Dominant Species is a loopy look at the relationship between people and cars in 1975 Aotearoa ... from an alien's eye view. Nifty animation and special effects intersperse the automotive anthropological survey of Mark IIs, VWs, anti-car activism and car-washing. There's a dream sequence involving a ladykilling Jesus Christ atop a car, and Wagner's Ride of the Valkyries scores a rugby match traffic jam (also used in a famous scene in Apocalypse Now). Filmheads will note the tripped out assembly is flush with formative industry talents (see this guide by director Derek Morton).
Best known for his many decades in radio, Peter Harcourt's career also included books and varied screen appearances. In the 60s he and his wife Kate Harcourt fronted Junior Magazine, one of our earliest children’s TV shows. Peter went on to act on Gloss and present the Mobil Song Quest, though his most famous screen appearance runs just 21 seconds – a 60s era underwear ad which was originally rejected as too risque to screen.
Dave Gibson is one of New Zealand's most experienced producers. Under his command, company Gibson Group made programmes for local and international audiences for over three decades. In 2012 Gibson was admitted to the Order of NZ Merit for services to the screen industry; in 2014 he sold his shares in Gibson Group, and began a four-year stint as Chief Executive of the NZ Film Commission.