Film director Roger Donaldson and motor racing legend Steve Millen both began making their mark in New Zealand, before making the move to California. The first Coming Home episode sees them at work in the USA, and visiting old haunts in Aotearoa. Donaldson shoots the effects-heavy Dante's Peak and prepares $100 million thriller Thirteen Days, while Millen hits the race track, in-between running his custom car parts company. Later he returns to the farm near Auckland, where his need for speed began on the family tractor. Donaldson heads to Auckland and Queenstown.
Roger Donaldson is notable for spearheading the New Zealand film renaissance with Sleeping Dogs (1977). He has been busy directing in Hollywood for much of the period since. Donaldson's first Kiwi story since acclaimed drama Smash Palace (1981) was Burt Munro biopic The World’s Fastest Indian (2005) — the most successful New Zealand film on home soil until the arrival of Taika Waititi's Boy in 2010.
During his career as a production designer, Rob Gillies has drafted plans for subterranean caverns (Under the Mountain), 60s era Kiwi garages (The World's Fastest Indian) and a slew of palaces, forts and magical kingdoms. Along the way he has won awards for a number of productions, including Fastest Indian and Xena: Warrior Princess.
Neil Roberts discovered that he loved making television programmes while working as a parliamentary journalist. In the mid 1980s he founded independent production company Communicado, whose staff grew to more than 60. Later Roberts oversaw a period of change at Television New Zealand, during a short stint as the organisation's Television Manager. He died of cancer on 8 November 1998.
Named Head of the Internal Production Department at TVNZ while still in her late 20s, Dana Youngman first worked her way up the producing ladder on lifestyle shows like Maggie’s Garden Show and A Taste of Home. Since then she has worked on New Zealand’s Got Talent and Whānau Living, and helped create a cooking show with Annabel Langbein which screened in more than 80 countries.
Katherine McRae’s first acting role was as a child, in an adaptation of Katherine Mansfield story The Doll’s House. Thirteen years later, she was part of the main cast on TV's The Marching Girls, before her first movie, Send a Gorilla. After winning acclaim on stage, she became a regular on Shortland Street in 2006, then moved into screen directing — including Go Girls, Nothing Trivial, and short film Abandon Ship.
Wayne Leonard has directed some of the highest-rated live events on New Zealand television. Since leaving TVNZ in the early 2000s to go freelance, he has continued to be one of the country’s premiere live directors, and helmed TV series ranging from hit panel show Game of Two Halves to My Kitchen Rules. In 2013 his coverage of the America’s Cup in San Francisco was nominated for multiple Sports Emmy awards.
Dropping in on the Americans at the South Pole for afternoon tea, having driven there by tractor, was one of the most unusual events of Derek Wright's career as a National Film Unit cameraman. In his 40 years with the NFU he filled many other roles, from laboratory assistant to producer: but it is for his filming in the Antarctic that he is particularly remembered.