Narelle Ahrens is a NZ Actor, Voice Over Artist, Singer & Foley Artist who has been working professionally in the industry since graduating from Victoria University of Wellington with a BA in Theatre & Film, and English Literature in 1995.
Narelle has performed roles in over 30 productions in Television and Film. Highlights include being nominated for Best Actress at the NZ Film Awards for her performance in the internationally award-winning short film “I’m Going to Mum’s”, which premiered at the prestigious Berlinale International Film Festival. And recently playing the lead role of DeeDee Blancharde in US TV show James Patterson’s “Murder Is Forever”.
Narelle has acted extensively in theatres throughout NZ including Bats Theatre, Downstage, Circa and the Fortune Theatre in Dunedin. Highlights include roles in two acclaimed NZ Premieres, the award winning “The Love of HumanKind” by Brian Sergent at Circa Theatre and “The Paradise Package” by Geraldine Brophy at the Fortune.
Narelle has trained for screen under a number of recognised tutors including Perry Piercy, Tina Regtien, Diana Rowan and Vicky Yiannoutsos. Training in the Meisner Technique with Michael Saccente also led to Summer Season training in New York at the prestigious Neighborhood Playhouse in 2004. Most recently, Narelle has also been invited to train in masterclasses with the inspiring talents of Stuart Devenie, Fiona Samuel, Jennifer Ward-Lealand and Miranda Harcourt.
For the last 20 years Narelle has also been part of NZ’s favourite No 1 girl-group TheBeatGirls, performing throughout NZ and Internationally, the highlight being a performance as the headline act for Sports Illustrated and Holden at the 2000 Sydney Olympics.
Outside of acting, Narelle is an in-demand Voice Over Artist for Short Films, Radio, & Television, and is a recognised voice for some of NZ’s biggest brands.
Narelle is also one of the most experienced Foley Artists in NZ. Since 2001 she has performed foley for feature films such as Lord of the Rings and a number of New Zealand’s most successful hit TV shows, telefeatures, and short films, including Outrageous Fortune, Westside, Fresh Eggs & The Deadlands.
New Zealand acting icon Lisa Chappell first won fame in 1980s soap Gloss, playing rich brat Chelsea Redfern. She went on to do a stint of theatre in Palmerston North including being a breakfast DJ on 2XS, played Velma in the musical Chicago and joined TV cop drama Shark in the Park. Her first film role followed in big screen period piece Desperate Remedies, followed by the quirky Jack Brown Genius produced by Peter Jackson. After a variety of theatre and TV roles including The Herbal Bed, All My Sons, Hercules and City Life, Chappell decamped to Australia, where she won two Logie awards during a three year run on international hit McLeod's Daughters. Since releasing her debut album, she has won a Qantas award for a gun-toting role in Kiwi TV drama The Cult, is a regular performer with Auckland Theatre Company and has written a number of critically acclaimed plays. Her acting career continues unabated across New Zealand and Australia in theatre, film and TV.
P E T E R F E E N E Y
Peter is a very gifted young actor who will always be genuinely interested in exploring his work and finding new approaches to it, and opening this out to his fellow actors.
Cicely Berry, OBE, Voice Director, Royal Shakespeare Company.
Peter, a professional actor based in Auckland and Melbourne, has acted in TV, film & theatre since 1994. He has also taught actors since 2001, and is passionate about the need for them to develop a reliable technique if they are to flourish in the profession. He runs his own Studio, has been a facilitator for NZ Screen Director’s Guild Workshops, is a tutor in the leading NZ Drama School The Actors Program, and occasional on set acting coach.
Peter has performed at the Fortune, Court & Circa theatres in New Zealand, and The QTC in Australia; as well as numerous independent theatre productions. His acclaimed one man show A Night with Beau Tyler toured in 2008 & 2009 to 25 theatres around New Zealand. He has worked or trained at different times with Cicely Berry (Royal Shakespeare Company), Bob Benedetti (US Emmy Award winning Television producer and Broadway Theatre Director), Rob Marchand and Dean Carey. Notable credits over a long career include the Kiwi zombie hit Black Sheep; Australian mini-series A Difficult Woman, UK TV Dark Knight and Cold Feet, numerous US TV & tele-features, including in 2015 a prominent role in Ash versus Evil Dead, and in the same year playing the iconic Rose Noelle skipper John Glennie alongside Dominic Purcell (Prison Break) in Abandoned (winner of best tele-feature at the 2017 NZ Film Awards).
In 2016 Peter had a regular role in NZ TV series Dirty Laundry as well as a guest role in Wentworth and ongoing multi-episode roles on Wanted 2, Dear Murderer and season 2 of Cul de Sac. In 2017 he worked on the NZ Feature film Vermillion & TV series Wilde Ride, and the Australian based TV series Harrow. He’s recently finished as a guest actor on the latest series of Brokenwood.
