Opera in the Outback offers a wry, fly on the wall view of the lead-up to a most unusual event: the first concert by Kiri Te Kanawa in the Australian outback. Kiwi director Stephen Latty and writer Michael Heath realise the people are the story, from affable locals to those preparing for 9000 joyful, sometimes drunken arrivals. The inhabitants of Beltana — population roughly 12 — risk building a new racetrack for visitors less operatically inclined, while Australian National Railways send all the rolling stock they can. Some of the Kiwi film crew were awake for 52 hours, trying to capture it all.
The concept for this 2005 Touchdown reality show involved sending a bevy of Kiwi beauties to outback Australia, so they can compete to become "the ultimate Kiwi chick" (and win a $100,000 prize). In this second episode the girls discover that the week’s immunity winner (the 'Boomerang Babe') will have to pick a trio of contestants, so the local townsfolk can vote which one to eliminate. The girls must help host Vadim Dale (reality romance show Outback Jack) brand a calf, where things get bloody; spend a night in the outback alone; and negotiate a hay bale challenge.
In these excerpts pulled from ten consecutive episodes of Miss Popularity, Outback Jack star Vadim Dale despatches ten long-haired, image-conscious young Kiwis to the Aussie outback town of Burra. There they compete to become "the ultimate Kiwi chick" by doing odd jobs, outdoor challenges, snake encounters, and bake-offs for the local market day. Contestants included film students, a firefighter, a future Playboy model, and flight attendant Jessie Gurunathan. Locals voted one contestant off each week. Gurunathan finally claimed the $100,000 prize on the hit Touchdown show.
This post-war Weekly Review boards a RNZAF Dakota flying “the longest air route in the world”: a weekly 17,000 mile ‘hop’ taking mail to Jayforce, the Kiwi occupation force in Japan. Auckland to Iwakuni via Norfolk Island, Australia (including a pub pit-stop in the outback), Indonesia, the slums of Singapore, Saigon, Hong Kong; then Okinawa, Manilla and home. Director Cecil Holmes’ pithy comments on postcolonial friction and rich and poor avoided censorship, but won a warning not to rock the boat. The next year he was controversially sacked from the National Film Unit.
Arriving for a photo shoot in the Australian outback, 10 beauty pageant contestants are rescued by cowboys and taken to small-town Burra, where they end up competing in a reality show to "find the ultimate Kiwi chick". With $100,000 at stake, they try a variety of challenges while attempting to show the locals they’re more than a pretty face. Locals vote to oust a contestant each week, from a group that includes warring future-WAGs Casey Green and model-singer-actress Jessie Gurunathan. Gurunathan ultimately won the crown. Touchdown's format sold to 15 territories.
Although The Tumbleweeds toured beyond Otago only occasionally, they provided many New Zealanders with their first exposure to country music. Almost 40 years into the band's career, Stephen Latty (Opera in the Outback) got some of their songs and memories down for this half-hour film. The band describe influences, costumes, and their own mid-tour double wedding. Country music expert Garth Gibson praises the "quite famous harmony sound" of sisters Myra and Nola Hewitt. Then The Tumbleweeds hit the road for Gore's Gold Guitar Awards, to perform 'Maple on the Hill'.
Dai Henwood is one of New Zealand’s favourite comedians. He began his TV career on stand-up show Pulp Comedy and followed that up with a number of presenting roles. His acting roles include Xena, Secret Agent Men and The Tribe. Henwood is best-known for his ongoing appearances in comedy show 7 Days.
Mike King and Andrew Clay have been mates for years. Alongside their own solo Funny As interviews, they found time to get together, insult each other and reminisce about the old days. Among other topics, they describe: Cementing their friendship during a daunting gig in Hawera, after being told they hadn't performed for long enough to get paid Mike talks about Andrew being the first Kiwi stand-up comedian he was really impressed by — and having no idea that borrowing one of his comedy routines was not the done thing Andrew contrasts the dog-eat-dog stand-up scene in Sydney with the more friendly scene in New Zealand The two laugh about Andrew giving Mike advice in the early days — and how badly they negotiated the deal when they got their own bloopers show
Stephen Latty has built up an eclectic CV encompassing short films, a run of documentaries, and 2010 feature film Russian Snark. His collaborations with director Michael Heath include two docos on modernist painter Edith Collier, and spellbinding images for 50-minute drama A Small Life. As a director, he has chronicled musicians in Opera in the Outback (with Kiri Te Kanawa) and country music tale Maple on the Hill.
From an early role as a teen bully in Children of Fire Mountain, Mark Hadlow, ONZM, has gone on to work beside Billy T James, Peter Jackson, talking hedgehogs and mutant huhu grubs. The veteran actor/comedian is fondly remembered for playing a wide-eyed farmer on hit TV series Willy Nilly; in Jackson’s three-part adaptation of The Hobbit, he was grey-bearded Dori the dwarf.