Gerard Smyth began his screen career in 1969 as a cameraman for state TV. Since turning director he has made documentaries on everything from the disabled (many for TV series Inside Out) to the arts. Qantas-nominated for his doco on cinematographer Alun Bollinger, Smyth made his feature debut with When a City Falls, an acclaimed account of the quakes in hometown Christchurch. He followed it with Jean Watson doco Aunty and the Star People.
As a showcase history of Christchurch on screen this collection is backwards looking; but the devastation caused by the earthquakes gives it much more than nostalgic poignancy. As Russell Brown reflects in his introduction, the clips are mementos from, "a place whose face has changed". They testify to the buildings, culture and life of a city now lost, but sure to rise.
This collection looks at some of New Zealand's most significant national tragedies. Spanning 150+ years, it tells stories of drama, caution, hope and recovery — from the 1863 wreck of the Orpheus at Manukau Heads, to Tarawera, the Wahine, Erebus, Pike River and Christchurch. In the backgrounder, Jock Phillips writes about the collection, and the "common sequence" to disaster.
Aged 50, Jean Watson sold her Wellington house to buy land for a children’s home in southern India. In 2013 filmmaker Gerard Smyth (director of acclaimed quake chronicle When a City Falls) spent two months in India, chronicling Watson and some of the many lives she has changed. Smyth’s documentary also harks back to the 60s, when Watson wrote novel Stand in the Rain, and hunted crocodiles with Barry Crump. The result won solid audiences at the 2014 NZ Film Festival. The Listener gave it four stars; “Unpretentious but unashamedly enjoyable” said The Dominion Post.
This excerpt from the On Camera series sees Australian entertainer Rolf Harris recording in NZBC’s Christchurch studios for an episode of children’s TV show Kidset. In an ensuing interview — popping with sound effects made using only his voice — he talks about cracking his wobble board, his advocacy for aboriginal music, hit song ‘Two Little Boys’, and differences between children’s and adult audiences. Daughter Bindi drops in before Harris muses on being air-sick, and pounamu hunting in Hokitika. In 2014 Harris was convicted of numerous sex offences.
Christchurch policeman Stefen Harris launched his film career with this feature-length adaptation of his own book The Waikikamukau Conspiracy, about a small town Māori land claim. When drama funding couldn’t be secured, it was shot as a low budget mockumentary in just six days in South Canterbury. Jim Moriarty manages to be endearing in his determination to regain his people’s land at any cost, while David McPhail and Mark Hadlow enthusiastically lampoon the judicial system. The film won Best Digital Feature at the 2007 Air New Zealand Screen Awards.
This 2011 episode of the Russell Brown-fronted media commentary show examines how Christchurch is dealing with the aftermath of two devastating earthquakes. First up: the CEISMIC Digital Archive is working to preserve the memories and experiences of Cantabrians, and The Press editor Andrew Holden explains why his newspaper is donating everything it has published to the project. Then CERA CEO Roger Sutton talks about the key role of media relations, and filmmaker Gerard Smyth describes shooting his acclaimed chronicle of the quakes: When a City Falls.
In the Nature of Things saw Christchurch zoologist Ron Walton deliver science lessons to children. Walton (along with Night Sky presenter Peter Read) made made science pop, and was one of NZ’s best known broadcasting personalities of the 60s and 70s, fondly remembered by a generation of Kiwi kids. His fame saw him endorse everything from microscopes to Pye TV sets. From a gentler time, well prior to the pyrotechnics of MythBusters, Things was one of the few NZBC products from the era that screened internationally, selling to the US and a host of other countries.
When New Zealand’s second channel arrived in 1975, TV One stayed with BBC format Play School as its pre-schoolers’ programme while newcomer SPTV made a local version of American show Romper Room (initially in Auckland, then from the Christchurch studios that later made After School). Participation from a young (and sometimes startled) studio audience was a hallmark of the show. The presenters included Miss Yvonne (they were always Miss) Moore — wife of future Prime Minister Mike Moore. Romper Room disappeared in 1980 when the channels combined.
For a generation of music fans before the internet, show Radio with Pictures was a vital link to local and international music — and essential viewing before TV2's Sunday night horror movies. Following on from Grunt Machine in 1976, its presenters included Karyn Hay, Dr Rock (Barry Jenkin), Dick Driver Phil O'Brien. RWP's extended run coincided with the rise of MTV and the music video, and a burgeoning 1980s New Zealand music scene. Videos were a staple, but artist interviews also featured. The show also staged a number of Mainstreet concerts featuring leading local artists.