This short film from 1955 offers a comprehensive look at how knowledge of bushcraft can make safer "our green heritage of the high hills and bush”. Following a tramping party, the narration takes a straightforward approach to the subject, detailing skills like packing, river crossing, route finding, fire lighting, and building a bivvy. Some tips are timeless: “There’s no point in going like a bull at a gate” through supplejack, while others are of their era: pipe-smoking, barley sugar, and logs for tent poles. The film was part of a National Film Unit educational series on mountain safety.
This full-length documentary recreates three fatal fires to find out the characteristics of a killer fire, and reveal how it goes about its business: how easily fires start, what feeds them, and how ill-prepared most people are to fight a fire. Interviews with survivors — some of them talking publicly for the first time — firefighters, and investigators are interwoven with footage of real (condemned) houses set alight. Fatal Fires screened in TV One's Danger Zone series, which included DIY Disasters and Dangerous Waters.
In an age before Rogernomics, well before The Office, there was the afternoon tea fund, Golden Kiwi, and four o'clock closing: welcome to the early 80s world of the New Zealand Public Service. Gliding On (1981 - 1985) was the first locally-made sitcom to become a bona-fide classic. Inspired by Roger Hall's hit play Glide Time, the award-winning series satirised a paper-pushing working life familiar to many Kiwis. This episode features Beryl's non-smoking campaign, Jim's efforts to kick the habit, office sexual innuendo and a much-debated fire drill. "Morning Jim!"
Using music to bring home an important message is an age-old technique, used to good effect here by Senior Constable Bryan Ward and Bobby, his talking police dog. Joined by a bunch of enthusiastic kids and members of emergency services, they make some moves while reworking lullaby 'Twinkle, Twinkle, Little Star' into a road safety message. Producer and children’s TV icon Suzy Cato is among those making a direct appeal for drivers to slow down on roads, before a final karaoke verse which viewers can sing along to at home.
In 2007 Willie Apiata, of the NZ Army's elite SAS unit, was awarded the Victoria Cross for carrying a wounded soldier to safety while under fire in Afghanistan. This documentary had exclusive access to Corporal Apiata, from the moment he was told about the VC to his decision a few weeks later to gift the medal to the nation. The shy soldier struggles to deal with his sudden celebrity, and military bosses have to cope with the dual demand of handling media interest in the VC win while still keeping the work of the SAS relatively secret.
A salient public safety segment in this edition of the National Film Unit’s long-running magazine series looks at 'prudence at home', and the ways that stoves, jugs and fires can be dangerous to children. Other segments include a visit to a Gisborne health camp where youngsters are finishing their seven week course of dietary and exercise lessons. And a jaunt to Canterbury’s frozen Lake Ida for skating, pies, and ice hockey concludes that ‘winter can be fun’. A car-drawn toboggan looks it — though the ice rescue demonstration will not convince all viewers.
Part of a well-known Kiwi arts family, Josh Frizzell’s screen apprenticeship involved props and design; one early gig saw him delivering prop machine guns up the Shotover River by helicopter. He went on to direct a run of music videos in the 1990s, including award-winners for Emma Paki and Shihad. Frizzell has gone on to helm episodes of The Brokenwood Mysteries and Fresh Eggs, plus TV movie Ablaze, about the 1949 Ballantyne's fire. His advertising work includes multiple inflight safety campaigns for Air New Zealand, and a break-in at the Tui Brewery. He is one of the owners of Trans-Tasman commercials company Eight.
Some jobs never make the headlines; in the screen industry, one of those unsung positions is the production manager. After seven years on film sets in Asia, Brian Walden returned home in the mid 70s to production manage the shoots of many classic TV dramas, from Hunter’s Gold to Hanlon. In 1985 he went freelance, keeping a firm hand on shoots involving horses, hospital porters, vampires and underwater aeroplanes.
The familiar voice of radio announcer Peter Hutt was also heard on the soundtracks of many National Film Unit productions. From 1946, when Weekly Review put a few minutes each week of New Zealand scenes and people on cinema screens, until 1972, when television was presenting hours daily of the country and its people, Hutt also developed his talent for directing, writing and editing films. Image credit: Auckland Libraries Heritage Collections, ID 34-232 (detail). Photographer Clifton Firth
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.