David Harry Baldock’s long TV career includes submarines, sea rescues, ailing prime ministers and psychics. The onetime editor began making his mark as a director and producer on current affairs and a run of documentaries. In 1988 he left state television to launch production company Ninox, whose prolific output would grow to include Sensing Murder, Mitre 10 Dream Home, award-winner Pacific Rescue and ambitious documentary series Our People Our Century. During a return visit from his current base in Shanghai, Baldock talked to ScreenTalk about:
- A car accident while at high school that helped shape his attitude to life
- How after moving from hometown Dunedin to Wellington he was given three months to sink or swim, directing current affairs
- His Anglican-inflected take on the feisty Tonight interview where Simon Walker dared to challenge PM Robert Muldoon about Russian subs
- August '74 - The Death of a Prime Minister, his documentary on PM Norman Kirk’s final week - and how it confirmed his sense of how to get great interviews
- Deciding to take the bull by the horns and leave his TVNZ job, before learning if he was going to be made redundant
- Setting up production company Ninox in 1988
- Managing to win major sponsorship to complete award-winning series At the Risk of Our Lives, only to have the offer turned down
- How hit show Mitre 10 Dream Home proved a win win, and a life-changer
- His fear of making the history series Our People Our Century, and how the programme almost brought Ninox to its knees
- The “fantastic brain” of producer Ray Waru
- Sensing Murder: a passionate defence of the show’s integrity, and insights into the stresses of making it
This video was first uploaded on July 7 2014 and is available on YouTube to embed and distribute via a Creative Commons licence.
As a high schooler, Melanie Lynskey came to international attention in her first screen role, playing Pauline Parker in Peter Jackson’s Oscar-nominated feature film Heavenly Creatures.
Since then, the New Plymouth-born, Los Angeles-based actress has gone on to work with many of Hollywood’s biggest names, playing Drew Barrymore’s stepsister in Ever After, Matt Damon’s wife in The Informant, and George Clooney’s sister in Up in the Air. She has also had a scene-stealing guest role as Rose on the Emmy Award-winning sitcom Two and a Half Men.
Lynskey has returned to New Zealand to star in feature films Snakeskin and Show of Hands, and more recently landed a leading role in the Duplass brothers’ HBO series Togetherness.
In this ScreenTalk, Lynskey talks about:
- Being bitten by the acting bug at the age of six
- Missing the school assembly at which the Heavenly Creatures audition was announced
- Working with actor-director Miranda Harcourt to prepare for her second Heavenly Creatures audition
- The responsibility of playing a real-life murderer on screen
- How her off-screen friendship with Kate Winslet mirrored their on-screen relationship
- Why Snakeskin was the greatest acting experience of her life
- The secret behind how Craig Hall would prepare for his scenes in Show of Hands
- Why her experience on her younger sister’s short film, A Kiwi Legend, was better than most of her Hollywood acting jobs
- Why she turned down the chance to be “a millionaire” on Two and a Half Men
- What sets A-list actors apart from their acting peers
This video was first uploaded on 23 June 2014 and is available on YouTube to embed and distribute via a Creative Commons licence.
Kelly Johnson is best remembered for his lead role in the iconic Kiwi film Goodbye Pork Pie. He followed that success with roles in the films Carry Me Back, Bad Blood, Battletruck and Utu. In more recent times, Johnson has worked as a lawyer, but he still does occasional guest acting roles, including in Shortland Street and Maddigan’s Quest.
In this ScreenTalk, Johnson talks about:
- Understanding the process of filmmaking on the set of Goodbye Pork Pie
- Feeling excited to be acting in the country’s first road movie
- What the film means to him now
- Having problems with an old car in the television film Hang on a Minute Mate
- Underplaying the comedy on Carry Me Back
- Hanging out with the American crew on Battletruck
- The moody nature of the area when filming Bad Blood
- Trying to work out the acting style required for the movie Utu
- Feeling proud and privileged to have been a part of New Zealand’s early film industry
This video was first uploaded on June 2014 and is available on YouTube to embed and distribute via a Creative Commons licence.
Robert Rakete is a popular TV and radio host, and actor. His first acting role was on the kidult show Sea Urchins, which was followed by roles in Mortimer’s Patch and Loose Enz: The Protesters. Rakete has hosted or appeared in a range of TV shows, from music programmes CV and RTR, to Clash of the Codes and What Now? In 2014 he was invited to join the Australian children’s group The Wiggles for some guest appearances.
In this ScreenTalk, Rakete talks about:
- Having three months off school to be in Sea Urchins
- Getting acting lessons on set from actor Ian Mune
- Feeling a fraud during rehearsals for The Protesters
- Learning that people take music too seriously while hosting pop show CV
- Observing experienced TV presenters to learn how to present for RTR
- Becoming the ‘go to’ guy when other presenters had time off
- Community politics and his grandmother’s death on Hero Parade
- Playing himself as a cartoon character on bro’Town
- The incredible experience of becoming the Brown Wiggle for The Wiggles
This video was first uploaded on 26 May 2014 and is available on YouTube to embed and distribute via a Creative Commons licence.
