Actor Amanda Billing's Top Five titles on NZ On Screen are a varied selection. Billing — who spent a decade playing Shortland Street’s Dr Sarah Potts — gets her ticket clipped to go Off the Rails and is charmed by errant dogs, laconic sheep, cheeky kea, Bruno Lawrence, Velvet Dreams and sweet lovers. Billing ended up stretching her Top Five to seven clips, adding a warning note that NZ On Screen “is a wonderful rabbit hole. Enter with plenty of time up your sleeve.”
Showcasing the droll dialogue between Conchord Jemaine Clement and animator Guy Capper, this is one of a series of comedic shorts in which two sheep drink beer at the baa and spin yarns about the issues that really matter eg. how to express your ire when a bovine companion compares your face to a talking pie. Capper and Clement's Robert and Sheepy duo first debuted in short film The Pen in 2001. An Australasian Nescafe Short Film Award helped spur further episodes, then regular appearances on 2010 comedy show Radiradirah, from which this sketch is drawn.
The first single for short-lived Wellington band The Holidaymakers was a cover of a little-known song by American Bill Withers. It spent six weeks at number one and was the biggest-selling single in New Zealand in 1988. On a low budget director Fane Flaws created a beautifully lit video that captures the song’s infectious brightness and warmth. With a collection of lamps the only concession to props or special effects, nothing detracts from the compelling performances by vocalists Peter Marshall and Mara Finau. Sweet Lovers won Best Video at the 1988 NZ Music Awards.
This documentary tells the story of the inimitable kea. The 'Clown of the Alps' is heralded as the world’s smartest bird (its intelligence rivals a monkey’s). Kea are famous on South Island tracks and ski fields for their insatiable (and destructive) inquisitiveness. Curiosity almost killed the kea when it was labelled a sheep killer, and tens of thousands were killed for a bounty. After shots of baby kea being fed, there is extraordinary night footage in clip four of the 'avian wolf' in action. The award-winning film makes a compelling case for the charismatic kea as a national icon.
Man. Dog. Sheep. This was an unlikely formula for Kiwi TV gold. A Dog's Show was familiar as a homespun in its long-running Sunday slot. The show featured sheepdog trials from around the country, with commentary provided by a wise, bearded John Gordon. In the final from a 1981 series, four farmers wield sticks and whistles, and put their dogs through their paces to wrangle the "sticky sheep". It's 1981, but the only riots here are ovine. Trivia: the opening tune is a version of the song 'Flowers on the Wall', also used in the film Pulp Fiction.
A homage to Dusky Maiden images as well as a playful take on the low art of velvet painting, Sima Urale’s Velvet Dreams provides a tongue-in-cheek exploration of Pacific Island stereotypes. Part detective story, part documentary, an unseen narrator goes in search of a painting of a Polynesian princess that he has fallen in love with. Along the way he meets artists, fans and critics of the kitsch art genre, as well as the mysterious Gauguin-like figure of Charlie McPhee. Made for TVNZ's Work of Art series, Velvet Dreams played in multiple international film festivals.
Marcus Lush travels from the vast Kaingaroa Forest to NZ's busiest rail junction (at Hamilton), in this installment of his popular and award-winning telly love affair with NZ's railways. Along the way, he meets a legless train accident survivor turned motivational speaker; potter Barry Brickell and his 3km narrow gauge railway at Driving Creek; and a collector with more than 2,700 rail related items. There's also a visit to Waihi, turned into a boomtown by gold and rail in the 1870s, which was home to the might and power of the Victoria stamper battery.
Numero Bruno is a warts and all biography of widely popular actor, musician and counter-cultural hero Bruno Lawrence. Lawrence's intense, charismatic screen presence was key to ground-breaking Kiwi films, Smash Palace, The Quiet Earth and Utu. Directed by Steve La Hood (the veteran director’s TV swansong), this documentary features interviews with family and friends, and liberal excerpts from Lawrence's film and musical work, including performances by 70s alternative Aotearoa icons Blerta and clips showcasing his seminal collaborations with Geoff Murphy.