'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.
Around 31 March 1903, eccentric farmer Richard Pearse climbed into a self-built monoplane and flew for about 140 metres, before crashing into a Waitohi gorse bush. The amount of control he maintained and exact date (before the Wright brothers?) has been oft-debated. This award-winning TV film (an early script for Hunter's Gold's Roger Simpson) dramatises the life of the reclusive young inventor and his flying machine, from his youth up until the flight itself. Actor Martyn Sanderson captures 'Mad Dick's' obsession in a Feltex-winning performance.
In the late 1980s, Kiwi inventor John Britten developed and built a revolutionary racing motorcycle. He pursued his dream all the way to Daytona International Speedway; in 1991, as an unlikely underdog, he came second against the biggest and richest manufacturers in the world. Britten: Backyard Visionary documents the maverick motorcycle designer as he and his crew rush to create an even better bike for the next Daytona. But when they get to Florida, another all-nighter is required to fix an untested vehicle which includes at least ten major innovations.
In the 1950s, driven by a desire to power around the shallows of the Mackenzie Country's braided rivers, inventor and "South Island sheep man" Bill Hamilton went against the flow and developed a revolutionary method of jet-boat propulsion. This NFU film explains the concept and Hamilton demonstrates the "turbo craft": cruising Lake Manapouri, waterskiing Lyttelton Harbour, and up the Whanganui. Then it's spin outs and shooting rapids (and deer) with Commander Porter from the icebreaker USS Glacier ... who clearly loves the smell of the Waimakariri in the morning.
Auckland school boy, and master of "the fine art of doing nothing", Josh Murphy realises a couch potato's dream in this episode of the award-winning young inventors' series. A self professed "lazy boy", Josh has dreams of a motorised chair equipped with the necessities of life — Playstation, DVD player and fridge. The show's challenge to Josh is to build his chair and spend a school day in it (including classes, rugby practice and school production); but did the resident experts really try out a jet powered chair? Or was it all a dream for slothful Josh?
Jim Hopkins presents this doco — 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); while a rural bent extends to fence brackets, gate openers, shearing tables, possum pluckers and a serious rat trap (designed by a poet).
Celebrating the “transformative power of dance”, Dancing in the Dark centres on Peter Vosper, an inventor who has designed his own custom light suit as an outlet for his creativity. It also makes the perfect addition to No Lights No Lycra, an event where participants spend an hour dancing to upbeat music in the dark. While most dancers can’t be seen (as is the appeal of the event — dance like no one’s watching), Peter’s glowing suit takes centre stage and makes for quite the spectacle. The film is part of the Loading Docs series of shorts, made for exhibition online.
This edition of the NFU's long-running magazine film series boards the Wellington to Auckland 'experimental express' to test its 11 1/2 hour trip claims; then it's south for the opening of Christchurch Airport's new modernist terminals, designed by architect Paul Pascoe. At Waitangi, ships (and a submarine) from the New Zealand, Australian and British navies train, and Waitangi Day is commemorated. A reel highlight is Australian Formula One champion Jack Brabham meeting jet boat inventor Bill Hamilton and trying out a 'Hamilton turn' on the Waimakariri River.
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.
Jack Brown Genius is the story of an obsessive flight of fancy. The spirit of a thousand year old Monk (Stuart Devenie) inhabits the mind of a contemporary New Zealand inventor (Tim Balme), who is inspired to turn the idea of human-powered flight into reality. Along the way he creates havoc for his pal Dennis (Marton Csokas), steals his girlfriend (Nicola Murphy), incinerates the factory of his Boss, and incurs the wrath of the Boss's financial backer Sylvia (Lisa Chappell). The film won director Tony Hiles a 1996 Film and Television Award.