Collection

The Sam Neill Collection

Curated by NZ On Screen team

Sam Neill has acted in forgotten Kiwi TV dramas (The City of No) and classic Kiwi movies (Sleeping Dogs, The Piano, Hunt for the Wilderpeople). His career has taken him from the UK (Reilly: Ace of Spies) to Hawaii (Jurassic Park) to dodgy Melbourne nightclubs (Death in Brunswick). As Neill turns 70, this collection celebrates his range, modesty and style — and the fact he was directing films before winning acting fame. In these backgrounders, friends Ian Mune and Roger Donaldson raise a glass to a talented, self-deprecating actor and fan of good music and pinot noir.

Lenny Minute One

Short Film, 1993 (Full Length)

Off his own bat, Ilam art student Glenn Standring got his third-year short into competition at the Cannes Film Festival. The minimal plot — hipster private eye Lenny Minute dryly narrates, before facing his nemesis, a rampaging giant blue “sheila doll” — allows Standring to conjure up a distinctive collage-styled cityscape, mined from a grab-bag of Americana inspirations: 50s sci-fi, jazz, the hardboiled detectives of Dashiell Hammett, and star Marlene Dietrich. After this early computer-aided short, Standring joined the Gibson Group as an animator, then directed two stylish features.

Jet Black

Short Film, 2007 (Full Length)

The title points the way towards this stylish short's film noir intentions, but a generic set up - a drifter rolls into a seedy motel diner — springs surprises as a tainted love time-travel plot unravels. Convincing performances from Leighton Cardno (Shortland Street's Dr Adam Heyward) as the eponymous Jet, burdened by murderous guilt, and Marissa Stott as the winsome waitress, realise a screenplay co-scripted by writer Chad Taylor. Black was directed by Kezia Barnett as part of a short film series to promote Schweppes by advertising agency Publicis Mojo.

Unfurnished Room for Rent

Short Film, 1997 (Full Length)

As a trench coat-clad protagonist enters the room, the jazzy soundtrack and copious shadows promise a claymation exercise in film noir. But the room advertised in director Barry Prescott’s first short film is no ordinary rental. It soon becomes apparent that a more unusual threat is responsible for the lack of furnishings and tenants — and it threatens the man and his oversized revolver. Television has been accused of rotting brains, but this short takes the allegation to the next level. Unfurnished Room for Rent screened at the Palm Springs and Seattle film festivals.

Hey Paris

Short Film, 1987 (Full Length)

This collaboration between dancer Douglas Wright and director Gregor Nicholas was one of a series of music and movement-based shorts that established Nicholas’ reputation. A dramatised film noir sequence leads to a cross-dressing dance duel between Wright and Debbie McCulloch, shifting between an Orwellian cityscape and retro nightclub. Wright choreographs the bodies, and Nicholas the bold and sensual visual rhythms (shot by Stuart Dryburgh). Nicholas went on to direct high profile commercials and movie Broken English. Wright passed away in 2018.

Despondent Divorcee

Short Film, 1995 (Full Length)

This short film takes its title from Russell Corgi's famous 1942 Buffalo Courier Express photograph of the exterior of the Genesee Hotel. Directed by Jonathan Ogilvie, the film is a series of close-ups of the photo coolly unfurling to reveal the full image. The snippets are overdubbed with a beguiling film noir-styled narration that imagines the context behind the extraordinary shot. Divorcee screened at many film festivals including in competition at Cannes in 1995. Corgi's photo was also referenced in the 'Passengers' issue of Neil Gaiman's Sandman comics.

Planet Man

Short Film, 1995 (Full Length)

 "It was the beginning of the end of the world..." Award-winning actor Tim Balme (Braindead) narrates this rain-lashed tale of being trapped in a world where all the women have disappeared. The film noir stylings, Blade Runner climate and tough-talking dialogue come to the fore when Balme encounters a beautiful woman with an attitude (Balme's real-life partner Katie Wolfe), and finds desire playing tricks with his mind. Planet Man was judged best short film in the Critics' Week section of the 1996 Cannes Film Festival. 

Letters about the Weather

Short Film, 1999 (Full Length)

Director Peter Salmon's sci-fi short is set in a dystopian future where citizens spend most of their lives in virtual reality to escape the bleak Blade Runner-like offline world. Grace (Sara Wiseman, in a NZ Film Award-winning performance) is a lonely programmer looking for cyberspace love via Angelife: a fantasy-fulfillment site with "five billion connections worldwide". Disenchanted with her Adam (Rupert Cocks), her desire for real world connection, plus a chance meeting, push her into a dangerous underworld. Ray Woolf cameos as a winged Angelife agent.

Reservoir Hill - 5, Series One, Episode Five

Television, 2009 (Full Length Episode)

A text from an audience member advises Beth to go to Petra's party in the fifth ep of this International Emmy Award-winning web series for teens. While Beth tries to stay close to her friend Sammy, she is distracted by Petra, then Monika, then Matt ... each of whom tells her disturbing news relating to the disappearance of Beth's lookalike Tara. Despite their pact not to drink too much, Sammy ends up in a drunken fight with host Petra, who reveals the real reason why Lilli Jay is in hospital. Hurt that Beth left her alone, Sammy leaves the party by herself.

Reservoir Hill - 3, Series One, Episode Three

Television, 2009 (Full Length Episode)

Acting on the advice of friends from home (actually audience members texting in), Beth accepts a ride to school from the mysterious Matt in the third episode of this International Emmy Award-winning interactive web series. But someone is watching them. Matt, we discover, knew Beth's missing lookalike Tara and certain shady rumours about Matt's personal life are proved correct. Beth visits Tara's sister Lilli (Tai Berdinner-Blades) in hospital, where she encounters cray-cray Mrs Jay (Carmel McGlone), who drops a horrible burden onto Beth.