nz on screenIn a little office on Taranaki St, a small group of dedicated professionals (known as the NZ On Screen team) have been creating a website which celebrates and showcases television and film produced in New Zealand. A year in the making, NZ On Screen launched at the end of October and has over 300 titles available to view – many in full length, some with just excerpts.

For each title there’s also profiles of key cast and crew, as well as background stories, comments, photos and links to other related material. Hours can disappear when you start looking through the site – and it pays to have your broadband speed high and your cap fresh!

So take a look:   … let us know what you think, suggest titles we should add, tell all your friends and loved ones, and enjoy NZ On Screen!

But what does that have to do with Wellington you might ask?

Aside from the fact that the NZ On Screen team is based here … Wellington is well known as a bit of a hub for the film industry. Most people would say that’s all down to Peter Jackson and Lord of the Rings. To be fair, he’s had a reasonably large influence.

But the Wellington has been the scene for film and television for a long time.  On the NZ On Screen site you will find some gems of Wellington-ness…

Programmes that are about or feature Wellington in all its glory:

  • Town and Around – Wellington (1968)
  • NZBC Classics – Wahine Disaster (1968)
  • A Nice Sort of Day (1977) 
    This full length short film from 1977 gives contrasting impressions of two places over the course of a day: Mana Island and Wellington city. Two young climbers row out to the island while the sun rises and the city wakes up. Over smokes and beer, the men discuss why they climb; evocative shots of their rockface ascent are paralleled with shots of city bustle: traffic, Radio Windy DJs and new high rises.
  • The Coaster (1950)
    The coaster Breeze was immortalised in this film, travelling from Wellington to Lyttleton then back to Wanganui. Written by the poet Denis Glover and narrated by Selwyn Toogood, the commentary is rhythmic and lyrical. The Coaster became famous as the film which led to Cecil Holmes losing his job, after its content riled unionist Fintan Patrick Walsh. The infamous ‘satchel snatch’ incident and ensuing smear campaign got Holmes sacked for communist leanings. He was reinstated after a court case.
  • Maori Battalion Returns (1946)
    This post war newsreel features footage of Maori Battalion solders returning from WWII onboard the ship Dominion Monarch, into Wellington Harbour. The soldiers are greeted with a huge powhiri and ensuing hakari at Porirua marae where the kaimoana and pia flow freely. The reel then follows the regional celebrations of men returning home in Kuku and Ngaruiawahia. The narrator soberly recalls the casualty rate of the Maori Battalion (five men in seven).

Programmes that just happen to be set in Wellington:

  • To Live in the City (1967)
    This documentary pursues four young M?ori – Ripeka, Moana, Grace and Phillip – as they transition from school, wh?nau and rural life To Live In the City. We follow them as they arrive in Wellington and attend a pre-employment course run by The Department of M?ori Affairs which offers accommodation and advice on employment options. Director Arthur Everard, followed up in 1991 with To Live in the City 24 years on, which picks up on the lives of the four, now middle aged.
  • Tongan Ninja (2002)
    Director Jason Stutter’s endearing martial arts parody (and cult classic in the making) was filmed on a shoestring on the mean streets of Wellington. Sam Manu stars as the Tongan Ninja, while Jemaine Clement (Flight of the Conchords), who co-wrote the script, chews the scenery as his arch nemesis, the anonymously named Action Fighter. The film plays for laughs – think B movie accents and bad post-dubbing – and hangs off a flimsy plot involving an evil crime syndicate’s hostile takeover of a Chinese restaurant.

And programmes made locally, by companies that call Wellington home:

  • Good Taste Made Bad Taste
    This film by Tony Hiles was made to show some of the tricks of the trade used by Peter Jackson in the making of his first feature film, Bad Taste. Shot at PJ’s Wellington home and on location, the film utilizes excerpts from Peter’s early films, productions stills, interviews with the key cast, and excerpts from Bad Taste itself. Never broadcast by television, this documentary is the only independent film commercially available showing Jackson’s work.
  • The Insiders Guide to Happiness (2004)
    This high-rating drama series from Gibson Group follows the interconnecting lives of eight twentysomething characters, one dead, as they search for happiness. Dramatic, comic, sexy, surreal, fresh and original, this is New Zealand television at its finest. Razor-sharp scripts are enriched by superb performances, stylish pictures, an excellent soundtrack, Wellington locations and real-life butterflies.
  • The Insiders Guide to Love (2005)
    The second, but prequel, series to The Insiders Guide to Happiness is chaos theory in action: seven young strangers whose lives intersect, linked together by a bizarre incident. Produced by the Gibson Group, The Insiders Guide mix of meta-tangle story-telling with fresh shooting and faces, was a hit with the same youth demographic as Happiness, and it won several gongs at the 2006 Film and TV Awards, and Directors’ Guild Awards.

 That’s just for starters … there’s more being added all the time!

– Brenda Leeuwenberg

And if you need any further encouragement to get into NZonScreen check out your swag bag at the TAWAs – you might just find an awesome tea towel from them in there…