Collection

The Tony Williams Collection

Curated by NZ On Screen team

This collection is a celebration of the eccentric, exuberant career of NZ screen industry frontrunner Tony Williams. As well as being at the helm of many iconic ads (Crunchie, Bugger, Spot, Dear John) Williams made inventive, award-winning indie TV documentaries, and shot or directed pioneering feature films, including Solo and cult horror Next of Kin.

Open House - Happy Birthday (First Episode)

Television, 1986 (Full Length Episode)

Open House revolved around the ups and downs of a drop-in house run by Tony Van Der Berg (Frank Whitten, later Outrageous Fortune's Grandpa Ted). In this first episode there's money trouble, court trouble, domestics, a pregnant teenager and an abandoned baby ... but there's community spirit aplenty as the house's whānau prepares for its first birthday celebration, complete with Scottish brass band and Samoan drums. Tony's first lines to a raving old man on Petone Beach? "Good onya mate!". Features author Emily Perkins as Tony's idealistic stepdaughter.

Weekly Review No. 401

Short Film, 1949 (Full Length)

This Weekly Review features a speedboat and hydroplane regatta in Evans Bay in a stiff northerly as boats capsize in the choppy seas; the inter-provincial rowing eights on a flat-as-a-millpond Petone foreshore on the other side of Wellington Harbour in which Auckland's West End wins; and the reopening of the National Art Gallery by the Prime Minister Peter Fraser after eight years' occupation by the Air Force. The £40K national collection (mainly portraits and landscapes) is unpacked and reframed, and a Frances Hodgkins painting examined. 

First Hand - Bedtime Stories

Television, 1995 (Full Length)

First Hand was a series of mid 1990s documentaries made for TVNZ. Newbie filmmakers were armed with consumer cameras, aiming to capture “natural human behaviour” with the new technology and minimal crew. This edition, directed by David Ambler, profiles 23-year-old Newstalk ZB late-night talkback host Mike Yardley, and introduces regular callers from his nationwide audience of 150,000: service station worker Lucas channels Oprah, Petone radio poet George rhymes about detached organs, and Merle dances to an organist. Radio veteran Marcus Lush narrates.

Survey - The Day We Landed on The Most Perfect Planet In the Universe

Television, 1971 (Full Length)

“A film developed from the imagination of New Zealand children” is how director Tony Williams describes this remarkable, sprawling mix of drama and documentary. It features a fictitious teacher (writer Michael Heath) working with a class of 11-year-olds from Petone to explore what freedom means to them. At times their notions might seem naive but the film remains firmly non-judgmental. The free-wheeling approach, most memorable in the Paekakariki beach fantasy scenes, makes for a “wonderfully idiosyncratic” (film historian Roger Horrocks) hymn to juvenile freedom.

Inquiry - Checking Prices, Counting Costs

Television, 1974 (Full Length Episode)

This 70s current affairs show does a cost benefit analysis of Trade Minister Warren Freer’s Maximum Retail Price scheme (MRP), which capped retail prices. Drawn from an era of economic theory poles that was apart from the market deregulation of the 80s, the investigation sets out to poll opinion in supermarket aisles, a grocery in Glenorchy, and factory floors (Faggs coffee, Cadbury chocolate). The checkouts are a battlefield between red tape and free range retail. The early animated sequence by Bob Stenhouse marked an early use of animation in a local TV documentary. 

The Sealhunters

Short Film, 1973 (Full Length)

This short black and white NFU 'drama' follows three young people on a road trip from Wellington. The trio are meant to be finding a seal colony, but in this early film from director Paul Maunder (Sons for the Return Home), the journey is the destination. The rambling adventure along the coast past Wainuiomata sees the trio discussing paua ashtrays, waning youth, marriage, the state of New Zealand television, and life in general. Future TV director John Anderson (road movie Mark ll) plays the husband, and Sam Neill edits. The music is by Tony Backhouse (The Crocodiles).

The Hum

Short Film, 1974 (Full Length)

The Hum is about sailing legend Geoff Stagg, and his yacht Whispers. Directed by Tony Williams and written by Martyn Sanderson, the doco is a paean to the lure of sailing, focusing on Stagg’s colourful personality, and his veteran ocean-racing crew, as they take on the Wellington to Kapiti Island and down to the Sounds race. Fortunately for the film they deliver on reputation. Dolphins, Strait squalls, streaking, ciggies, and some fierce 70s moustaches are all in a weekend’s sailing. Stagg would go on to head renowned Farr Yacht Design (now Stagg Yachts).

Motormania - Episode Two

Television, 1998 (Full Length Episode)

In this second part of a documentary on Kiwis and cars, host Rita Te Wiata explores motoring in the latter half of the 20th Century. She begins in Christchurch where Ford V8s were a vehicle for post-war romance, then heads to Tahuna for beach racing. Te Wiata pockets the licence she supposedly got in part one and heads to Raglan to look at the car-enabled freedom of the 60s and 70s: surfing, fishing, caravans. While downsides are mentioned (motorways, pollution, accidents), mostly it’s a paean to petrolhead passion. The tour ends with a cruise up Queen St in a muscle car.

Series

Open House

Television, 1986–1987

This 38 episode series revolved around the ups and downs of a community house run by Tony Van Der Berg (Frank Whitten). The series was devised by Liddy Holloway to meet a network call for an Eastenders-style drama that might tackle social issue storylines. It was the first drama series to put a Māori whānau (the Mitchells) at its centre. Despite being well-reviewed, it was perhaps the last gasp of Avalon-produced uncompromisingly local drama (satirised as the ‘Wellington style’), before TV production largely shifted to Auckland to face up to commercial pressures.