Actor Peter Elliott’s career has spanned theatre, television film and radio. His screen credits include playing Rex on Gloss, Doctor David Kearney on Shortland Street, and lawyer Murray Gibson on TV movie Until Proven Innocent. As well as TV drama, Elliott has fronted and narrated a range of documentary TV series: Captain’s Log, Explorers, Frontier of Dreams and Secret New Zealand.
This Heartland channel series marked 50 years of television in New Zealand. Each episode chronicled a decade of screen highlights, alongside an interview with a personality who worked in that era. In this excerpt from the 1990s episode, host Andrew Shaw chats to Peter Elliott about his TV career, from painting the floor for Grunt Machine to becoming a high profile actor (Gloss, Shortland Street), and presenter (Captain’s Log). Elliott reflects on the Shortland Street (and Civil Defence advert) curse, and the screen industry’s growing confidence in telling local stories.
This 1985 New Zealand tourism promo showcases Aotearoa society and industry. As the title suggests, the NFU-made film offers an impressionistic take on the subject. Bookended by a dawn and dusk chorus, the narration-free survey cuts between primary products (milk, logs, wool etc) and their manufacturing processes, and then shows people at work and play — from futures traders to pounamu carvers, contemporary dancers to cricketers. Date stamps of the era include a mass aerobics class, hydroslide action, and saxophone and guitar solos on the soundtrack.
Housing and property are New Zealand obsessions, as reflected on-screen in shows from The Elegant Shed to The Block. Hosted by Peter Elliott (Captain’s Log, Explorers), 2014 series The Art of the Architect highlights the role of the architect in each build. Eight one-hour long episodes follow architects as they respond to the challenges of sites, budgets, client demands, and the New Zealand environment. The designs range from private homes to community projects. Building delays led to the TVNZ series taking over four years to film.
In this Memories of Service interview, World War II veteran Ernest Davenport talks about his time in the Royal Air Force. After joining the RAF in 1940 at the age of 18, he served as a warrant officer in the pathfinder force before being shot down over Germany in 1943. He shares stories of his time as a prisoner of war — attempting escape, being charged with sabotage and blackmailing German guards to aid in his eventual rescue. He also shares his various medals from service and artifacts of the war such as his pilot’s log book and the jacket he was wearing when he was shot down.
This short film from 1955 offers a comprehensive look at how knowledge of bushcraft can make safer "our green heritage of the high hills and bush”. Following a tramping party, the narration takes a straightforward approach to the subject, detailing skills like packing, river crossing, route finding, fire lighting, and building a bivvy. Some tips are timeless: “There’s no point in going like a bull at a gate” through supplejack, while others are of their era: pipe-smoking, barley sugar, and logs for tent poles. The film was part of a National Film Unit educational series on mountain safety.
This classic kids’ adventure tale follows a 13-year-old boy on a quest to find his father, missing amidst the 1860s Otago gold rush. When it launched in September 1976, the 13 part series was the most expensive local TV drama yet made. Under the reins of director Tom Parkinson, the series brandished unprecedented production values, and panned the Central Otago vistas for all their worth. Its huge local popularity was matched abroad (BBC screened it multiple times); it showed that NZ-made kids’ drama could be exported, and helped establish the new second television channel.
Peter Elliott has been a fixture on New Zealand television for over three decades. Award-nominated as the scheming Rex Thorne on 80s soap Gloss, he would go on to win for tele-movie Until Proven Innocent, and spend four years on Shortland Street. Elliott has also guided viewers through New Zealand's history as host and narrator of shows Explorers, Captain's Log, and Frontier of Dreams.
John A Givins is a television producer and director. His company Livingstone Productions produced the award-winning historical series Captain’s Log, and eleven seasons of Queer Nation. Givins has gone on to produce programmes and develop formats for Māori Television.
Producer Steven Orsbourn has 30+ years of screen industry experience. As a cameraman, he shot everything from travel to sport (he was embedded with the All Blacks and David Tua), and was nominated for four NZ TV Awards. After producing high profile rugby films (including Qantas Media award-winner The Test), he shifted platforms to digital, leading content production at the NZ Herald online and Culture.