Originally conceived as a TV series, Gaylene Preston's comedy was a local hit, uplifting recession-era audiences with a plucky misfits saga. Ruby (Yvonne Lawley), an 83 year old trying to dodge a retirement home, rents a room to Rata, a solo mum with sidelines in music and benefit fraud. Rata's son is into arson and shoplifting, while Ruby's nephew (What Now's Simon Barnett) is a hapless yuppie wannabe. Marginalised by the deregulated economy of the 80s and living on their wits, they may just find common cause despite themselves in this Graeme Tetley-penned tale.
In the first episode of comedy drama Step Dave, solo Mum Cara (Sia Trokenheim) finds herself rescued by womanising barman Dave (Jono Kenyon), after a disastrous blind date ends in a sprained ankle. Dave is convinced he's met 'the one'. Cara's daughters and mother in-law (Lisa Harrow) are horrified. And Cara fears there isn't enough time in her busy life for a man who calls her favourite song "ancient". Meanwhile Dave's flatmate is falling for the workmate who has stolen his desk. Created by Kate McDermott, Step Dave screened for two seasons — and was later remade in Russia.
Written by Helena Brooks and comedian Jaquie Brown, Nothing Special could be seen as a cautionary tale: it's good to love your son, but not so good to think he's Jesus reincarnate. How can Billy escape the crazed adoration of his doting Mum? By striving to be the most boring man he can be. Featuring an aptly quirky soundtrack (Blerta's 'Dance All Around The World') and a very funny performance by Alison Routledge as the quintessential overzealous Mum, Nothing Special was chosen for competition in the short film section at Cannes (2005).
After a young woman (Denise Maunder) falls pregnant, she decides to go against the tide of advice from her family and unsympathetic welfare authorities by keeping her baby. Misery and hardship ensues. Director Paul Maunder brought kitchen sink drama to NZ television with this controversial National Film Unit production. The story can claim to have effected social change, stirring up public debate about the DPB for single mothers. Keep an eye out for a young Paul Holmes as a wannabe lothario. Maunder writes about making it in this piece. Costa Botes writes about it here.
On 27 July 1965, Auckland fish’n’chip shop owners Sam and Shirley Ann Lawson became parents of a boy — Samuel — and four girls — Deborah, Lisa, Shirlene and Selina. The birth made world headlines as the first set of quintuplets conceived using hormone treatment. But out of the public eye it wasn't happy families: Sam and Ann split up when the quins were six and in 1982 their mother was murdered by her abusive second husband. Director Mark Everton’s award-winning doco regathers the quins, who discuss the ‘quin bond’, tragedy, resilience and their tumultuous lives.
This TV3 drama series follows the travails of a cop (Oscar Kightley) as he pursues justice on the mean streets of Auckland. Solo parent to a teenage daughter (following his wife’s suicide), Detective Sergeant Harry Anglesea is thrown into a murder investigation and an underworld of P and gang violence. Harry, not a stickler for the rules, marked a rare dramatic turn for Oscar Kightley. Sam Neill plays his policing buddy. NZ Herald reviewer Paul Casserly called it a “great, gritty crime show”. Harry was notable for using unsubtitled Samoan in primetime.
Tom Gould’s short film documents the life of Martyka ‘Skin’ Brandt — Mongrel Mob gangster, speedway driver and devoted solo father to 10 children (four of his own, six fostered). Brandt was a rare Pākehā who joined the Mob in the 70s. His stereotype-defying life spans escaping from Sunnyside mental institution as a teen, violence and ‘Mongrelism’, then transformation via parenthood. NYC-based Kiwi Gould filmed Skin in Brandt’s Napier home. Skin won international attention as a Vimeo Staff Pick, Short of the Week, and selection in Dazed magazine’s ‘Doc X’ strand.
Kiwi Chris Dudman studied film at Ilam and London’s Royal College of Art; his graduation short was nominated for a student Oscar. After working on arts documentaries in the UK, Dudman returned to NZ in 1995. Since then he has directed drama shows (the high-rating Harry), documentaries (The Day that Changed My Life), attention-grabbing shorts (Choice Night), and a number of high profile ads for his company Robber’s Dog.
Michael Noonan is a legend in New Zealand scriptwriting, and not just because he was amongst the first to prove you could actually make a living at it. Creator of landmark New Zealand shows The Governor and Close to Home, Noonan's work has often explored ideas of power and social injustice.
Lisa Harrow's CV marks her out as one of New Zealand's most prodigious acting exports. After starring in Twelfth Night for the Royal Shakespeare Company at age 25, she got serious about screen acting in the 1980s and worked everywhere from Iceland to Australia, as well as starring in Kiwi films Other Halves and Shaker Run. Alongside her acting, Harrow now campaigns for ecological responsibility on stage and page.