Peter also works as a director, casting director and writer. He is a published author – his first book Blind Bitter Happiness was also serialised on Radio NZ and in Metro magazine - and occassional travel writer. Directorial outings include the Australian play Milo’s Wake, which toured NZ in 2005/6 (in which Peter also played the title role) and more recently the Australian play Between Two Waves. Peter was casting director for the TV series The Amazing Extraordinary Friends and recently casting director and acting coach for the John Harris short films Every Little Thing and It’s not what happens. He is completing his second book this year, and is prepping to film in early 2019 a short film for the Media Design School, based on his own feature film (in development).
Peter has a 1st Class Honours degree in Politics & History from the University of Melbourne (1991) and a Diploma in Drama from the University of Auckland (1993). He was Nominee for Best Actor in the 2003 NZ Film Awards for his role in the film The Platform. He is represented in NZ by Kathryn Rawlings & Associates and in Australia by Lisa Mann Creative Management. His CV & Show reel can be found on Showcast.
Stephen Lovatt’s CV of screen roles makes his range clear: he has been convincing playing solid, reliable fathers (Being Eve, Neighbours), drunkards, policemen, and the occasional villain (Tullius in Spartacus, Hades in Xena: Warrior Princess).
Lovatt began his long theatre career in the late 80s, after graduating from Toi Whakaari. Since then he has won acclaim for his “intense, standout” work in The Only Child (Silo Theatre, 2011), not to mention awards for Tom Stoppard classic Arcadia (Circa, 1995) and “near-brilliant” epic When the Rain Stops Falling (Silo Theatre, 2010).
By the early 90s Lovatt had begun acting for television. Thanks to director David Copeland, he made his screen debut in police show Shark in the Park. He went on to appear in mini-series Typhon’s People, did 30 episodes of Shortland Street, and almost as many of Mysterious Island, playing one of Jules Verne's adventurers. After dying more than once on the Xena/Hercules stable of shows, Lovatt was invited back for a larger Xena role, as Hades, lord of the dead. He also played righthand man to Hercules star Michael Hurst on 1997 teleplay Highwater.
By now Lovatt was concentrating increasingly on screen work, and making his first ventures across the Tasman — ventures that would pay off when in 2001 he won a part in acclaimed series Something in the Air, then long-running soap Neighbours. His role on Ramsey Street as former oil rigger, family man and bar owner Max Hoyland would keep him on screens for five years straight (longer, counting reruns), and inspire 45-paragraph descriptions on Neighboursfansites. Working on extended takes with multiple cameras, reminded him of working in theatre.
On coping with the fame international soap-stardom brought, Lovatt remarked, in a 2006 interview: "other members of our cast who've come over have [England] said 'oh you wont be able to walk down the street, you try walking down Oxford Street!' [Well] I've got no problem, I've only been recognised maybe three times in the two days I had in London before I came up here [Edinburgh Festival]. Maybe people do recognise me but its not like I'm that thrilling to see coz I'm just 'Dad' on the show!"
In the period before relocating to Australia, Lovatt acted in Being Eve (playing likable Dad to the main character), Duggan and this episode of Mataku. He also had his first starring role on the big screen: in what may have been a strange case of cinematic precognition, 2002’s This is Not a Love Story (aka Beyond Therapy) saw him playing a soap star who tires of playing the same role. Variety praised the core trio of actors, and found the film a “droll sexual comedy”.
Lovatt’s other movies — all Kiwi — include the "mad, epic", rainsodden shoot of Savage Honeymoon (playing opposite Theresa Healey, as the straightjacketed husband who encounters the Savage family), Show of Hands (as a down-on-his-luck car-yard owner) and conspiracy thriller The Cure. Off-screen, Lovatt has kept his acting skills sharp by taking Bruce Mason’s classic extended monologue The End of the Golden Weather to Edinburgh; and performing it on Mason’s beloved Takapuna beach, each Christmas day.
Lovatt played a well-meaning but untrustable father in Go Girls, and enjoyed getting "more and more out of control as the show went on". He is proud to have acted (and been award nominated) in movie Fantail, and Oscar Kightley cop show Harry; Lovatt also played a policeman in Jane Campion miniseries Top of the Lake. In Christchurch earthquake drama Hope and Wire he was Jonty, a lawyer for whom the quake exposed weaknesses in both his financial dealings and his marriage.
Emmett is a New Zealand born actor, director and screenwriter and has worked in over 40 productions in film, TV and stage, with most recognising him as the young God-in-the-making, Axl, from TV3’s The Almighty Johnsons.
