Originally conceived as a TV series, Gaylene Preston's comedy was a local hit, uplifting recession-era audiences with its tale of resourceful misfits. Ruby (Yvonne Lawley), an 83-year-old trying to dodge a retirement home, rents a room to Rata (Vanessa Rare in her screen debut) — a solo mum with sidelines in music and benefit fraud. Rata's son is into shoplifting, while Simon Barnett plays 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 tale from writer Graeme Tetley.
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 a troubled Auckland cop (Oscar Kightley). 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 Kightley. Sam Neill played his boss. Herald reviewer Paul Casserly called it a “great, gritty crime show”. Written by Kightley, director Chris Dudman and veteran South Auckland detective Neil Grimstone, Harry was notable for using unsubtitled Samoan in prime time.
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.
Before he became a chart-topping singer, Benny Tipene was a hopeful entrant on the first New Zealand series of global talent show The X Factor. For his audition in front of the panel of judges — including singers Stan Walker, Ruby Frost and Daniel Bedingfield — Tipene works his understated, folky magic on Outkast's 2003 party hit, 'Hey Ya'. It more than does the trick. Tipene would eventually come third; but he impressed enough to get signed by Sony Music and released a platinum selling solo album in 2013.
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.
Jemaine Clement is the bespectacled half of folk-comedy duo Flight of the Conchords, who achieved international cult status in their own HBO series. Clement's screen career began after he appeared on 90s sketch shows Telly Laughs and Skitz. Following his big screen debut in Tongan Ninja, he starred in misfit romance Eagle vs Shark. In 2014 he co-directed and acted in hit vampire comedy What We Do in the Shadows.