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Ron Pledger: Praise Be live TV…

Posted on 31 March 2014

Got a major live event you want to put on television? Ron Pledger has long been one of the first people to get on the phone. The MBE-awarded director has commanded live coverage of Sir Edmund Hillary’s funeral, Kiri Te Kanawa in concert, This is Your Life and roughly 20 Anzac Day ceremonies. His screen career also encompasses church choirs, Canadian soap operas, the infamous GOFTA awards, and the madness of Top Town. In this ScreenTalk, Pledger talks about:

  • How the music mad saxophone player walked into his first broadcasting job, at Radio 2ZB in Wellington
  • July 1, 1961: on location for Wellington’s first night of television
  • Scoring a gig on Canadian-shot soap Moment of Truth 
  • Moving into directing
  • Golden days in the TVNZ entertainment department, where he created programmes showcasing jazz and dance
  • Rushing around NZ for town versus town hit Top Town
  • His take on the infamous, booze-laden Gofta awards of 1987
  • The key to pulling off This is Your Life
  • How he sets about covering major live events
  • His biggest live gig to date: three hour epic Tomb of the Unknown Warrior
  • Travelling the country for Praise Be
  • Leadership lessons learned from his time in television

This video was first uploaded on 31 March 2014 and is available on YouTube to embed and distribute via a Creative Commons licence.



live events, avalon, avalon, wntv1, new zealand broadcasting service, radio 2zb, top town, just jazz, knock on jazz, jazz scene, top dance, greymouth, gofta, tomb of the unknown warrior, this is your life, praise be, moment of truth, choral singing, ballroom dancing, dancing with the stars, choir

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Michael Firth: Oscar-nominated action man...

Posted on 24 March 2014

Producer/director Michael Firth first made his mark directing the documentary feature Off the Edge. The ski movie was a key early film in the NZ 'new wave' (with contemporary Sleeping Dogs and later Goodbye Pork Pie) and earned an Academy Award nomination in 1977. Since then Firth has produced and directed the dramatic feature films Sylvia, Heart of the Stag and Vulcan Lane. But it is sport and the outdoors he loves best: he went off the edge again in 1987 with the zany adventure sport movie The Leading Edge, and Firth is the key creative behind the internationally successful TV series Adrenalize and fishing show Take the Bait.

In this ScreenTalk, Firth talks about:

  • How a love of snow skiing led to his first feature Off the Edge
  • How perfect timing enabled the filming of an avalanche
  • Delving into a dark part of Kiwi life in Heart of the Stag
  • Facing financing issues while making Sylvia
  • Facing continuity issues recreating that film’s era
  • Creating the ‘crazy docudrama’ that was The Leading Edge
  • How the 1987 share market crash affected the box office
  • Being confronted by Billy T James and a machine gun
  • Selling sports show Adrenalize to 50 countries
  • Almost causing a diplomatic incident with a topless woman
  • How fishing TV show Take the Bait has just grown and grown

This video was first uploaded on 24 March 2014 and is available on YouTube to embed and distribute via a Creative Commons licence.



michael firth, off the edge, sylvia, heart of the stag, vulcan lane, adrenalize, take the bait, producer, director

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Jeanette Thomas: From crime scenes to Good Morning…

Posted on 10 March 2014

Broadcaster Jeanette Thomas is the host of TVNZ’s Good Morning show. Over the years Thomas has presented a range of other programmes including Crimescene, 5:30 with Jude, Jim’s Car Show and Target. She also cameoed as herself in the dramedy Nothing Trivial.

In this ScreenTalk, Thomas talks about:

  • The impact of a murder story on Crimescene
  • Being Jude Dobson’s sidekick on 5:30 with Jude
  • Co-hosting Jim’s Car Show despite knowing nothing about cars
  • Enjoying fronting Target for seven seasons
  • Her reactions to the hidden camera segment
  • Doing an initial short stint on Good Morning 
  • Her best and worst interviews on the show
  • Enjoying the chance to play herself on the comedy show Nothing Trivial

This video is available on YouTube to embed and distribute via a Creative Commons licence.



broadcaster, jeanette thomas, good morning, crimescene, 5:30 with jude, jims car show, target, nothing trivial

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John Laing: Beyond Reasonable Doubt to Outrageous Fortune...

Posted on 3 March 2014

Veteran producer/director John Laing has worked in film and television in New Zealand, Canada and the UK. His feature films include the Arthur Allan Thomas-inspired Beyond Reasonable Doubt, cross-cultural romance Other Halves and thriller Dangerous Orphans. Laing has also directed a long list of popular drama series for TV, including Go Girls, Nothing Trivial, Street Legal, Inside Straight and Marlin Bay; plus tele-feature Safe House.

