Brian Brake is regarded as New Zealand's most successful international photographer. But before heading overseas to work for photo agency Magnum and snapping iconic shots of Picasso and the Monsoon series for Life magazine, he was also an accomplished composer of moving images. He shot or directed many classic films for the NFU, including NZ's first Oscar-nominated film.
Wellington’s Today Tonight was one of four regional news shows launched by TVNZ in 1980. Over the years its hosts included Roger Gascoigne, Mark Leishman and Mike Bodnar. The show covered the local news from the pre-Wellywood, pre-’Absolutely Positively’ era: from restaurateur Remiro Bresolin’s Venetian mural, and a Philip Rush midwinter swim to work (across the harbour); to show stalwart Bas Tubert doing an offbeat Lady and the Tramp number for the Botanic Gardens tulip festival, and Beehive whimsy when David Lange (PM) meets David Lange (farmer).
Parliament’s art collection is showcased in this excerpt from the mid 90s arts series. Curator Jane Vial and Parliamentary Services Deputy Manager Beth Bowen are tour guides to some of the paintings and objects making up a then 1000 strong collection, which began in the 1870s. They include gifted works, like a portrait of the first Northern Māori MP Ihaka Te Tai Hakuene, and commissioned works from artists. Artworks are shown from John Drawbridge, Cliff Whiting, Robin Kahukiwa, and Guy Ngan (whose large-scale hangings adorn The Beehive’s Banquet Hall).
This documentary revisits six eventful weeks in 1949. Led by cameraman Brian Brake, an all-star art team — James K Baxter as scriptwriter, composer Douglas Lilburn and painter John Drawbridge (all under 30; Drawbridge was 19) — attempt to make a 'cinematic poem' about an ascent of Mt Aspiring. Baxter's notes on the trip evolved into his poem In the Matukituki Valley. Aspiring features a lost script, Drawbridge's memories (he recalls storyboards for a snow cave light show here) and a surprise ending. View footage of the never-completed film after the excerpt.
Gibson Group series Frontseat was the longest-running arts programme of its era. Hosted by actor Oliver Driver, the weekly series aimed a broad current affairs scope at the arts. The first excerpt asks the question "is there really an art boom, and if so, why aren't the artists benefiting?" Art dealer Peter McLeavey, late artist John Drawbridge and others offer their opinions. The second clip asks whether NZ really needs eight drama schools. Richard Finn, Miranda Harcourt and newcomer Richard Knowles (later a Shortland Street regular) are among those interviewed.
Shot by photographer Brian Brake as a NFU tourism promo, Snows of Aorangi surveys New Zealand's mountain landscapes. Brake captures stunning imagery: ethereal ice forests, lightning storms, volcanic craters, glaciers, avalanches, kea. Three skiers are mesmerising as they scythe downhill from Almer Hut: "for a little while they've given themselves to the rhythm of sky and earth" runs the James K Baxter-scripted narration. It was the first NZ film to compete for an Oscar, nominated in the Best Short Subject (Live Action) category in 1959.
Yvonne Mackay is a prolific director of New Zealand television, whose work has often focused on the arts and projects made for young people. She made history as the director of The Silent One (1984), the first New Zealand feature film directed solely by a woman. These days Mackay runs Wellington company Production Shed TV.