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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.

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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.

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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.

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After the Waterfall

Film, 2010 (Trailer, Excerpts, and Extras)

Simone Horrocks' first feature revolves around the disintegration of a man's life, after his daughter goes missing. Horrocks relocates Stephen Blanchard's novel The Paraffin Child from a washed-up UK coastal community to West Auckland/Piha. Outrageous Fortune talent Antony Starr plays the forest ranger who separates from his wife, then learns she is pregnant to the policeman investigating his child's disappearance. Horrocks says After the Waterfall investigates healing, resilience, and "how we live with unfinished business". 

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Men and Super Men

Short Film, 1975 (Full Length)

NFU drama Men and Super Men is a barbed chronicle of a workplace where harmony is a distant dream. Intended as a how-not-to guide for ‘management bodies’, the film sees patronising factory supervisor Ferguson (actor Eddie Wright in fine form) trying to increase productivity by constantly changing systems. Meanwhile a trio on the factory floor (Paul Holmes, Peter McCauley and Close to Home’s Stephen Tozer) react with bullying and barely suppressed defiance. It was an open secret when the film was made that some of the characters were inspired by NFU staff.

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Channelling Baby

Film, 1999 (Trailer)

A dark and mystery-filled drama about a 70s hippy (Danielle Cormack) who falls in love with a Vietnam vet (Kevin Smith). But has fate brought them together, only in order to drive them apart? And what exactly happened to their child? This twist-filled tale of seances, damaged people, and conflicting versions of truth marked the directorial debut of short filmmaker Christine Parker. At the 1999 New Zealand film awards, Channelling Baby was nominated in six categories, including best actress and best original screenplay. Read more about the film here.

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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.

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Encounter - What Happens When You've Run to the Top (Peter Snell & John Walker)

Television, 1976 (Full Length)

This March 1976 Encounter item catches up on athlete Peter Snell while studying human performance at University of California, Davis — 12 years after his double Olympic triumph in Tokyo. When world champion mile runner John Walker turns up, Snell takes him for a jog, and puts Walker through his paces in the Human Performance Laboratory. The pair muse over life, sport, success, choosing your future, and which of them is the best. The master counsels his heir on the upcoming Montreal Olympics, after Walker expresses fear at becoming the “biggest failure in history".

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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.  

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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.