Collection

The Sam Neill Collection

Curated by NZ On Screen team

Sam Neill has acted in forgotten Kiwi TV dramas (The City of No) and classic Kiwi movies (Sleeping Dogs, The Piano, Hunt for the Wilderpeople). His career has taken him from the UK (Reilly: Ace of Spies) to Hawaii (Jurassic Park) to dodgy Melbourne nightclubs (Death in Brunswick). As Neill turns 70, this collection celebrates his range, modesty and style — and the fact he was directing films before winning acting fame. In these backgrounders, friends Ian Mune and Roger Donaldson raise a glass to a talented, self-deprecating actor and fan of good music and pinot noir.

Lenny Minute One

Short Film, 1993 (Full Length)

Off his own bat, Ilam art student Glenn Standring got his third-year short into competition at the Cannes Film Festival. The minimal plot — hipster private eye Lenny Minute dryly narrates, before facing his nemesis, a rampaging giant blue “sheila doll” — allows Standring to conjure up a distinctive collage-styled cityscape, mined from a grab-bag of Americana inspirations: 50s sci-fi, jazz, the hardboiled detectives of Dashiell Hammett, and star Marlene Dietrich. After this early computer-aided short, Standring joined the Gibson Group as an animator, then directed two stylish features.

Jet Black

Short Film, 2007 (Full Length)

The title points the way towards this stylish short's film noir intentions, but a generic set up - a drifter rolls into a seedy motel diner — springs surprises as a tainted love time-travel plot unravels. Convincing performances from Leighton Cardno (Shortland Street's Dr Adam Heyward) as the eponymous Jet, burdened by murderous guilt, and Marissa Stott as the winsome waitress, realise a screenplay co-scripted by writer Chad Taylor. Black was directed by Kezia Barnett as part of a short film series to promote Schweppes by advertising agency Publicis Mojo.

Planet Man

Short Film, 1995 (Full Length)

 "It was the beginning of the end of the world..." Award-winning actor Tim Balme (Braindead) narrates this rain-lashed tale of being trapped in a world where all the women have disappeared. The film noir stylings, Blade Runner climate and tough-talking dialogue come to the fore when Balme encounters a beautiful woman with an attitude (Balme's real-life partner Katie Wolfe), and finds desire playing tricks with his mind. Planet Man was judged best short film in the Critics' Week section of the 1996 Cannes Film Festival. 

Unfurnished Room for Rent

Short Film, 1997 (Full Length)

As a trench coat-clad protagonist enters the room, the jazzy soundtrack and copious shadows promise a claymation exercise in film noir. But the room advertised in director Barry Prescott’s first short film is no ordinary rental. It soon becomes apparent that a more unusual threat is responsible for the lack of furnishings and tenants — and it threatens the man and his oversized revolver. Television has been accused of rotting brains, but this short takes the allegation to the next level. Unfurnished Room for Rent screened at the Palm Springs and Seattle film festivals.

Despondent Divorcee

Short Film, 1995 (Full Length)

This short film takes its title from Russell Corgi's famous 1942 Buffalo Courier Express photograph of the exterior of the Genesee Hotel. Directed by Jonathan Ogilvie, the film is a series of close-ups of the photo coolly unfurling to reveal the full image. The snippets are overdubbed with a beguiling film noir-styled narration that imagines the context behind the extraordinary shot. Divorcee screened at many film festivals including in competition at Cannes in 1995. Corgi's photo was also referenced in the 'Passengers' issue of Neil Gaiman's Sandman comics.

Hey Paris

Short Film, 1987 (Full Length)

This collaboration between dancer Douglas Wright and director Gregor Nicholas was one of a series of music and movement-based shorts that established Nicholas’ reputation. A dramatised film noir sequence leads to a cross-dressing dance duel between Wright and Debbie McCulloch, shifting between an Orwellian cityscape and retro nightclub. Wright choreographs the bodies, and Nicholas the bold and sensual visual rhythms (shot by Stuart Dryburgh). Nicholas went on to direct high profile commercials and movie Broken English. Wright passed away in 2018.

Who Laughs Last

Television, 2006 (Excerpts)

Who Laughs Last profiles Roger Hall, New Zealand’s most successful playwright. Three decades after the opening of Hall's Middle Age Spread became a hit, the original cast return for 2006 follow up Spreading Out. The Shirley Horrocks doco explores the secrets behind Hall’s successful brand of comedy (25+ stage plays, plus TV series and musical comedies) and closely explores the popularity of Middle Age Spread and Spreading Out. Among those interviewed are John Clarke, Ginette McDonald, the late Grant Tilly, and Hall himself.

Reservoir Hill - 6, Series One, Episode Six

Television, 2009 (Full Length Episode)

The sixth episode of this Emmy Award-winning interactive web series begins with Beth (Beth Chote) returning from the party late and trying to confide in her mother about the spooky goings on around Reservoir Hill. Beth continues to find cul de sacs negotiating life in the eerie suburb: James Jay denies that he assaulted Matt, but Beth tricks him into telling the truth. And James' half-sister Lilli has just returned from hospital, disorientated, and confuses Beth with her missing sister Tara. The episode ends on a disturbing revelation.

Reservoir Hill - 1, First Episode

Television, 2009 (Full Length Episode)

Production company Krafthaus won an International Digital Emmy Award for this front-running interactive web series for young people, in which the audience texted in suggestions to drive the plot. Evoking a certain series of blockbuster vampire films, dark-haired beauty Beth Connolly (Beth Chote) arrives in a new town, where people are odd and the sky is permanently overcast. After a very strange reception from her classmates, brainbox Monika (Michelle Ny) shows Beth a picture of missing schoolgirl Tara — whom Beth is a dead ringer for.