Before you could call her Queen Bee and ‘Royals’ became a Grammy-winning smash hit, Ella Yelich-O’Connor was a singer in Extreme and competing in the covers category of the 2009 Intermediate Schools Battle of the Bands finals. The 12-year-old Belmont Intermediate student and her band belt out covers of ‘Man on the Silver Mountain’, by British rockers Rainbow, and ‘Edie (Ciao Baby)’, The Cult’s tribute to Andy Warhol heroine Edie Sedgwick. “The gods lay at your fee-e-eet …” Ella. Post-performance Ella bemoans a “sore voice”, but Extreme take third place.
In the 1930s Kiwi-born pilot Jean Batten set off on a series of legendary solo flights. Jean is the tale of a charismatic, determined woman, the mother who stayed close, and the man curious to unravel the person behind the legend. At the 2017 NZ Television Awards, the ambitious telemovie made a clean sweep, including awards for Donna Malane and Paula Boock's script, director Robert Sarkies, lead actor Kate Elliott, and the design team. In the excerpt — which hints at the story's globetrotting sweep — Jean fights heat and storms while attempting to fly from England to Australia.
Heart of the High Country saw NZ and the mother country getting into bed together, on and off the screen. The rags/riches/rags tale chronicles 18 years for Ceci (Valerie Gogan), a working class Brit who arrives in the South Island and fends off a series of mean-tempered pioneer males — and one long unrequited love. The Sam Pillsbury-directed mini-series played in primetime on ITV in the UK, and was funded by England’s Central TV and TVNZ. It shares storytelling DNA with earlier TV movie It’s Lizzie to Those Close; Brit Elizabeth Gowans scripted both.
In the 1930s Jean Batten broke solo distance flying records and achieved international fame. Directed by her biographer, Ian Mackersey, Garbo of the Skies chronicles Batten's life through archive footage, interviews, narration from her unpublished memoirs and reconstructions of her epic flights. The documentary also reveals a lonely private world: a domineering mother, romantic tragedy, a fall into obscurity, and death in a Majorcan hotel (a mystery finally solved during the film's making). Garbo of the Skies screened on TVNZ, the Discovery Channel and the BBC.
Frank Whitten won probably his biggest audience when 10 million Brits saw him play an outrageous bastard in this primetime melodrama. This first episode sees Ceci (Glaswegian actor Valerie Gogan) arriving from England hoping for a better life, and instead finding herself trapped on a rundown farm with a rapist, a bitter old man and a simpleton. NZ producers Lloyd Phillips and Rob Whitehouse won finance from TVNZ, Westpac and the UK's Central Television for the six-part mini-series, written by Brit Elizabeth Gowans. There were 118 speaking parts, most of them Kiwi.
Ella Yelich-O’Connor was born in Takapuna in 1996 and raised on Auckland’s North Shore. Having shown a keen interest in performance as a child, she signed with Universal NZ while in her early teens and was paired with producer Joel Little. Her tale of suburban teenhood, 'Royals' (released mid-2013), became a massive breakout hit, topping the Billboard Hot 100 in the US. Her debut album Pure Heroine showcased her distinctive vocal style and cemented her global superstardom. Sophomore album Melodrama, recorded in NYC, was released in 2017, topping album charts worldwide including the US Billboard 200.
Kaitangata Twitch follows 12-year-old Meredith, who sees eerie visions as a Governors Bay island is drilled for mining. The Māori Television series was adapted from a Margaret Mahy story by long-time collaborator Yvonne Mackay. Mahy makes a rainbow-wigged cameo in this episode where the locals protest a subdivision, and Meredith apprehends the island's 'twitch'. Newcomer Te Waimarie Kessell stars, with Charles Mesure and George Henare. The mix of the Māori concept of wairua with a willful 21st Century teenage heroine won a Remi Award at Worldfest-Houston 2010.
This award-winning puppetry/comic book creation follows a put upon heroine enduring jibes from the cool crowd about her hairstyle. She resolves to rectify her situation using a new 'Hairagami Set'. The video was created by duo Trophy Wife (Ian and Rebecca Hart), who later revealed that the Hairzilla monster was a late addition, after US record label Sub Pop felt uncomfortable with "school shooting imagery". The clip won Best Music Video at the 2008 Vodafone NZ Music Awards. Check out the true to life puppets of band members Jonathan Bree and Heather Mansfield.
With more than three million song plays on their MySpace page, pop-punk rockers Goodnight Nurse led the way in Kiwi cyberspace popularity; the Auckland quartet also produced a string of Top 40 singles. The band's first album Always and Never was released in 2006 and Keep Me On Your Side followed it in 2008, which peaked at number five in the charts. Frontman Joel Little went on to produce Lorde’s smash hit album Pure Heroine, winner of a pile of Tui, Grammy and Brit awards; while guitarist Sam McCarthy went on to co-found synth pop duo Kids of 88.
The first, online-only single from Goodnight Nurse’s second album Keep Me By Your Side was its biggest selling track. As the band plays on stage, the camera focuses on the wild and wasted audience (including future Shortland Street stars Bonnie Soper and Chris Tempest) as they drink, dance, throw up and make out. Joel Little, frontman of this partytastic Auckland punk-pop outfit, produced Lorde’s album Pure Heroine, winner of a pile of Tui, Grammy and Brit awards, while guitarist Sam McCarthy went on to co-found Kids of 88.