Emmett has gained a passion for writing and directing, most recently directing Shortland Street, the film Thirteen Suspects, written by Rachel Lang, and Auckward Love, which he also co-wrote and produced. Emmett is also a regular tutor, mentor and advisor to the board at the Auckland based drama school, The Actors' Program, and is a co-creator of a new program The Directors' Program.
Emmett’s passions as a director lie in honest, raw and connected work, with a strong focus on relationships and emotional history.
Joel Tobeck is one of New Zealand’s busiest actors. Born into a theatrical family, he acted in a number of early titles directed by Niki Caro, including Cannes-nominated short film Sure To Rise (1994) and Caro’s first feature Memory and Desire. In 1997 Tobeck won a NZ Film and TV award for Topless Women Talk About Their Lives, playing wannabe partner to Danielle Cormack’s character. He re-teamed with Cormack for offbeat drama Channelling Baby, and played the bad guy in both the first Lawless telemovie (winning him another acting award) and This is Not My Life. Tobeck has played lead roles in the American television hit Sons of Anarchy and the Australian series The Doctor Blake Mysteries. In Little Fish he played against Cate Blanchett, was Geena Davis’s husband in Accidents Happen, and has worked with Ben Mendelsohn in Tangle.
‘I don’t have classic good looks … but then I’d rather play the off-centre roles. I’m quite happy playing a drug addict or the bastard in the wheelchair.’
Amy Usherwood grew up in Dunedin and is a 2007 NIDA acting graduate. Her Television and film credits include Emma Franklin on Shortland Street (2012-2014) and Louise Hillary in Hillary, both for TVNZ. She recently played Joy in the Australian Feature film Ladies In Black, directed by Bruce Beresford. Her theatre credits include Hermione in The Winter’s Tale (Wellington Summer Shakespeare), Helen in Sweet Phoebe(Basement Theatre) Chick in Crimes of the Heart (Old Fitzroy Theatre, Sydney) and for Sport For Jove (Sydney) she has played Mercutio in Romeo & Juliet, Sebastian in The Tempest, Banquo in Macbeth, Titania in A Midsummer Night’s Dream, Emilia in Othello, The Pedant in Taming of the Shrew, Leonie in Away, Lori in The River at the End of the Road and various characters in No End of Blame, all directed by Damien Ryan. Whilst at NIDA, she played Juliet in Romeo & Juliet, directed by Gale Edwards and Paulinka in Tony Kushner’s Bright Room Called Day, directed by Anthony Skuse. Amy recently performed in season four at Pop-up Globe, in Richard III and The Taming of the Shrew. She was a Drama Tutor at NIDA’s Open Program, Sydney, Melbourne and Adelaide, 2014-2018. She is a proud member of MEAA.
“I love working with drama students of all ages, encouraging and supporting their confidence and growth. I believe the skills that drama students learn are ones that will help them in many areas later in life. I benefited greatly from being involved in drama from a young age and I love to pass on that passion to others. I have taught a range of subjects such as screen acting, mask, Shakespeare, monologue technique and audition technique. I’m most proud of my three terms of teaching adult students with intellectual disabilities.”
Since graduating in 2014, Daniel has established himself as a dynamic and somewhat enigmatic performer, known for his passion, energy, authenticity, and respect for craft.
Daniel first gained notoriety in a sell-out 12-week season of Twelfth Night at the Pop Up Globe, the largest theatrical event of 2016, in which his performance as Olivia received critical acclaim. That year critics also praised his work in distinguished theatrical debut productions of Ain’t That A Bitch, and Lucrece. The same year he featured also in the hit Basement Theatre show Close City. In 2017 he stunned theatre-audiences again as Tristan in The Effect at Q Theatre, and Thomas in Venus in Fur at The Court Theatre.
2016 also marked his screen debut as regular guest (and popular antagonist) Nathan on TVNZ’s Dirty Laundry. Since then he has appeared regularly on NZ and International screens, most recently as the mysterious villain The Shaman in The New Legends of Monkey, released on Netflix, ABC, and TVNZ in 2018. Other notable screen credits include American Playboy (Amazon), Murder is Forever (Amazon), Dear Murderer, and the NZ tele-features Why Does Love, and Abandoned. In 2019 he has four TV and feature-length projects (two local and two international) and a classical theatre project to announce.
Daniel graduated from one of New Zealand’s eminent acting schools, The Actor’s Program, in 2014. He continues training through regular participation in acting Masterclasses with such greats as Howard Fine and Miranda Harcourt.
In a former life, Daniel practiced law as a Barrister and Crown Prosecutor. He holds a BA with double majors in Theatre and English Literature, and an LLB (Hons 1st).
Jonathan Brough's career kicked off in style, when his second short film The Model won a slot at the 1994 Cannes Film Festival, as part of a special season of New Zealand shorts. The screenings marked a rare time the prestigious festival has devoted a programme to short films from a single country.
