Packed with creatures and landscapes that quite simply boggle the mind, the Nature Collection showcases New Zealand's impressive menagerie of nature and wildlife films. Many of the titles were made by powerhouse company NHNZ, which began around 1977 as the Natural History Unit, a small, southern outpost of state television. In this backgrounder, Peter Hayden — who had a hand in more than a few of these classic films — guides viewers through just what the Nature Collection has to offer.
Eclectic comedy show Radiradirah featured Taika Waititi, Rhys Darby, Madeleine Sami and the talents behind animated hit bro'Town. The fast-paced sketch show included Monty Python-style animated inserts, the laconic talking sheep of The Pen, and bro'Town-ers Oscar Kightley and Dave Fane as elderly women who've done it all. This first episode introduces a number of ongoing characters, including an oddball alien with a beard, and crusading space captain Hemi T Cook (both played by Waititi). Radiradirah was created by bro'Town's Elizabeth Mitchell and Oscar Kightley.
In the debut episode of the award-winning young inventors' series, Auckland schoolboy Adam Gaston has a design for rocket-powered ice skates — and the resident Goober experts and guests (including Aquada developer Alan Gibbs and Olympic speed skater Mark Jackson) could be the ones to help him achieve his need for speed. Challenged to create skates that will outsprint Jackson, Adam and 'Build Buddy' Sam Britten discover that rockets may be a step too far. Jet propulsion could be the solution — but will anyone be brave enough to test the results?
This 2012 documentary explores the economic and creative potential of one of the icons of New Zealand’s forest: the kauri. Logging and fire have destroyed 95% of Aotearoa’s great kauri forests (this film was made before kauri dieback disease became a major threat). Director Mathurin Molgat poses a solution to the tree’s survival: commercial harvest. He frames the film around Laurie Williams, who makes guitars from the wood. In this excerpt, musician Tiki Taane talks about Tāne Mahuta, and a tree is prepared for felling. The film screened at a number of festivals in the United States.
“Here is a taste of the best and worst of Backch@t 2000…goodnight.” Presenter Bill Ralston introduces this reel of outtakes and highlights from the Gibson Group arts series. The creative sector's issues of the day include installing Len Lye’s Wind Wand, arts funding, and arts patron Denis Adam’s thoughts on Te Papa’s arts displays. Ralston, reporters Mark Crysell and Jodi Ihaka, and film reviewer Chris Knox all get tongue-tied; there’s a tiff between two architecture panelists, brief appearances by Ian McKellen and Miriama Kamo, and opera singer Jonathan Lemalu hits a low note.
Shortland Street producer Steven Zanoski’s first job in television was as a writer/reporter on kids programme What Now? He went on to become a storyliner for Shortland Street and eventually the programme’s producer. During his time as a writer on the show, he also penned the screenplay for one-off TV drama House of Sticks. Zanoski has also had a hand in the development of Outrageous Fortune and executive produced Mataku and Mercy Peak.
Catherine Fitzgerald cut her teeth producing high profile short films. She collaborated with Taika Waititi on his Oscar-nominated short Two Cars, One Night and with Vincent Ward on his feature Rain of the Children. More recently Fitzgerald produced two features with director Tusi Tamasese.
The globetrotting Sandy Houston began her career in animation and visual effects, after she left New Zealand for London. In the 90s she joined powerhouse American effects company ILM and Walt Disney Pictures, then Weta Digital in 2003. En route, she worked on a number of landmark films in modern visual effects, including Jurassic Park, the Oscar-winning Avatar, and Peter Jackson's remake of King Kong.
Stalin’s Sickle takes Kiwi suburban paranoia to unexpected places as nine-year-old Daniel imagines his neighbour is feared Russian dictator Joseph Stalin. Set amidst 1962 Cold War conservatism, Daniel spots the south seas’ Stalin at church, spies on him to confirm his suspicions and schemes to send him on his way. But Daniel’s civil defence plan goes awry, leaving him with a worse threat to deal with. Based on the short story by Michael Morrissey, the Costa Botes-directed film won the Grand Jury Prize at Clermont-Ferrand Short Film Festival.
Raymond Thompson, MNZM, has created and supervised a run of television shows since setting up base in New Zealand in the mid 90s. Longtime head of production company Cloud 9, he first began selling scripts in his native England. Thompson's series The Tribe, set in a world without adults, became a cult international hit, running for five seasons plus a sequel. His shows have sold to more than 130 countries.