Contact was introduced as TV2’s slot for local documentaries when TVNZ was established in 1980. At 7pm on Monday nights, it featured 30 minute programmes made both in-house and by independent producers. Multiple episode series within the strand included historian Les Cleveland’s archive based Not So Long Ago, and Ian Taylor Adventures, where the former Spot On presenter tried his hand at various extreme sports. The Contact brand was transferred to TV1 in 1981, as TV2 began to move towards more of an entertainment focus.
A magazine show with an edge, The Living Room did for arts television production what Radio With Pictures did for New Zealand music — it ripped open the venetian blinds, rearranged the plastic-covered cushions, and shone the light on Aotearoa’s homegrown creative culture. Often letting the subjects film and present their own stories, it was produced for three series by Wellington’s Sticky Pictures, who would go on to make another arts showcase, The Gravy. Amidst the calvacade of Kiwi talent, Flight of the Conchords and musician Ladi6 made early screen appearances.
Radio DJ Simon Barnett has also done his share of television — and the odd movie. His screen debut was as a presenter on long-running kids’ show What Now?. He went on to host a range of other series including Face the Music, Clash of the Codes, Wheel of Fortune and Sing Like a Superstar. In 2015 he won reality TV show Dancing with the Stars.
This documentary follows the efforts of the New Zealand rowing eight to win gold at 1984’s Los Angeles Olympics. The eight, coached by the legendary Harry Mahon, had won the past two world champs and were expected to repeat the triumph of the 1972 Kiwi eight at Munich. Amongst training at home, the infamous six minutes of pain — the “erg test” — is featured; one of the most demanding trials in sport. The action then shifts to LA for the Olympic finals. The film offers a gripping insight into the extreme lengths the amateur athletes go to in their quest for gold.
After learning the ropes making short films and music videos, ex-soldier Matthew Metcalfe has made films in Antarctica and Iraq, and produced movies and TV movies with partners in Canada (Nemesis Game), England (Dean Spanley) and France (Capital in the 21st Century). His projects range from tutus (ballet feature Giselle) to war (animated film 25 April).
Mark Albiston has won awards at festivals in Cannes, Berlin and Salt Lake City, thanks to short films Run and The Six Dollar Fifty Man (which he directed with Louis Sutherland). After time in the United Kingdom, Albiston returned home to launch Sticky Pictures, where he won gongs for arts shows The Living Room and The Gravy. Alibston and Sutherland's 2013 movie Shopping won further awards and acclaim.
Entrepreneur Brooke Howard-Smith first won fame for his skating skills. In the 1990s he was part of the team behind both a series of hit American skating films, and skating accessories company Senate. After returning home in the late 90s, he began an extended run as co-host of consumer affairs show Target, and owned an Auckland nightclub. Howard-Smith has also presented Cadbury Dream Factory and a range of sports coverage, including extreme sports show XSTV. Now heading management company We Are Tenzing, he has organised many charity events — from Cure Kids to 2011 telethon Rise Up Christchurch.
Director Michael Firth was an unheralded figure in the Kiwi film renaissance. His debut movie, ski film Off the Edge, was the first New Zealand feature to be Oscar-nominated. Noted US critic Andrew Sarris praised drama Sylvia, based on teacher Sylvia Ashton-Warner, as one of 1985's best films. Firth's subjects ranged from incest to fishing; his TV series Adrenalize sold to 50 countries. He passed away on 9 October 2016.
Born to wildlife cinematographers, Clive Neeson was capturing surf and ski adventures on film as a teenager. 45 years later Neeson’s footage makes up the bulk of his feature-length documentary Last Paradise, which follows Kiwi extreme sports innovators and the changing face of the planet. Trained as a physicist, Neeson has worked globally as a consultant in technology innovation, and catastrophe investigation.
Barrie Everard was a significant Kiwi player in the business of movies over four decades. After distributing films in a highly competitive market, he founded the Berkeley Cinema chain. Everard produced adventure movie The Leading Edge (1987) and executive produced Never Say Die. He was the first exhibitor/ distributor to sit on the board of the NZ Film Commission, and was chair from 2002 to 2006. He died on 14 November 2016.