Shot in hometown Hawera, The Model tracked the tension between an artist and his model. It was based on a short story by American Bernard Malamud. Brough's own father John, a veteran of local theatre and occasional television roles, played the artist. Co-star Susannah Devereux would soon reinvent herself as a horror actor in the US.
The following year Brough made The Conversation, a series of four mini-shorts which later won screenings at London's Institute of Contemporary Art. Next came the ambitious Permanent Wave (1996). Filmed in one extended take, the short offers a portrait of the Kiwi OE experience, via the lens of a party in a London flat.
By now Brough and playwright David Geary had joined together to work on their first documentary, The Smell of Money. It screened in April 1993, and examined tough times in Fielding after the recent closure of the local freezing works.
In 2004 Brough directed four episodes of ensemble series The Insiders Guide to Happiness. He also directed a number of documentaries backgrounding the making of Whale Rider, which were included as extra features on the Whale Rider DVD. Extended doco Riding the Wave: The Whale Rider Story sold to America's Public Broadcasting Service.
Brough is proud of helping establish political mockumentary series The Pretender in 2005. The show follows a "deluded, idiotic, quite possibly deranged" businessman as he becomes a politician, and eventually holds the balance of power. The NZ Herald's Michele Hewitson was among those keen on the show's satire, arguing that its main character (played by Bob Maclaren) "is so awful you couldn't make him up". Brough directed the opening episodes of both seasons.
Brough has described his 2004 short No Ordinary Sun as "the closest yet as a statement of what I want to achieve as a filmmaker". Set in Antarctica and partly shot there, the sci fi tale centres on an isolated researcher dealing with loneliness and unsettling events. Nominated for best short at the 2005 NZ Screen Awards, it won the inaugural Friends of the Civic award for best NZ short at the Auckland Film Festival, and was selected for Edinburgh and Slamdance.
Brough's directorial CV reveals a wide range: from Westie tale Outrageous Fortune to comedy shows The Millen Baird Show and Radiradirah, to documentary series Neighbourhood, Rob Tapert fantasy Legends of the Seeker, and 38 episodes of the long-running Power Rangers franchise. In 2008 he travelled to Russia to chronicle the charity work of Kiwi Rachael Hughes, for documentary Russia's Forgotten Children.
He has also brought his directing and editing talents to two series which mined comedy from news and archive footage: Eating Media Lunch and its spin-off, The Unauthorised History of New Zealand.
Brough began making his mark in Australia in 2011, with award-winning ghost series Spirited. Over the next few years he juggled projects on both sides of the Tasman. Back in New Zealand, he directed another short film, shaggy dog tale Snowmen — which was invited to the Interfilm Festival in Berlin — plus episodes of Downlowconcept comedy series Coverband.
In Australia, he was series director for 2013's It's a Date, a comedy series which pulled its fictional daters from a cast numbering over 130. The show was described as "inventive, touching and surprising" by Melbourne newspaper The Age. Brough also helmed episodes of Logie-nominated ABC drama The Time of Our Lives, which co-star Claudia Karvan described as "Secret Life of Us for 40-year-olds".
Since then Brough has amassed an impressive list of nominations for his work in Australian TV comedy. More than once he has ended up competing against himself in the same category.
Brough proved his Australian stripes early by managing to survive a singing puppet and an alpaca, while helming series Sammy J and Randy in Rickett's Lane. The anarchic odd couple comedy starred comedian Sam McMillan (aka Sammy J). For his work on the first episode, Brough took the Australian Director's Guild Award for Best Direction in a TV Comedy. The following year he was nominated twice in the comedy directing category: for acclaimed, Tasmanian-set comedy Rosehaven (which the Sydney Morning Herald praised as "clever, insightful, surprising" and "really funny"), and for The Family Law, which centres on the teenage son of a self-destructing Chinese-Australian family.
Brough is not to be confused with two other Kiwi screen figures: actor/comedian Jonathan Brugh (What We Do in the Shadows) and sometime Weta effects-man Jonathon Brough.
Born and bred in Auckland, Stephen Campbell managed to make his way into television after a number of years in advertising, where he did everything from copywriting to art directing.
In the mid 80s he applied — more than once — to join TVNZ’s producer training scheme. A fortnight after being told he’d finally succeeded, Campbell found himself in a TVNZ staff cafe in Christchurch, surrounded by extras dressed as spacemen and cowboys. “That was when I was completely sold,” he says. “I thought: I’ve arrived. And I’m staying.”
The scheme saw Campbell on attachment for a year to TVNZ’s Children and Young Personʼs department. Here immortal children’s character Thingee enters the story. One of Campbell’s first breaks was directing an After Schoolsegment which saw one of the hosts tell a lighthearted historical tale, alongside illustrations drawn by Campbell. One story was about a ‘plucked duck’; a duck mistaken for dead after the local pond got infected with beer. After School producer Bryan Allpress liked the illustrations so much, he suggested the duck could have the makings a great character elsewhere.
