Suzanne Paul made a splash on our TV screens as the Queen of Infomercials in the 1980s. She soon had her own TV show called Guess Who’s Coming to Dinner?, followed by a range of other popular primetime programmes. Despite breaking a rib in the final episode, Paul won the third season of Dancing with the Stars.
This pirates of the South Seas tale stars Tommy Lee Jones (Men in Black, The Fugitive) as rogue Bully Hayes, who helps a missionary save his kidnapped-by-savages wife. Produced by Kiwis Rob Whitehouse and Lloyd Phillips (12 Monkeys, Inglorious Basterds), the film was made in the 80s ‘tax-break’ feature surge and filmed in Fiji and New Zealand (with an NZ crew and supporting cast). John Hughes (Breakfast Club) and David Odell (Dark Crystal) scripted the old-fashioned swashbuckler from a Phillips story. It was released by Paramount in the US as Nate and Hayes.
Popular Greenstone series The Zoo aired for over a decade. The show went behind the bars at Auckland Zoo to meet monkeys, rhinos, kiwi, humans, and more. A family-friendly hit, initially for TV2, it sold widely overseas. The show spawned a number of spin-offs and best of DVDs, including two Zoo Babies specials, Trent's Wild Cat Adventures — plus Two by Two at the Zoo (2005) and The Zoo: This is Your Life (2011), which each featured one animal per episode. The Zoo won the viewers' vote for Favourite Documentary Series at the TV Guide Awards, seven years running.
Greenies meet The Castle in this 2014 film from first-time feature director Anton Steel. The Z-Nail Gang tells the story of locals joining to fight plans to dig an opencast goldmine in nearby bush — using nails in car tyres, Santa suits and a rap song, instead of monkey wrenches. The making of this down-home take on eco-activism was also a grassroots effort, with the film made by harnessing community support in the Bay of Plenty town of Te Puke. At the 2014 NZ Film Awards it was nominated for Best Self-Funded Film, and Best Supporting Actress (Vanessa Rare).
After his mother gets infected by a bite from a deadly Sumatran rat monkey, Lionel (Almighty Johnson Tim Balme, in an award-winning performance) has to contend with a plague of the living dead while attempting to woo the love of his life. Peter Jackson had already been tagged with the title ‘The Sultan of Splatter’ after his first two features, but this was the film that confirmed it. Armed with a decent budget, he takes a Flymo to fusty 1950s New Zealand and takes cinematic gore to a whole new extreme in the process.
"I dig robots. I make beats." Wellington/New York-based musician Nigel Stanford (aka John Stanford) has released four albums of ambient electronica. He channelled his interest in visualising sound waves into inventive music videos ('Cymatics', 'Automatica'), which garnered awards and millions of YouTube views. Stanford began playing in rock bands at Rongotai College, before exploring digital sounds. Stanford is an IT entrepreneur (formative in Trade Me and FindSomeone). He also founded Wellington film equipment provider Rubber Monkey, and backed movies Second-Hand Wedding and Shihad - Beautiful Machine.
Irrepressible infomercial queen Suzanne Paul made her name selling products like Natural Glow on the small screen but she’s always been keen to diversify her media profile. As well as television acting, presenting and competing (Dancing with the Stars), she has dabbled a toe in the music industry (despite freely admitting that she thinks her singing sounds like a “strangled cat”). In 1994, she made an unsuccessful attempt to launch a dance craze with her novelty song ‘Blue Monkey’; and, in 1997, she covered Dave and the Dynamos’ ‘Life Begins at 40’.
This documentary tells the story of the inimitable kea. The 'Clown of the Alps' is heralded as the world’s smartest bird (its intelligence rivals a monkey’s). Kea are famous on South Island tracks and ski fields for their insatiable (and destructive) inquisitiveness. Curiosity almost killed the kea when it was labelled a sheep killer, and tens of thousands were killed for a bounty. After shots of baby kea being fed, there is extraordinary night footage in clip four of the 'avian wolf' in action. The award-winning film makes a compelling case for the charismatic kea as a national icon.
For 20 years Kathleen O'Brien was the only woman director at the government's National Film Unit. Her films were invited to festivals overseas. Known for her work involving children and education, O'Brien's directed comical road safety short Monkey Tale (1952), and the moving Story of Seven Hundred Polish Children (1966).
Producer Lloyd Phillips won an Academy Award in 1981, for short film The Dollar Bottom. South African-born Phillips was raised in New Zealand, where his first feature, Battletruck, was shot. He went on to establish a globetrotting Hollywood career, working on The Legend of Zorro, 12 Monkeys, Inglourious Basterds and Vertical Limit (also shot in New Zealand). Phillips died of a heart attack on 25 January 2013.