'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.
Love, Speed and Loss is an extended documentary about racer Kim Newcombe, who turned heads in the 1970s on a König motorbike he developed and designed himself. Built around home movie footage and interviews with his charismatic, straight-talking widow Janeen, the film charts the couple's travels in Europe, and triumph on the track. Newcombe was killed racing in 1973, and posthumously finished second in that year's World 500cc Championship. Love, Speed and Loss won best documentary at the 2007 Qantas TV Awards and three Air NZ Screen gongs.
In the late 1980s, Kiwi John Britten developed and built a revolutionary racing motorcycle. He pursued his dream all the way to Daytona International Speedway in Florida. In 1991 the underdog inventor 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. After arriving in Florida, another all-nighter is required to fix an untested vehicle with many major innovations. Costa Botes writes about the documentary here.
Goodshirt's attention-grabbing promos were typified by high concepts rendered with low-budget No 8 wire smarts — often with game participation from the band members. This mind-bending creation by director (and ex-Supergroover) Joe Lonie is no exception: a Mazda 929 (or an Austin 1300, if you watch the video's other version) is re-deconstructed, before leaving in a cloud of smoke, loaded with frog men. Lead singer Rodney Fisher gives the standout performance. He had to sing every lyric backwards to achieve the desired time-warping end result.
Producer Lloyd Phillips won an Academy Award in 1981, for short film The Dollar Bottom. South African-born Phillips was raised in New Zealand, where his first feature, Battletruck, was shot. He went on to establish a globetrotting Hollywood career, working on The Legend of Zorro, 12 Monkeys, Inglourious Basterds and Vertical Limit (also shot in New Zealand). Phillips died of a heart attack on 25 January 2013.
Thomas Robins has acted alongside digital penguins, dodgy teachers, and a ring forged in the fires of Mount Doom. Off-screen, his directing work has won a bag of awards, thanks to 2009's Reservoir Hill. He created the International Emmy-winning web series with David Stubbs, his partner at KHF Media. Robins was also behind TV series The Killian Curse, and directed 2017 telemovie Catching the Black Widow.
Pat Robins has been active in the screen industry since the 1960s, across varied behind the scenes roles. In the early 70s Robins, her then husband Geoff Murphy and their children took to the road with musical collective Blerta. After production managing on classics like Goodbye Pork Pie, Utu, and Ngāti, she first stepped out on her own as a director in 1985, with her first short Instincts.
Gordon Harcourt has been reporting and producing for television since 1989. After three seasons on awardwinning arts show Backch@t, he moved to the UK and worked for the BBC, and as a London correspondent for NZ media outlets. Seven years later Harcourt returned to reporting for local consumer affairs programme Fair Go.
Gaylene Preston has been making feature films and documentaries with a distinctive New Zealand flavour and a strong social message for over 30 years. In 2001 she was the first filmmaker to be made a Laureate by the Arts Foundation, recognising her contribution to New Zealand film and television.
Max Cryer’s career as an entertainer has encompassed pioneering live talk shows (Town Cryer), singing on stage and screen, and extended time in the United States. After a busy decade of television presenting beginning in the late 60s, Cryer went behind the scenes to produce a clutch of quiz shows —before a late flowering as a prolific, bestselling author, exploring his love of words and Kiwi culture.