At the end of year Campbell was one of eight out of 40 chosen for two further years of producer training. Allpress then gave him the task of taking the duck images and designing and supervising construction of a new character, Thingee(so named, because no one had thought of a better one). Thanks also to the voice talents of Alan Henderson, co-hosts Thingee and Jason Gunn would win a legion of fans, starting with After School.
In 1989 Campbell headed back to Auckland, to produce five day a week teen show 3:45 LIVE (Campbell alternated directing with John Milligan). The show proved so popular that the first time viewers were invited to ring in and pick their favourite music clip, the Auckland telephone exchange crashed from the strain.
After time on TV3 children's series Early Bird Show and Yahoo, Campbell freelanced as a writer/director on a variety of sketch comedy series, including Funny Business and That Comedy Show.
He also co-created award-winning magazine show Ice TV. Campbell wrote and directed many of Ice TV's most popular segments, including ongoing parodies of hospital and cop dramas. “Jon (Bridges), Nathan (Rarere) and Petra (Bagust) were incredibly good on camera,” says Campbell. “They were having a lot of fun and I think it just came across.”
In 2002 he created Greenstone TVʼs ambitious, “gag-heavy” Secret Agent Men. The show revolved around a group of Kiwi teens helping save the world from villains with plans to take over the world. The second season was named best children's programme at the 2005 Qantas Television Awards, and the show sold to multiple countries.
The longtime superhero fan's next series was originally pitched as The Fantastic Friends, but the release of Marvel movie Fantastic Four saw it retitled The Amazing Extraordinary Friends. As director and chief writer, Campbell oversaw production through three seasons and two accompanying web series. Although made on a far from heroic budget, the show's makers didn’t “shy away from galactic androids being chased into the sun.” Another international success, the tale of schoolboy superhero (Carl Dixon) and his grandad (David McPhail) was nominated for awards in Rome and NZ, and picked up another in Korea.
Campbell went on to direct and contribute writing to Nigel Lattaʼs The Politically Incorrect Guide to Teenagers and The Politically Incorrect Guide to Grown Ups, which saw Latta doing pieces to camera everywhere from jet cockpits to glaciers. Campbell also directed on follow-up show The Hard Stuff.
In 2012 he produced The Radio, which saw Jeremy Corbett and Paul Ego playing incompetent radio hosts.
In 2015 Campbell debuted his next show. Science fiction thriller The Cul De Sac centres on a group of teenagers who wake up to find all the adults have mysteriously disappeared. The ambitious, twist-filled dystopia ran for three seasons. Campbell directed all but three episodes.
Benjamin trained in Theatre Direction at the Mountview Academy of Theatre Arts, London, while directing productions for the London Fringe and cabaret circuit. Having directed in Germany and France, as well as nine consecutive years at the Edinburgh Festival Fringe, Ben moved to Auckland to continue his career. Under theatre collective Fractious Tash, Ben has received critical acclaim for Earnest, Not Psycho and Titus, the latter remounted for a sell-out season at the Pop-Up Globe 2016. Last year Benjamin was one of two directors engaging in The Engine Room - a fast-tracking initiative between Auckland Theatre Company, New Zealand Opera and The Fortune Theatre. In 2017, Ben will be directing the Auckland University Summer Shakespeare, As You Like It (playing now), Twelfth Night for The Fortune Theatre, and The Effect with Fractious Tash in August.
Louise Leitch - Director
In the competitive short film environment, the New Zealand Film Commission (NZFC) have supported Louise to direct three films including WHAKATIKI, which premiered in competition at Tribeca in 2012 and screened at over 25 international festivals. WHAKATIKI won Best Short Film at First Peoples’ Festival Montreal, Best Actress in a Short Film at NZ Film Awards (where it was also nominated for Best Short Film and Best Actor in a Short Film) and Best Actress in a Short Film at Wairoa Film Festival. It has screened on Maori Television, Rialto, Lightbox and Shorts International. Critics called it “beautiful, beguiling and evocative.” “A charming short with a warm heart”.
On working with Louise on Premiere Short DANCERS (Jury Prize Woods Hole Film Festival) actor Sophie Henderson (FANTAIL) states: “Louise is a thoughtful and collaborative director with a deep appreciation for the actor/director relationship. She has sharp instincts for character. I trust her taste and ideas implicitly.”
The NZFC have provided development funding for two feature films to be directed by Louise including MOUNTAIN (producer Alex Clark, writer Gregory King).
