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Interview

Stephen J Campbell: Classic kids TV, comedy, sci-fi fantasy and more...

Interview, Camera and Editing – Andrew Whiteside

Stephen J Campbell is a long-time television writer, director and producer who began in TV aimed at younger viewers, including classic series 3:45 LIVE!, and Ice TV. Campbell has also worked on comedy shows including That Comedy Show and Funny Business. In more recent times, he has specialised in creating kidult shows with a sci-fi/fantasy bent, including hits Secret Agent Men and The Amazing Extraordinary Friends. Campbell also worked on Nigel Latta’s Politically Incorrect Guide to Teenagers and The Politically Incorrect Guide to Grown Ups.

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Collection

The Sci-fi Collection

Curated by NZ On Screen team

Some of New Zealand's most memorable screen images have come from the genre of science fiction: Bruno wandering man alone onto Eden Park in a nightie; giant slugs living under Rangitoto. From alien hunters to futuristic fuel wars to nuclear volcanoes, this collection is a showcase of film and TV that has imagined 'what if?' versions of life in the shaky isles.

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Jake

Film, 2014 (Trailer)

“Everyone plays a part. Who’s going to play yours?”. This tagline is given a Twilight Zone twist in this Moa-nominated feature about two Jakes. Jacob (Jason Fitch) is an everyman who is made redundant when his life is ‘recast’ by a shadowy agency. When the new, more confident Jake (Being Eve's Leighton Cardno, also award-nominated) makes moves on his lost love, Jacob fights to get his life back. The Listener’s David Larsen tweeted of Doug Dillaman's indie-funded debut: “The smartest bit of low-fi high-IQ science fiction New Zealand has produced.” 

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Under the Mountain - The Alien World Below (Episode Four)

Television, 1981 (Full Length Episode)

Classic sci-fi series Under the Mountain follows redheaded twins with psychic powers — Rachel and Theo — as they battle the alien Wilberforces. This fourth episode sees the twins venture into the aliens' submarine lair for the first time. The lair's moody production design, the NZ Symphony Orchestra's score, and creepy transmogrifying special effects contributed to the slimy imprint the series left on a generation of Kiwi kids, haunted by the giant slugs slithering underneath Auckland's volcanoes. The award-winning series was adapted from the Maurice Gee novel.

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Series

The Kids From O.W.L.

Television, 1984

The titular kids are a crime-fighting duo of physically-disabled teenagers working for O.W.L. (Organisation for World Liberty) in the battle against the evils of S.L.I.M.E. (Southern Latitude's International Movement for Evil!). With laser beam-firing crutches and computerised wheelchairs at their disposal they inevitably outwit the bumbling crooks. Made in Christchurch, the fondly-remembered kids' show was created by Kim Gabara and screened for two series. Neon alert: Apple aficionados will note the early use of graphics from Apple 2 and Apple 3 computers.  

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Nutcase

Film, 1980 (Excerpts)

In this children's sci-fi caper, an all-singing all-dancing gang of cronies led by 'evil Eva' (Nevan Rowe) holds Auckland to ransom for $5,000,000. As in Under the Mountain Auckland's volcanoes play a starring role, with Eva threatening to drop a nuclear bomb into the crater of Rangitoto. Who will save the city? A trio of intrepid kids and their DIY anti-gravity machine are on the case. Writers Ian Mune and Keith Aberdein give director Roger Donaldson (and a bevy of industry talent) plenty of goofy 70s fun to play with. Donaldson would shortly helm the acclaimed Smash Palace.

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The Kids From O.W.L. - Series Two, Episode One

Television, 1984 (Full Length Episode)

Armed with laser beam-firing crutches and computerised wheelchairs, 'The Kids' are a crime-fighting duo of physically-disabled teenagers working for O.W.L. (Organisation for World Liberty) to defeat the evil S.L.I.M.E. (Southern Latitude's International Movement for Evil!). Directed by Kim Gabara, this opener for the second series of the fondly-remembered show sees the kids foil a kidnap, enlist a new member, and steal a dangerous weapon: the 'Stickling Solidifier'. Neon alert: aficionados will note the early use of graphics from Apple 2 and Apple 3 computers.  

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Existence

Film, 2012 (Trailer)

This ‘salvagepunk’ film is set in a desolate future where wind turbines power a vast electric fence that (apparently) protects the survivors of environmental collapse, and keeps refugees out. A rare entry in the Kiwi sci-fi feature catalogue, Existence stars Loren Taylor (Eagle vs Shark) as Freya, a mother who dreams of the world beyond, and Matthew Sunderland (Out of the Blue) as a mysterious boundary rider. From a SWANZ award-winning script, the low budget film was shot on Wellington’s rugged south coast hills and was the feature debut of director Juliet Bergh.

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Eternity

Film, 2012 (Trailer)

Shot in Wellington, Hawke’s Bay and Hong Kong, Eternity is a rare homegrown sci-fi feature. In a virtual world, detective Richard Manning (Elliot Travers) must solve a case where the fictional suspects were all in the next room to the murder, while he battles a memory-eroding virus that may have real world consequences. Director Alex Galvin’s good-looking globetrotting whodunnit was rendered on a shoestring budget. Scenes and some post-production was done in Kong Kong, after his first movie When Night Falls impressed Hong Kong-based producer Eric Stark.

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This Giant Papier Mache Boulder is Actually Really Heavy

Film, 2016 (Trailer)

This science fiction comedy ended up becoming a three year labour of love for director Christian Nicolson and his crew. Inspired by memories of old school sci fi like Blake’s 7 and The Six Million Dollar Man  — in those long ago days before computers transformed special effects —  the film follows three geeks plunged into an alien world which inexplicably resembles a B-grade movie. The project was born as one of 750 entries in low budget contest Make My Movie; it was runner-up. In 2016 the finished film won Best Comedy prizes at genre festivals in London and Boston.