Peter Wells is an accomplished writer and director who has explored gay and historical themes in his work. Among his television and film credits are the ground-breaking TV dramas Jewel’s Darl and A Death in the Family. Wells also created the feature film Desperate Remedies with co-director Stewart Main. In later years he has collaborated with filmmakers Annie Goldson (Georgie Girl) and Garth Maxwell (Naughty Little Peeptoe).
In this ScreenTalk, Wells talks about:
- The idea for My First Suit coming from his co-director Stewart Main
- Knowing that the TV drama Jewel’s Darl would enrage people
- How actress Georgina Beyer was made for the role of Jewel
- Filming a scene in front of a real protest against homosexual law reform
- Having a huge problem with TV censors over the drama
- How a personal experience lead to the film A Death in the Family
- Turning a desire to save at-risk architecture into The Mighty Civic
- How budget constraints lead to the high theatre of Desperate Remedies
- Having to convince the Film Commission on the casting choices
- Telling the impressive story of Georgina Beyer in Georgie Girl
- Believing that queer filmmaking does have a future
This video was first uploaded on 12 May 2014 and is available on YouTube to embed and distribute via a Creative Commons licence.
Versatile director Mike Smith has made an enormous amount of New Zealand drama. Highlights of his lengthy television CV include Radio Waves, Duggan, Serial Killers, The Almighty Johnsons, Nothing Trivial, tele-movie Siege and upcoming docudrama Nancy Wake: The White Mouse. Smith also had a big hand in creating Heroes (80s pop band on-the-make show), yokels comedy Willy Nilly, children’s drama The Lost Children and 2013 comedy Sunny Skies. He was also one of the key players in the launch of Outrageous Fortune.
In this ScreenTalk interview, Smith talks about:
- The unforgettable personnel officer when he interviewed to join state television
- Vital lessons learned from drama head John McRae, while directing 70s soap Radio Waves
- Producing and directing Heroes, the drama series about a pop band
- Failing to cast a young unknown called Russell Crowe
- Differences between Australia and NZ, after eight years largely working across the Tasman
- Returning home for drama series Cover Story
- Creating shows after setting up a production company with editor John Gilbert
- Making successful short Willy Nilly, about two “rural idiots,” and learning about the complexities of comedy on the hit TV series which followed
- Casting secrets from his days as producer of Outrageous Fortune: including a lack of network enthusiasm for star Robyn Malcolm, and Munter originally being a Pākehā
- Working with “fantastic” producer/director Mark Beesley on The Almighty Johnsons
- How in a sense directing is a little bit like sex
- Taking different approaches to turning true life stories into drama with Siege and Underbelly: Land of the Long Green Cloud
- Lessons learned as a director
This video was first uploaded on 28 April 2014 and is available on YouTube to embed and distribute via a Creative Commons licence.
Veteran actor Kevin J Wilson has made a career out of playing no-nonsense Kiwi blokes. His film credits include Pictures, Wild Horses and Chunuk Bair. He played Janet Frame’s father in Jane Campion’s An Angel at My Table, starred in the Wellington-based TV cop series Shark in the Park, and replaced the late Bruno Lawrence in the Aussie comedy show Frontline.
In this ScreenTalk, Wilson talks about:
- How the weather on a Pukemanu shoot changed industry pay rates
- Not really knowing what he was doing in the film Pictures
- How troubled feature film Wild Horses went wrong right from the beginning
- Enjoying hanging out with real cops preparing for Shark in the Park
- Playing ‘end of an era’ character Sgt Jessop in the show
- Meeting Janet Frame on the set of An Angel at My Table
- Working with the “intense but wonderful” Jane Campion
- Feeling the film Chunuk Bair looked too much like a piece of theatre
- Taking over from Bruno Lawrence as the star of Australian comedy Frontline
- Getting his first ever sex scene, with Lucy Lawless in Spartacus
- How avoiding lead roles can give you longevity as an actor
This video was first uploaded on 14 April 2014 and is available on YouTube to embed and distribute via a Creative Commons licence.
Veteran producer John Keir has had a long career producing both documentaries and films. He has collaborated on several film projects with director Grant Lahood, including Lemming Aid and Chicken. Keir has also produced large live TV events such as the Sir Edmund Hillary special On Top of the World and Anzac Day coverage for Maori Television.
In this ScreenTalk, Keir talks about:
- Telling the quirky story of temperance in the documentary Fight the Good Fight
- Battling lawyers in order to film in court for Flight 901: The Erebus Disaster
- How live coverage of the Sir Edmund Hillary special On Top of the World nearly came a cropper
- Why the weather created havoc during the filming of Grant Lahood short Lemming Aid
- Disappointment over poor box office for the feature film Chicken
- Being fascinated by the idea behind Treaty of Waitangi series Lost in Translation
- Finding Mani’s Story the most incredible documentary he’s worked on
- Making actor Mark Mitchinson shave his eyebrows for the tele-feature Bloodlines
This video was first uploaded on 7 April 2014 and is available on YouTube to embed and distribute via a Creative Commons licence.
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.
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.