Supporting her film credentials, Louise has directed close to 200 episodes of Australian television drama including top-rating HOME & AWAY (who also engaged Louise to mentor and train directors) and two series of Screentime production, BREAKERS (lead director Series 2).
Louise has studied with Drama Coach Miranda Harcourt (LION), undertook a five week attachment with Dramaturg Nico Lathouris (MAD MAX FURY RD, WILDSIDE, HEARTBREAK HIGH) and attended five workshops with Robert Bella, Atlantic Theatre Company, NY.
In 2015 Louise was awarded a five-week paid directing attachment (by competitive selection process) on international series, ASH VERSUS EVIL DEAD (lead director, Sam Raimi, SPIDERMAN) to expand her skills and knowledge of large-scale stunts, SFX and VFX.
In 2016 Louise wrote, produced and directed Loading Docs film, SAME BUT DIFFERENT (RNZ Top Pick). In 2018 Louise directed prime-time docu-drama series FORENSICS.
Louise grew up in Australia and graduated from Canberra University with a BA Communication and Media. She began her career directing award-winning films for blue-chip clients including Qantas, Westpac Bank, the Australian Government, Salvation Army, Cancer Council and Coca-Cola Amatil.
Louise is Vice President of Directors and Editors Guild NZ and is currently participating in ongoing intimacy coordination training with UK based Intimacy Coordinator, Ita O’Brien.
The youngest child of immigrants from Hong Kong, Roseanne Liang was all set to follow her two sisters into medical school. But when the high school dux was encouraged by her siblings to defer for a year to try other things, Liang put aside becoming a doctor to concentrate on filmmaking.
In 2005, Liang released her hour-long documentary Banana in a Nutshell, based on her own romance with a European Kiwi "Banana in a Nutshell was originally a short documentary I devised to distract me from the highly emotional events that I knew I would have to get through." said Liang. "The camera was something to hide behind." The title refers to Asians (yellow on the outside) brought up in Western society (white in the inside). Liang continued the story with a 30 minute epilogue for the film's DVD release.
At Banana in a Nutshell's premiere, producer John Barnett offered Liang the opportunity to turn her documentary into a narrative feature. Liang has described it as an "'angels chorus' moment". "Most film graduates want the opportunity to make a feature film and it's a really hard road. But to have someone stride up to you and offer it to you is an incredibly lucky happenstance." In 2005 Liang was named New Filmmaker of the Year by screen organisation SPADA.
In 2017, Liang signed with an American agent, after directing action short Do No Harm. The bloody action film, which premiered at the 2017 Sundance Film Festival, is about a Chinese surgeon facing off against gangsters just as she's about to operate. The film was funded by the NZ Film Commission as a proof of concept for an action film Liang was developing. Do No Harm won several awards, including the Audience Award for favourite short at the 2017 NZ International Film Festival and a nomination for Best Short Film at Sundance.
By 2018, the success of Do No Harm and My Wedding and Other Secrets had brought Liang to the attention of the 50 studio executives and producers behind the Alice Initiative, named after pioneering female filmmaker Alice Guy Blaché. They named Liang as one of 20 female directors from around the globe who merited a directing gig with a Hollywood studio.
In late 2018, Liang announced she was set to develop and direct the feature-length version of Do No Harm, produced by husband and wife filmmaking team David Leitch and Kelly McCormick (Deadpool 2, Atomic Blonde).
Katherine McRae’s screen career began before she even got to drama school. In 1973 she starred as Kezia in an adaptation of Katherine Mansfield's classic short story The Doll’s House. It was the last film made by legendary screen couple Rudall and Ramai Hayward, before Rudall 's death in May 1974. McRae's fellow castmembers included her sister Alyson, and mother Elizabeth — who was also making her screen debut.
Shortly after graduating from drama school Toi Whakaari, McRae landed a role in The Marching Girls. The series was a groundbreaker in terms of showcasing contemporary NZ women's stories; in fact actor/writer Fiona Samuel had created it partly in frustration at the lack of challenging screen roles being offered to females. McRae played Janice, the naive, God-fearing, scooter-riding member of the social marching team.
In 1988 McRae reunited with Marching Girls director Melanie Rodriga to star in feature film Send A Gorilla, alongside Carmel McGlone and Perry Piercy. The film followed three women working at a singing telegram service who must deliver 50 telegrams in one day, despite a litany of personal problems. McRae played an opera singer in training, who is pulled in to help out by a sister suffering from laryngitis.
In 1993 she acted in Gaylene Preston mini-series Bread & Roses. In the same period she took on a brief role on Shortland Street as estranged daughter to receptionist Marj Brasch (played by her real life mother Elizabeth). Three years later she began writing for the high-rating soap. She spent two years as a writer, and returned to the Street in 2006, this time to play Nurse Brenda Holloway. She stayed on Shortland Street until Halloween 2007, when her character fell victim to 'The Ferndale Strangler', which she'd been tracking in one of the show’s best remembered plotlines. McRae went on to cameo as Cheryl West's prison manager in the final series of Outrageous Fortune.
