Tony Hiles

Director, Producer

Director Tony Hiles has been making films and documentaries since the mid 1960s; from helming TVNZ staples such as Country Calendar, to independent docos whose subjects have ranged from the making of Peter Jackson's Bad Taste to architect Bill Toomath, and an ongoing series of films involving artist Michael Smither. In 1996 he won an NZ Film best director award for his debut feature Jack Brown Genius.

Interview

Tony Hiles: Art films, Jack Brown Genius, and more...

Direction and Interview - Clare O'Leary, Camera and Editing - Leo Guerchmann

Director Tony Hiles began making commercials and documentaries in the mid 1960s; from helming staples like Country Calendar, to independent docos and art films. In 1996 he won an NZ Film Best Director award for his debut feature film Jack Brown Genius.

A Portrait of Michael Smither

Television, 2007 (Full Length)

In this intimate documentary painter Michael Smither lays bare his life — from a stern Catholic childhood in New Plymouth to the inspiration of Central Otago to his senior years in Otama Beach, collaborating on natural artworks. Smither is best known for his unflinching portraits of family life, works like 'Sarah with Baked Beans' which capture the untamed energy of small children. Smither acknowledges the hardship behind these famous paintings, and the toll it took on his first marriage. Ex-partners (including novelist Rachel McAlpine) open up about their time with Smither. 

The HeART of the Matter

Film, 2016 (Excerpts)

The HeART of the Matter looks at major changes in New Zealand teaching which began after World War ll. A group of bureaucrats and arts specialists set about introducing a "thoroughly bicultural and arts-centred education system" to schools — in contrast to the rote learning of the past. Combining interviews and archival footage, Luit and Jan Bieringa (The Man in the Hat) examine this period of radical educational reform, and ask what lessons can be applied to the present. In the excerpts above, pupils and teachers reminisce about their time in the classroom.

Series

Country Calendar

Television, 1966–ongoing

The iconic all-things-rural show is the longest running programme on New Zealand television. With its typical patient observational style (that allows stories of people and the land to gently unfold) it’s an unlikely broadcasting star, but New Zealanders continue, after 50 plus years, to tune in. Amongst the bucolic tales of farming, fishing and forestry, there are high country musters, floods, organic brewing, falconry, tobacco farming, as well as a fencing wire-playing farmer-musician, a radio-controlled dog, and Fred Dagg and the Trevs.

Series

On Camera

Television, 1967–1974

NZBC series On Camera was an afternoon magazine show. It screened separately on each of the regional channels, but shared items and interviews. Subjects ranged from Rolf Harris and Alfred Hitchcock to VSA and ballet, and topics “of particular appeal to women”. Presenters included Julie Cunningham (Christchurch), Irvine Lindsay (Wellington) and Sonia King (Auckland), with Max Cryer reporting from Hollywood. Future head of TVNZ Māori programming Ernie Leonard (reporter) got early experience on the show, and future Quiet Earth composer John Charles was a director.

Good Day - The Music and Record Industry

Television, 1978 (Full Length)

This 1978 documentary casts a critical eye over a depressed NZ music industry, and asks what has changed since its 60s glory days of pop stars, screaming fans and C’mon. By the late 70s, few musicians are earning a living and chart hits have dwindled (although the recording industry is bullish). Ray Columbus waxes lyrical about ‘She’s a Mod’. Kevan Moore and Peter Sinclair are sanguine about TV’s role, a finger is pointed at radio airplay, and the careers of Craig Scott, Mark Williams, Sharon O’Neill and John Rowles are considered. The only thing not in short supply is blame.

Good Day - Sir Edmund Hillary

Television, 1979 (Full Length)

In this Good Day interview, Alison Parr talks to Sir Edmund Hillary as he discusses From the Ocean to the Sky, a book about his 1977 jet boat mission up India's holy river, The Ganges. A reflective Sir Ed talks adventure, spirituality and his 'escapist' relationship with Nepal; and Parr probes him on his reluctance to include single women on expeditions. On a more outspoken note, he expresses his dismay at a lack of "positive, inspirational leadership" in contemporary NZ in what is arguably a barely disguised attack on the style of Prime Minister Rob Muldoon.

Crisis: One Man's Fight

Television, 1989 (Full Length)

Just days after finding out he had bowel cancer, Wellington actor Peter Vere-Jones invited a film crew to document his journey through the treatment process to the final outcome. This is a highly personal, and at times harrowing, account of a man coming to terms with his mortality. The documentary puts the audience squarely in Vere-Jones' corner. Although much of the doco is filmed inside Wellington Hospital, Vere-Jones' wit and insight paints a picture of a life far beyond those walls.

One Man and the Sea

Television, 1984 (Excerpts)

New Zealand artist Michael Smither (well known for his idiosyncratic realist paintings, such as Rocks with Mountain) is a man of many theories and ideas. This film, made for TV, documents his experiments rebuilding eroded beaches around Taranaki with driftwood. Only partially successful, these experiments nonetheless reveal Smither as something of a visionary. They contrast with the New Plymouth City Council's own efforts to check sand erosion; and over two decades later, Smither's less orthodox methods look the more sensible, and sustainable.