Director/playwright Stuart McKenzie won a best NZ short film award with 1991's The Mouth and the Truth, made with Neil Pardington. The duo followed it with Snap, which won selection to the prestigious Clermont-Ferrand festival in France. McKenzie made his feature debut in 2003 with drama For Good. The film was born from real-life interviews that McKenzie and his partner Miranda Harcourt did with prisoners and victim's families. McKenzie went on to direct fly-on-the-wall acting school series Tough Act. In 2017, he and Harcourt directed a movie adaptation of Margaret Mahy's coming of age novel The Changeover.
Backch@t was an award-winning magazine-style arts and culture show that appealed, right from the opening acid-jazz theme tune, to a literate late-90s arts audience. Fronted by media personality Bill Ralston, these excerpts from the first episode come out guns blazing with a debate by panellists about Tania Kovats's controversial artwork 'Virgin in a Condom', the sculpture that caused national upset when it was exhibited at Te Papa in 1998. Managing to keep a panel discussion convivial rather than confrontational, Ralston handles the catholic debate with aplomb.
The movie version of Margaret Mahy's first novel for young adults is still set in Christchurch, but the time period is now post-quake. Teenager Laura Chant (newcomer Erana James) encounters a very strange man (Brit actor Timothy Spall, from Mr Turner) and a boy with a secret. The coming of age fantasy has been a longtime passion project for husband and wife team Stuart McKenzie and Miranda Harcourt, who have worked to keep their version as "dark and scary" as the Carnegie Award-winning original. The cast also includes Melanie Lynskey (Heavenly Creatures) and Lucy Lawless.
When German director Peter Falkenberg moved to Christchurch in the 1970s, he faced disdain from conservative locals after setting up avant-garde theatre company Free Theatre. The group was still going strong almost four decades later. Director Shirley Horrocks spent six years capturing their colourful and controversial history, and filming them in action. Interviewees in the 76 minute documentary include director Stuart McKenzie, who reflects on how out there the group was in the early 1980s, and founding member Nick Frost, who recalls when people tried to shut them down.
Reality series Tough Act follows first-year students at New Zealand's most famous drama school. In this episode personal lives clash with professional aspirations. The students' first professional production looms. As they rehearse scenes from Shakespeare, distractions are everywhere. Hollie is grieving after news of an accident and class romances are put to the test when partners perform intimate scenes with colleagues. When Sophie sleeps in and misses a rehearsal, she faces serious consequences. The series was nominated for two local awards for Best Reality Series.
In 2005 director Stuart McKenzie brought a camera crew into the studios and rehearsal spaces of Toi Whakaari, New Zealand's top drama school, to follow the progress of its first-year acting students. The class included future names like Dan Musgrove and Sophie Hambleton (Westside) and Matt Whelan (Go Girls). Tough Act was nominated for Best Reality Show at the 2007 Qantas Television Awards and the 2007 NZ Screen Awards. The concept was custom-made for reality TV: tough auditions to find 22 diverse young people, who chased the same dream and faced a multitude of challenges.
This short film follows Vincent (Leighton Phair), a young Chinese-Kiwi rescued from a group of racist punks in a spacies parlour by a mysterious Asian (Gary Young), then drawn into a seedy Triad underworld. Vincent is struggling with his identity in a mixed race family. Directors Stuart McKenzie and Neil Pardington wrote the story with playwright Lynda Chanwai-Earle, drawing it from interviews with members of the Chinese community in Wellington and Christchurch. Early 90s Flying Nun bands feature on the score; DJ Mu (future Fat Freddys Drop frontman) cameos as a punk.
In this documentary for TV One, director Aileen O'Sullivan turns the camera on three sets of mother/daughter artists, and asks whether art is in the genes. Interviewing each other about their creative lives are actor Kate Harcourt and actor/acting teacher Miranda Harcourt; weaver Erenora Puketapu-Hetet and weaver/painter Veranoa Hetet (née Hauwaho); and painter Jacqueline Fahey and performer/sculptor Augusta McDonald. Frank yet loving discussions abound, like when Hetet tells her mother "sometimes you come up with silly things".
A young couple (Danielle Cormack and Erik Thomson) wander into a photographic studio, where the owner seems to have the power to bring another age to life. Chosen for many international festivals including Clermont-Ferrand, Snap marked another collaboration for filmmakers Stuart McKenzie and Neil Pardington. Inventive and sly, the film plays like a twisted episode of The Twilight Zone, one in which the lead-up to the shock finale provides at least half the fun. Peter Hambleton steals the show, as the oddball photographer with Cormack in his sights.
Bitch is a tale of "infidelity among friends" which explores trust and romance, and stars three people and a dog. Isabel (Inside Straight's Joanne Simpson) recalls a trio of relationships — one with a man in the middle of discovering he is gay, one with a man who doesn't like the smell of Isabel's pet dog, and the last with her friend Ruth (Carol Smith). Creator Fiona Samuel (TV's Marching Girls) intended the short, one of her earliest as a director, to combine two perspectives: the world as the main character perceives it, and how things might appear to the casual observer.