In 2007 McRae began directing for South Pacific Pictures, the production company behind Shortland. She had already directed award-winning stage productions; now she directed episodes of Shortland, Nothing Trivial and on the final season of Go Girls, working full-time as a director for the company until late 2014.
In 2015 McRae wrote and directed short film Abandon Ship, which starred Sophie Hambleton as a mother who, after a hellish day, sets off with her young boys on a mission of discovery around Wellington's south coast. Shot by veteran cinematographer Alun Bollinger, the film was screened at several international film festivals, including Toronto's TIFF Kids International Film Festival.
McRae has also provided voiceovers for documentaries (eg Children of Gallipoli) and commercials. She has taught screen acting and directing for a range of organisations including Unitec and The NZ Film and Television School. Along the way she has directed a number of short films involving trainee actors, including The Engagement Party (2016), for Auckland acting school The Actors' Program.
She plays a murderer in 2017 telemovie Catching the Black Widow.
Rita graduated from the UNITEC School of Performing and Screen Arts in 1998, and has since taught at UNITEC, Massey University, Auckland University and The Actors’ Program.
In 2000 she founded the Legacy Theatre Company; directing, producing and/ or performing in outdoor productions of A MIDSUMMER NIGHT’S DREAM (Dir Rita Stone, 2000), MEASURE FOR MEASURE (Dir Richard Rugg, 2001), THE TAMING OF THE SHREW (Dir Jarrod Tuck, 2002), and AS YOU LIKE IT (Dir Tim Faville, 2004), as well as coordinating Theatre in Education schools’ tours around Auckland of abridged Shakespeare scenes.
Rita traveled to London in 2004 and took a course at Shakespeare’s Globe, returning again in 2011 with the Shakespeare Globe Centre NZ (SGCNZ)’s ‘Teachers Go Global’ scheme, where she trained at the Globe Education Centre and performed in MUCH ADO ABOUT NOTHING, directed by Bill Buckhurst, on the Globe stage.
Rita holds a Secondary Teaching qualification in English and Drama and was Assistant HOD of Drama at Western Springs College in 2011. For Western Springs College, Rita has directed A MIDSUMMER NIGHT’S DREAM, OUR TOWN, TWELFTH NIGHT and MOTHER COURAGE AND HER CHILDREN – for which she won Outstanding Play at the 2011 AMI Showdown Awards and was nominated for Best Director. She was the SGCNZ University of Otago’s Sheilah Winn Shakespeare Festival Auckland Central Representative 2010-2011, and in 2013 she directed an all-female production of MEASURE FOR MEASURE at the Titirangi Theatre.
In 2012, Rita founded the Young Auckland Shakespeare Company which produced THE TAMING OF THE SHREW (Dir Rita Stone, 2012), and MACBETH (Dir Jaque Drew, 2013-2014) ROMEO & JULIET (Dirs Paul Gittins and Calum Gittins, 2015), MUCH ADO ABOUT NOTHING (Dir Rita Stone, 2016) and THE MERRY WIVES OF WINDSOR (Dir Stuart Devenie, 2017).
In 2016 Rita directed LUCRECE (“…a visually stunning show”) for the Auckland Shakespeare Company, and for the Pop-up Globe she directed the gender-reversed JULIUS CAESAR (“… a plethora of strong performances aided by Stone’s direction and a fresh take on the classic play mean it’s not one to miss.”) in 2018.
Born of image-crazed uber-men Sean Wallace and Jordan Mark Windsor - THUNDERLIPS is a multi-award winning image-making duo based in Auckland, New Zealand.
THUNDERLIPS are genre chameleons; they’ve made music videos in the style of a 90’s sitcom, an online teenage love story using only GIFS, a hippie samurai girl 70s cop show, a hipster tone piece, LBTQ cinema verite, a 2000s white rap hip hop video, an 80s teen horror, and an animated computer nightmare; all whilst using every capture medium you can shake a stick at from 35mm to Hi-8 video, and often making use of practical in-camera effects. They’ve made music videos that have made people LOL, become aroused, feel acutely uncomfortable and say ‘Holy shit is that the sun?!’.
THUNDERLIPS’ commercials for Lotto, Samsung, Speights, Meridian Energy, 2Degrees, Head & Shoulders, and many others also show-off their narrative story-telling prowess and comedic flair. Check them out below, and/or here.
THUNDERLIPS have made two short films to date; I Think We Might Have to Do Something made it to the Grand Finals of the 48 Hour Film-making Competition in 2013, and Lord Echo - Molten Lava (a minimalist dialogue-less art film about a girl at sea…posing as a music video) can be watched below. Four of Jordan’s early short films (pre-THUNDERLIPS) will be available to view here soon too.
