The Fire-Raiser pits a quartet of smalltown World War I era school kids against a mysterious figure with fire on the brain. Inspired partly by a real-life Nelson arsonist, the five-part gothic adventure was created for television by author Maurice Gee. Peter Hayden plays the town’s unconventional teacher ‘Clippy’ Hedges, while the lead role went to Royal NZ Ballet star Jon Trimmer. The Fire-Raiser won four Listener TV awards, including best overall drama and best writer. Gee’s accompanying novel was published both here and overseas. He writes about the show's birth here.
Rain evokes an idyllic 1970s beach holiday. But as the title hints, all is not sunny at the bach. Mum (Sarah Peirse) is drowning in drink, Dad is defeated, and 13-year-old Janey is awakening to a new kind of power. Adapted from Kirsty Gunn's novel, Rain marked the acclaimed first feature for director Christine Jeffs. Invited to screen at the Cannes Film Festival, it won awards back home for actors Peirse, Alistair Browning and teenager Alicia Fulford-Wierzbicki. Neil Finn and Edmund Cake composed the soundtrack. LA Times critic Kevin Thomas called it "an important feature debut".
Michael Noonan is a legend in New Zealand scriptwriting, and not just because he was amongst the first to prove you could actually make a living at it. Creator of landmark New Zealand shows The Governor and Close to Home, Noonan's work has often explored ideas of power and social injustice.
Mike King presents the story of Gustavus Von Tempsky: swashbuckling colonial soldier of fortune, "flamboyant folk hero" and "our first pin up boy". The Prussian-born artist, self-promoter, romantic and adventurer, led an elite unit — the Forest Rangers — in the 1860s New Zealand Wars, garbed in trademark Garibaldi shirt, kilt and calvary sabre. His bush-fighting skill attracted respect from Māori foes, who named him "manu rau" (many birds); but also controversy after an infamous raid. He met his demise fighting guerilla leader Titokowaru.
Maurice Gee, who was named an Arts Foundation icon in 2003, is one of New Zealand's most acclaimed writers. His work for the screen includes creating 80s kidult series The Fire-Raiser and The Champion. Gee's novels have also inspired a number of adaptations, notably classic sci-fi series Under the Mountain and movie In My Father's Den.
The Dominant Species is a loopy look at the relationship between people and cars in 1975 Aotearoa ... from an alien's eye view. Nifty animation and special effects intersperse the automotive anthropological survey of Mark IIs, VWs, anti-car activism and car-washing. There's a dream sequence involving a ladykilling Jesus Christ atop a car, and Wagner's Ride of the Valkyries scores a rugby match traffic jam (also used in a famous scene in Apocalypse Now). Filmheads will note the tripped out assembly is flush with formative industry talents (see this guide by director Derek Morton).
This fondly-remembered Pictorial Parade plunges down the famously steep grade of the Denniston Incline. The cable railway was the key means of transporting ‘black gold’ from the isolated Denniston Plateau to Westport. The engineering marvel fell 518 metres over just 1670 metres. It brought down 13 million tonnes of coal and many hardy families, despite notorious brake failures. This film was made just before the mine and railway ceased operating, as “old king coal” was supplanted by oil. Director Hugh Macdonald writes about making it, and a companion film, here.
Legendary filmmaker Rudall Hayward, MBE, directed seven features over five decades — decades in which the concept of Kiwi movie-making was still an oxymoron, or meant a foreigner was in charge. Inspired by NZ’s cross-cultural history, Hayward remade his own Rewi’s Last Stand in 1940. Later he married Rewi star Ramai Te Miha, launching a filmmaking partnership that lasted until Rudall’s death in May 1974.
Roger Hall began writing and acting on television in the late 1960s. In 1976 his debut play Glide Time became a sellout. Later Hall turned this satire of bureaucrats into Gliding On, arguably New Zealand's most successful sitcom to date. Play Middle Aged Spread became a film in 1979. Hall went on to write marital comedy Conjugal Rights for English television. He remains the country's most successful playwright.
2013 Arts Foundation Laureate Dean Parker has written extensively for stage, television, radio and print. Alongside his own projects, he has shown himself as a skilled adaptor of everyone from Nicky Hager (The Hollow Men) to Ronald Hugh Morrieson (movie classic Came a Hot Friday).