Collection

Kiwi Ingenuity

Curated by NZ On Screen team

'No 8 wire' Kiwi ingenuity is defined by problem solving from few resources (No 8 wire is fencing wire that can be adapted to many uses, an ability that was particularly handy for isolated NZ settlers). Embodied in heroes from Richard Pearse to PJ, Kiwi ingenuity is a quality dear to our national sense of self. It has been memorably celebrated, and sometimes satirised, on screen.

Inventions from the Shed

Television, 2000 (Full Length)

Jim Hopkins presents this documentary — based on his bestselling book — about backyard inventors and their inventions. Some of these “sheddies” are seeking their fortunes, but others seem to simply derive a quiet satisfaction from their ingenuity. They might come from a tradition of number eight wire, string and chewing gum, but amphibious planes and hovercraft feature prominently (with one basement boasting a wind tunnel). A rural bent extends to fence brackets, gate openers, shearing tables, possum pluckers and a serious rat trap (designed by a poet).

Series

Bigger, Better, Faster, Stronger

Television, 2011

With a large helping of Kiwi ingenuity and a hint of James May, broadcaster James Coleman and director Greg Page host this popular science series where they attempt to supercharge everyday objects. Aided by people who actually know what they’re doing, Page and Coleman’s targets include toasters, letterboxes, BBQs, juicers and lawnmowers. There’s a natural chemistry between the pair. At times they look like they’re having just a bit too much fun: the show might have its practical science angle but it also channels their inner 10-year-old boys.

Blank Spaces

Short Film, 2010 (Full Length)

This short film presents Dave, a tramper at a South Island high country tarn, with a chance to make his mark on the map. But will the stars (and satellites) align to realise his ingenious idea? Made by director and editor Rajneel Singh, Blank Spaces was one of five finalists in 'Your Big Break': a 2010 filmmaking contest run by Tourism New Zealand that gave the finalists a chance to have their script realised with the help of producer Barrie Osborne (The Matrix, The Lord of the Rings). The brief was to "capture the spirit of 100% Pure New Zealand — the youngest country on earth".

Turn of the Century

Television, 1987 (Full Length)

This documentary comprehensively traces the history of skiing and winter sports in New Zealand. From Mannering and Dixon, who used homemade skis in an almost-successful ascent of Mt Cook and the hut-building pioneers of recreational ski clubs in their pre-Gore-tex garb, to commercial ski fields and lifts, superb archive footage shows the advances. New Zealand teams at the Winter Olympics in Oslo in 1952 and Sarajevo 32 years later had come some way from the days when carrier pigeons were used to report snow conditions from Canterbury's ski fields to Christchurch.

Bigger, Better, Faster, Stronger - Episode Two

Television, 2011 (Full Length Episode)

The humble letterbox is targeted in this Aotearoa award-nominated science show, as radio DJ James Colman and music video director Greg Page attempt to “turbo” an everyday object. Their challenge is to move the mail 50 metres from postbox to household as quickly as possible. Coleman glimpses nirvana when he scores a rocket scientist for his team. Battle lines are soon drawn between big bang theory, and slower and steadier. In the pyrotechnics and rocket love that follow, Page sounds almost plausible when he claims his big truck solution as the cleaner, greener option.

Cowboys of Culture

Television, 1990 (Full Length)

Cowboys of Culture is director Geoff Steven's personal perspective on the Kiwi cinema renaissance of the 1970s. It traces the development of the local film industry from the ‘she'll be right' days when filming permits were unknown, and all that was needed to get a picture up were a Bolex camera, enthusiasm and ingenuity. Raw they might have been, but the films (Wild Man, Sleeping Dogs, Goodbye Pork Pie, Smash Palace) represented a vital new cultural force. The film features interviews with the major players, and clips from their movies. 

Good Taste Made Bad Taste

Short Film, 1988 (Excerpts)

This documentary showcases some of the tricks of the trade used by Peter Jackson in the making of his first feature — the aliens-amok-in-Makara splatter classic, Bad Taste. Compiled following the film's 1988 Cannes market screening, it's framed around an extensive interview with a 25-year-old Jackson at his parents’ Pukerua Bay home. These excerpts offer fascinating insight into his ingenuity: from building a DIY Steadicam, to the making of the infamous sheep-obliterating rocket launcher scene, to PJ musing on the impetus that being an only child provided him. 

Landmarks - A Land Apart

Television, 1981 (Full Length)

Presented by Kenneth Cumberland, Landmarks looked at New Zealand history through the landscape — and at man "coming to terms" with it. In this episode Aotearoa's "last, lonely, remote" geography is framed as a stimulus for ingenuity. A narrative of "triumph over the elements" finds its flagbearer in the DIY story of jetboat inventor Bill Hamilton. Cumberland is donnish but game in pursuit of telling landmarks: exposing seashells alongside the Napier-Taupō highway (700 metres above sea level) like a downunder Darwin, or in a gas mask on an erupting White Island.  

Don't

Paul McLaney and Anika Moa, Music Video, 2003

Set in a half-painted world of city, mountains and purple skies, director Ed Davis's video is a triumph of imagination and ingenuity over reality. The result is an extended aerial journey around an acrobat on a high wire — possibly reflecting some of the lyrics of this Paul McLaney and Anika Moa duet. Don't took out best video at the Kodak Music Clip Awards in 2003.