In this ScreenTalk, Laing talks about:

  • Upsetting the National Film Unit with his unconventional film Kariotahi Beach
  • Learning how to direct a feature film on the set of Beyond Reasonable Doubt
  • Taking on too many roles on offbeat thriller The Lost Tribe
  • Getting back to basic story-telling on Inside Straight
  • Being unhappy with the end result on feature film Other Halves
  • Relishing the prospect of creating film noir feature Dangerous Orphans
  • The challenge of juggling different directors on Outrageous Fortune
  • Creating an 'intense' set for tele-feature Safe House

This video is available on YouTube to embed and distribute via a Creative Commons licence.



john laing, beyond reasonable doubt, other halves, dangerous orphans, go girls, nothing trivial, kariotahi beach, the lost tribe, inside straight, outrageous fortune, safe house, directing, producing, national film unit, nfu, arthur allan thomas

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Stephen Lovatt: On indie movies, injuries, and playing cops with Campion and Kightley

Posted on 24 February 2014

Stephen Lovatt’s acting career has taken him from ancient Rome to Ramsey Street. Aside from five years acting on Neighbours in Australia, he has played everything from reliable and unreliable Dads to Hades, Lord of the Dead in shows like Go Girls, Being EveMarlin BayShortland Street, and Xena: Warrior Princess. He has also appeared in a number of features — including acclaimed 2013 movie Fantail

In this ScreenTalk, Lovatt talks about: 

  • Witnessing his screen debut on Shark in the Park
  • Onscreen chemistry with Theresa Healey on the ‘wild’ set of Savage Honeymoon
  • How Australian soap Neighbours reminded him of working in the theatre
  • Sustaining an injury doing his own stunt on Being Eve
  • Doing ‘unacceptable’ things on Go Girls
  • Not having to take his shirt off in Spartacus
  • Being “a highly paid extra” on Top of the Lake
  • The impressive style of Oscar Kightley cop show Harry
  • Being proud of low budget feature Fantail
  • His bemusement at getting more lead roles internationally than in New Zealand

This video is available on YouTube to embed and distribute via a Creative Commons licence.



theresa healey, stunt, injury, david copeland, oscar kightley, acting, lead roles, shark in the park, savage honeymoon, neighbours, multi-camera, being eve, go girls, spartacus, manu bennett, top of the lake, harry, police shows, fantail, sophie henderson

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Paul Norris: On the changing face of TV news and current affairs…

Posted on 14 February 2014

Journalist and academic Paul Norris had a major role in changing the landscape of television news and current affairs in New Zealand. He cut his teeth with the BBC, but moved back to New Zealand to run TVNZ’s News and Current Affairs division in 1987. In that role, he revamped the evening news on TV One, and launched the Holmes show in 1989. Norris left TVNZ in 1996 to head the New Zealand Broadcasting School in Christchurch. Norris died in February 2014. This interview was published in March 2013. 

In this ScreenTalk, Norris talks about:

  • How a British election set off his career in journalism
  • Being lured back to be Head of News and Current Affairs at TVNZ
  • The changes brought about by former head of TVNZ Julian Mounter
  • Bringing together Richard Long and Judy Bailey on the evening news
  • Being criticised for introducing American consultants for the show
  • How the Holmes show changed the TV current affairs landscape
  • The truth behind the Dennis Conner interview
  • Wanting to tell the story behind radical political changes in the 80s, in documentary series Revolution
  • Reinventing himself as an academic as Head of the NZ Broadcasting School
  • Feeling that TV current affairs is in a rather dire state at the moment
  • Changing the landscape of broadcasting

This video is available on YouTube to embed and distribute via a Creative Commons licence.



current affairs, news, journalist, bbc, broadcasting school, academic, holmes, television news, tvnz, paul norris, one news

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Grant Lahood: Snails, Lemmings and a Kombi van…

Posted on 10 February 2014

Director Grant Lahood is master of the quirky comedic short film - the creative force behind internationally-successful shorts Snail's Pace, The Singing Trophy, and Lemming Aid. Lahood has also directed the feature films Kombi Nation and Chicken, and a number of documentaries including Arc, Anzac Songs, and Intersexion

In this ScreenTalk, Lahood talks about:

  • Being frustrated by the slimy cast of Snail's Pace
  • How The Singing Trophy became a worldwide hit
  • The 'stupid' premise behind Lemming Aid
  • Coping with hurricane force winds on the shoot
  • Not being happy with his first feature film Chicken
  • Why Kombi Nation made him the most popular director in New Zealand
  • Telling powerful human stories in documentary Intersexion

This video is available on YouTube to embed and distribute via a Creative Commons licence.



grant lahood, the singing trophy, lemming aid, snails pace, kombi nation, chicken, snails, hurricanes, directing, intersexion, animal, animals

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Rhonda Kite: Telling great Māori stories…

Posted on 3 February 2014

Producer Rhonda Kite, who runs Kiwa Media Group, has worked on television, film, and interactive book projects. Her first production was award-winning 1998 documentary Otara: Defying the Odds. She also produced the controversial Chinks, Coconuts and Curry Munchers and, on the big screen, Squeegee Bandit. Kite produced anthology series Mataku and  long-running arts show Kete Aronui. Kiwa Media Group has also pioneered a process of dubbing films into other languages. 

In this ScreenTalk, Kite talks about:

  • Learning how to produce on her first documentary Otara: Defying the Odds
  • Wanting to tell her own 'truth' in the documentary
  • The trials and triumphs of a Māori woman in business in Hell for Leather
  • Pushing the boundaries in Chinks, Coconuts and Curry-Munchers
  • Telling real yet spooky stories in series Mataku
  • Discovering the power of drama from other cultures
  • The absolute joy of making arts series Kete Aronui
  • Being inspired and saddened by the story behind Squeegee Bandit
  • An emotional moment for Sandor Lau, the director of the documentary

This video is available on YouTube to embed and distribute via a Creative Commons licence.



producer, rhonda kite, kiwa media group, otara, otara: defying the odds, documentary, squeegee bandit, mataku, kete aronui, hell for leather, chinks, coconuts and curry-munchers, sandor lau, starfish

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Mark Hadlow: From a teenage bully to a troll and a dwarf…

Posted on 21 January 2014

Actor Tandi Wright once called Mark Hadlow "the best physical comedian I've ever seen". 

Hadlow first appeared on our TV screens as a teenage bully in Children of Fire Mountain. Later he worked alongside Ilona Rodgers and Billy T James in the sitcom version of The Billy T James Show. His flair for comedy earned him starring roles in the film Just Me and Mario, and TV series Willy Nilly. Hadlow has worked twice with director Peter Jackson – first providing voices to a range of characters in Meet the Feebles, and then playing both a dwarf and a troll in The Hobbit trilogy.

In this ScreenTalk, Hadlow talks about:

  • Turning disappointment into triumph with Children of Fire Mountain
  • Being hospitalised after an accident on set
  • Working hard in the starring role of film Just Me and Mario
  • Having fun playing a dopey Australian on The Billy T James Show
  • Being nominated for a 'best actress' award after playing a hippo and a hedgehog in Meet the Feebles
  • Never having a bad day on the set of Willy Nilly
  • How co-star Sean Duffy influenced him on the show
  • The best six weeks of his life: rehearsing for King Kong with Naomi Watts
  • Bringing Bert the Troll to life in The Hobbit
  • Being teased mercilessly by fellow actor Martin Freeman

This video is available on YouTube to embed and distribute via a Creative Commons licence.



mark hadlow, children of fire mountain, actor, ilona rodgers, billy t james, the billy t james show, just me and mario, willy nilly, peter jackson, meet the feebles, the hobbit, sean duffy, martin freeman, king kong, naomi watts, bert the troll, best actress, tandi wright, bill johnson, terence cooper, mike smith, heidi the hippo

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James Griffin gets serious about Kiwi comedy

Posted on 13 January 2014

Scriptwriter, playwright and columnist James Griffin has been writing for most of his life. Since becoming a scriptwriter in the 1980s Griffin has written many of New Zealand’s most well known and best loved TV shows (including co-creating Outrageous Fortune) as well as the feature film Sione's Wedding. In this interview (originally published 8 July 2009), he discusses

  • His love of writing from an early age but his desire to be a TV director
  • Getting “side-tracked” into script editing and learning the mechanics of how a script works
  • The popularity of Gloss and blending comedy and drama
  • His surprise that the TV drama City Life flopped
  • The rollercoaster ride that is Outrageous Fortune and when its run should end
  • Criticism of NZ comedy
  • What it takes to make a “hit” TV show

This video is also available on YouTube to embed and distribute via a Creative Commons licence. Credits:  Interview, Camera & Editing – Andrew Whiteside



nzonscreen, television, writer, outrageous fortune, james griffin, city life, south pacific pictures

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