A Spark of Life - James Greig, Potter, Man of West and East

Television, 1987 (Full Length)

This edition of the 1987 Inspiration series on Kiwi artists looks at potter James (Jim) Greig, and his search for the “spark of life” found in clay. The Peter Coates-directed documentary visits Greig’s Wairarapa studio to interview him and his wife Rhondda, also an artist. Greig’s influences are surveyed: the work of Kiwi potter Len Castle, nature, orphanhood, and Japan (where his work achieved renown). The film captures the visceral process of making large works for a Wellington City Gallery exhibition. Greig died of a heart attack, aged 50, while this film was being made.

Series

Inspiration

Television, 1987

Billed as "directors' essays on great New Zealand artists", TVNZ’s four part Inspiration documentary series profiled authors Margaret Mahy and Witi Ihimaera, photographer Brian Brake and potter James Greig (who died during production of his episode). In describing his inspiration for the series, director/producer Peter Coates told The Listener, "one of the great weaknesses we have in television is the lack of in-depth material on our artists". Coates made three of the programmes, while Keith Hunter produced and directed the Margaret Mahy episode.   

Peter Coates

Director, Producer

If director and producer Peter Coates was a superhero, he’d surely be ‘Renaissance Man’. His contribution to championing the arts on television is arguably heroic, and his career multi-faceted. From 1971 to 2004 Coates produced, directed or scripted hundreds of TV productions covering a smorgasbord of topics, from operas to soap operas, and from portraits of New Zealand artists to rugby coaching films.

Jeremy Stephens

Actor, Narrator

Jeremy Stephens was a regular presence on New Zealand television screens through the 1970s and 80s. Coming from a theatre and radio background, he starred as a man going through a midlife crisis in 1971 teleplay The City of No, played historical figures (The Killing of Kane, The Governor) and one of the trio of travellers in acclaimed Katherine Mansfield drama The Woman at the Store. His longer form credits include telefilm It’s Lizzie To Those Close and movie Pallet On The Floor. Stephens' distinctive voice was heard on a great many commercials — plus documentaries on everything from poetry to the All Blacks.  

Leo Shelton

Cinematographer

Leo Shelton started his television career in 1967 as a trainee cameraman at Wellington station WNTV-1. He worked his way up through the ranks to become a widely respected camera operator and cinematographer, on everything from news and current affairs to award-winning documentaries and drama. Shelton died on 9 May 2017.

John Hagen

Director, Sound

The great outdoors and the arts are what most inspires sound recordist turned documentary director John Hagen. He learnt the ropes at Avalon television studios, before venturing out on his own as a director. Alongside arts shows like Frontseat and New Artland, Hagen has celebrated Kiwi architecture in The New Zealand Home and recreated hazardous pioneer journeys in popular series First Crossings.