'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.
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.
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.
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.
Masterminded by director and fx whizz Derek Pearson, Event 16 is a brain-teaser spanning three eras. After neglecting his girlfriend (Jocelyn Christian) while struggling to perfect time travel, inventor Matt (Peter Rutherford) inadvertently puts her in danger when a colonial-era killer arrives in modern-day Wellington. Ambitiously plotted, with a plethora of double identities, Event 16 demonstrates how computers have opened new imaginative vistas for the low budget filmmaker — notably in the film's stylish vision of Victorian Wellington.
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).
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.
This madcap, Qantas award-winning TV2 children's show gives young inventors the opportunity to realise their ideas. It was created by Neil Stichbury and Luke Nola after their zany inventions show for kids, The Goober Brothers, had viewers sending in their own suggestions. There's serious intent in the mayhem with practical science explanations and intellectual property safeguarded. Contributors over six series (to 2012) have included engineer Chris Chitty (creator of animatronic sheep for the film Babe) and Sam Britten (son of motorcycle designer John Britten).
In the debut episode of the award-winning young inventors' series, Auckland schoolboy Adam Gaston has a design for rocket-powered ice skates — and the resident Goober experts and guests (including Aquada developer Alan Gibbs and Olympic speed skater Mark Jackson) could be the ones to help him achieve his need for speed. Challenged to create skates that will outsprint Jackson, Adam and 'Build Buddy' Sam Britten discover that rockets may be a step too far. Jet propulsion could be the solution — but will anyone be brave enough to test the results?