It is hard to imagine a credit roll for the New Zealand film and television industry without the name John Barnett being high on the titles. Since the 1970's John Barnett has been key in bringing a host of uniquely Kiwi stories to local and international screens, from Fred Dagg to Footrot Flats, from Whale Rider to Sione’s Wedding and What Becomes Of The Broken Hearted?, from iconic soap Shortland Street to the wildly successful Westie family drama, Outrageous Fortune. Barnett talks about his 30+ years as a driving force in New Zealand television and film:
- his beginnings in the television and film industry in the seventies, from working on children’s series The Games Affair, and the Endeavour Productions’ documentary series on Janet Frame, Ngaio Marsh and Sylvia Aston-Warner, to managing John Clarke (aka Fred Dagg)
- branching out into feature film production with Dagg Day Afternoon, Middle Aged Spread and Beyond Reasonable Doubt
- on his motivation: making films that “people understand immediately” and telling universal stories (Whale Rider, Sione’s Wedding)
- being involved in lobbying for the formation of the New Zealand Film Commission.
- heading South Pacific Pictures, New Zealand’s largest film and television production company and developing programmes (Shortland Street, Outrageous Fortune) that “reflect the way we [New Zealanders] see ourselves.”
- on his favourite production: “They’re all my children ... I love everything we’ve made ... we have a kind of mantra here [at SPP] : we’re not going to get involved unless we love it ... I like stories in which people challenge the system and win: beating the odds is something that everybody understands.”
For more clips and background information, and profiles of cast and crew from the film and television titles produced by Barnett and South Pacific Pictures, see NZ On Screen. This interview is available for download and distribution on YouTube as Part 1 and Part 2.
Direction and Interview - Clare O'Leary, Camera and Editing - Leo Guerchmann