A class act

A Class Act, Mervyn Thompson, His Life & Work

Television, 1997 (Full Length)

In the theatre world of the 70s and 80s, playwright Mervyn Thompson was an outspoken figure. He wrote, directed, and acted in theatre that presented New Zealand working class history and experience. This doco features a rare interview with Thompson before he died in 1992, as well as footage from his last work Passing Through (1991). Thompson discusses his upbringing on the West Coast of the South Island, his approach to theatre, and alludes to some of the controversies that beset his career.

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The Garden Party

Television, 1983 (Full Length)

Adapted from one of Katherine Mansfield's best known short stories, this restrained culture-clash-in-colonial-Wellington tale follows Laura (Alison Routledge from The Quiet Earth), an idealistic teen preparing for her family's garden party. The raising of marques and arrangement of cream puffs and canna lilies is disrupted by news of a neighbour's accidental death. Laura protests that the party should be cancelled, but her mother disagrees. A visitation at the working man's cottage down the hill and an encounter with the victim’s corpse piques Laura's class consciousness.

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Collection

Christchurch

Curated by NZ On Screen team

As a showcase history of Christchurch on screen this collection is backwards looking; but the devastation caused by the earthquakes gives it much more than nostalgic poignancy. As Russell Brown reflects in his introduction, the clips are mementos from, "a place whose face has changed". They testify to the buildings, culture and life of a city now lost, but sure to rise. 

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Savage Honeymoon

Film, 2000 (Trailer and Excerpts)

The Savages are a working class West Auckland family who like drinking, and living by their own rules. Savage Honeymoon is a celebration of their passion and leather pants - and a snapshot of a couple worried their children may not be as lucky as them. Mark Beesley’s debut feature won good reviews (The Herald praised its “self-confident swagger”) – and headlines, after being downgraded from an R18 to R15. The film pre-dated the Westie family of Outrageous Fortune - though Beesley then hated the Westies label, disliking the word’s negative connotations.   

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Series

Heart of the High Country

Television, 1985

Heart of the High Country saw NZ and the mother country getting into bed together, on and off the screen. The rags/riches/rags tale chronicles 18 years for Ceci (Valerie Gogan), a working class Brit who arrives in the South Island and fends off a series of mean-tempered pioneer males — and one long unrequited love. The Sam Pillsbury-directed mini-series played in primetime on ITV in the UK, and was funded by England’s Central TV and TVNZ. It shares storytelling DNA with earlier TV movie It’s Lizzie to Those Close; Brit Elizabeth Gowans scripted both.

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Dustie

Short Film, 1971 (Full Length)

This NFU documentary looks at working lives of a crew of Wellington rubbish collectors aka 'the dusties'. With an insightful dustie narrating, the film follows the team on their rounds, beginning early morning with the seagulls at the depot. Then it's into the trucks and off to face occupational hazards: irate householders, sodden winter sacks, and notoriously steep hills. Our dustie muses on everything from health benefits and job perks (discarded beer, money and toasters!) to cleanliness. This classic observational film ends with a tribute folk song.  

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A Going Concern (short clip)

Television, 1975 (Excerpts)

A forgotten slice of New Zealand TV history, A Going Concern was the country's second, short-lived soap opera. Launched in July 1975 — two months after rival soap Close to Home — it revolved around the staff of a South Auckland plastics factory. The characters were a mixture of Pākehā and Māori, plus a Brit (entertainer Ray Woolf, in his first acting role). Apart from this 23 second clip pulled from a 1975 variety show, the series is believed destroyed. A Going Concern won solid reviews, but the new channel's limited coverage affected audience numbers; it ended after a year.  

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Open House - Happy Birthday (First Episode)

Television, 1986 (Full Length Episode)

Open House revolved around the ups and downs of a drop-in house run by Tony Van Der Berg (Frank Whitten, later Outrageous Fortune's Grandpa Ted). In this first episode there's money trouble, court trouble, domestics, a pregnant teenager and an abandoned baby ... but there's community spirit aplenty as the house's whānau prepares for its first birthday celebration, complete with Scottish brass band and Samoan drums. Tony's first lines to a raving old man on Petone Beach? "Good onya mate!". Features author Emily Perkins as Tony's idealistic stepdaughter.

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Series

Open House

Television, 1986–1987

This 38 episode series revolved around the ups and downs of a community house run by Tony Van Der Berg (Frank Whitten). The series was devised by Liddy Holloway to meet a network call for an Eastenders-style drama that might tackle social issue storylines. It was the first drama series to put a Māori whānau (the Mitchells) at its centre. Despite being well-reviewed, it was perhaps the last gasp of Avalon-produced uncompromisingly local drama (satirised as the ‘Wellington style’), before TV production largely shifted to Auckland to face up to commercial pressures.

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About Face: Danny and Raewyn

Television, 1985 (Full Length)

Gritty, award-winning drama, set in Auckland suburbia. Danny and Raewyn's relationship is skating close to the edge. And so are their finances. Though the physical attraction between them remains, Raewyn is growing tired of encouraging Danny to make more effort. Then one night alcohol and memory collide with an order of black-market meat, and everything turns on its head. One of the most acclaimed episodes of the About Face series, Danny and Raewyn won funding after another episode fell through.