Interview

Nigel Latta: The psychology behind good television...

Interview, Camera and Editing – Andrew Whiteside

Nigel Latta is a clinical psychologist and popular TV presenter who has made a range of television shows exploring the human condition. His first foray into television was series Beyond the Darklands, which explored some of New Zealand’s worst crimes and the people behind them. He then hosted three series of Politically Incorrect Guides, which variously covered parenting, teenagers and grown-ups. His documentaries have taken him to Antarctica, up in helicopters, and led him to blow up various objects.

Dog’s Best Friend

Film, 2017 (Trailer)

For this feature-length documentary, Kiwi actor Eryn Wilson heads behind the camera to tell the tale of a dog rehabilitation centre. Former soldier Jacob Leezak runs a dog psychology centre in Australia rehabilitating aggressive, troubled or abandoned pooches. He uses a mixture of physical training (swimming, massage, treadmill running), and lots of cuddles and kisses. Leezak makes it clear that dogs aren't to blame for bad behaviour, claiming 90% of their problems are caused by humans. Dog's Best Friend was set to play at the 2018 New Zealand International Film Festival.

The Domino

Short Film, 1981 (Full Length)

This animated short follows a film editor being driven around the bend by the domino effect of various intrusions, which prevent him from getting on with his work. Animator Bob Stenhouse (later Oscar-nominated for The Frog, The Dog and The Devil) dramatises the challenge of maintaining creative focus while facing Kafkaesque bureaucracy, noisy interruptions and form-filling. Aside from exploring the psychology of creativity, the short is also a primer for how productions were edited in the pre-digital age: showing film physically cut and pasted together with a splicer.

Captive - First Episode

Television, 2004 (Full Length Episode)

Five strangers give up their freedom to live in the confines of an apartment together in this 2004 reality series. It’s not all for nought though — $40,000 is up for grabs. Alliances are formed and newfound friendships quickly betrayed, as the contestants try to keep things civil with their inescapable roommates. The contestants in this first episode are builder Riki, project officer Marcella, business developer Brett, and students CC and “nice guy” Arron. Retracting walls leading to the quiz area and food delivered in a perspex box remind contestants they are totally trapped.

Bad Dates

Short Film, 2005 (Full Length)

Bad Dates peeks into a fictional evening of speed dating; those evenings where singles meet prospective partners on fast rotation. This quick-paced short film turns the idea into tragicomedy, where, in the vital opening bouts of small talk, a series of prospective relationships go down in flames before they've even begun. Writer/director Grant Lahood democratically gives equal screen time amongst the ensemble cast (made up of graduating students from drama school Toi Whakaari) and to a range of idiosyncrasies, from the infantile to the sex-obsessed.

Loose Enz - The Venus Touch

Television, 1982 (Full Length)

In this infamous edition of the Loose Enz anthology series, sexologist Rufus (Grant Tilly) has marriage problems, due to being more theoretical than practical when it comes to the ways of the flesh. Things grow more complicated when patient Ernest (Bruno Lawrence, playing nerdy for a change) claims he is suffering from having a magic touch with women. Alongside Joy of Sex japes and punning pillow talk galore, this sex farce gained notoriety for scenes of high-profile newsreader Angela D’Audney (as the dissatisfied wife) going topless, then donning a turquoise catsuit.

Sheilas: 28 Years On

Film, 2004 (Full Length)

Twenty eight years after featuring in landmark feminist documentary series Women, five interviewees reveal how their lives have changed. Donna Awatere Huata, Miriam Cameron, Sandi Hall, Aloma Parker and Marcia Russell candidly discuss work, sex, the media and Māori in this 70 minute documentary. Artist Cameron recalls how feminists were seen in the 1970s: "she was a braless, hairy, fat hag". Journalist Russell remembers not being allowed to work past 11pm because she was a woman, while psychologist Parker felt liberated by feminist Germaine Greer's refusal to wear a bra.

Birth with Dr. R.D. Laing

Television, 1977 (Full Length)

Framed by the distinctive burr of influential Scottish thinker RD Laing, this 1977 doco questions how the Western medical system handles childbirth: in Laing's view, "one of the disaster areas of our culture." Supported by arresting hospital footage and impassioned interviews with mothers, the film argues that women are often deliberately sidelined during the process of birth, and babies' needs ignored. Screenings in the UK and US saw it contributing to a debate about newborn care; one that remains ongoing. Birth won a Feltex award for best documentary.

The Lunatics' Ball

Film, 1999 (Excerpts)

Passion project The Lunatics' Ball follows an unorthodox psychologist who arrives at a psychiatric hospital and tries to use art, joy and respect to motivate his patients. First-timer Michael Thorp wrote the script partly out of worries that drug-based treatment programmes could prove more of a trap than a solution. After casting American-born oboist Russel Walder in the main role, and shooting on a shoestring, Thorp completed editing thanks to $400,000 in Film Commission funding, and help from some major industry names. The result won a jury prize at the Shanghai Film Festival.  

Living the Dream - First Episode

Television, 2004 (Full Length Episode)

This TV2 take on The Truman Show sees Hawkes Bay vineyard worker Sam participating in a reality show where – unknown to him – all his housemates are fakes. In this first episode Sam’s flatmates play to the archetypes of reality TV, as host Mark Ferguson sets them ridiculous challenges (eg water bomb wet t-shirt reading). The Spinoff 's Alex Casey called it “a one off, never to be repeated format, and crikey it was good, bad TV.” The cast were only let into the show's secrets after winning their parts. Sarah Thomson ('rich bitch' Tiffany) was later an undercover cop on Shortland Street.