THUNDERLIPS think of storytellers as modern Shaman - making sense of the nightmare realities of existence. Probing the meaning of life, healing the soul. That’s what they aspire toward in their work. They like to work socially, with lots of talking, laughing, food, and arguments. Jordan also likes to hide away on his own, smoking weed, and banging his head against the blank page until the blood and sweat looks like a page of screenplay.
Jordan’s favorite filmmakers are Kurosawa, PTA, Jarmush, Peckenpah, Malik, Tarkovsky, and Hal Ashby. His favorite films are Ikiru, Andrei Rublev, The Master, Days of Heaven, Thin Red Line, Paterson, Night of the Hunter, and The Godfather x3.
Sean’s favorite filmmakers are Scorsese, Coppola, Kubrick, Spielberg, and Kurosawa. And a few of his favorite films in no particular order are The Graduate, Apocalypse Now, Taxi Driver, Seven Samurai, and Purple Rain.
Vincent Ward has won an international reputation as an original and visionary filmmaker. Vigil and The Navigator played in competition at the Cannes Film Festival (the first New Zealand features to do so). Docudrama Rain of the Children (2008) revisited people from his 1980 documentary In Spring One Plants Alone. Ward also directed Robin Williams afterlife drama What Dreams May Come.
“I'm interested less in objective or social realities than in private realities, so it's a special kind of landscape I'm exploring, an interior landscape”
Brigid Costello is a movement director and choreographer. She began her professional career with the Royal New Zealand Ballet before studying theatre and education at Victoria University. Brigid has worked around NZ and internationally, initially as a performer, and now as a choreographer, director and yoga teacher. She has created a number of full length physical theatre works and has directed both actors and dancers in a wide range of settings. In her most recent movement direction with the Pop-Up Globe, Brigid worked on 12 different productions in Auckland, Melbourne and Sydney.
Movement workshops with Brigid will cover a range of techniques for connecting the body, mind and breath. Sessions will explore ensemble movement, creating physicality for specific roles, using space with intention, and setting up optimal posture for acting through physical conditioning.
Rebekah Dack graduated from drama school in 2017 and since then has been working extensively in the industry as an actor, producer and voice & dialect coach, and is a co-founder of Embers Collective, an emerging theatre company. Her love for voice work was cultivated during her acting training, and she got to really put that into practice while working on The Crucilble, directed by Alexandra Whitham, as the voice & dialect coach last year. She plans on going to London to get a Masters of Voice from the Royal Central School of Speech and Drama in the next few years. She's very excited to come on board as the voice tutor for Actors Lab 2019!
Miranda Harcourt calls herself "a great fan of variety and challenge". Harcourt has acted on stage, screen and in prison, ventured into directing, spent seven years as Head of Acting at drama school Toi Whakaari, and made a name in the international screen industry for her work as an acting coach.
The daughter of actor Kate Harcourt and broadcaster Peter, she began acting early: at age four, she played a young Katherine Mansfield in a TV documentary. Thanks to a run of radio roles, the child actor was heard far more than seen. At 20, after a small but satisfying part in 1981 film Bad Blood, she auditioned for drama school Toi Whakaari. Although a "terrible student", she graduated and began a two-year apprenticeship at Dunedin's Fortune Theatre.
Harcourt left Dunedin for hit television soap Gloss, the show that rocketed her to fame. Over three years her character of Gemma transformed from innocent wannabe journalist to "unbelievably horrible" manipulator. The transformation proved "amazing fun to play". Although viewers confusing acting and life occasionally spat at her in public, Harcourt is thankful for all the doors that Gloss opened. It also made her realise that acting for stage and television was "like the difference between peeling potatoes and playing the piano; you still use your hands but they're totally separate skills". Gloss saw her nominated for Best Actress at the 1989 Listener Film and TV Awards.
The same year she teamed up with Annie Whittle to star in miniseries The Shadow Trader. Whittle and Harcourt played odd couple Auckland café-owners, facing off against a property developer who dreams of wrecking balls.
Harcourt used her TV profile to launch a sellout tour of Oracles and Miracles, a play about two sisters. She and Fiona Samuel played 11-year-olds for part of it. It was the third play Harcourt had toured around New Zealand. The NZ Timesdescribed her work in solo show Kaz - A Working Girl as "almost frightening in its stamina and emotional range".
In 1990 Harcourt won a grant to spend a year at London's Central School of Speech and Drama, studying the use of drama and movement in therapy. While in England she worked in psychiatric institutions, and with the deaf and disabled. Harcourt had previously learnt sign language for play Children of a Lesser God, and was a dialogue coach for deaf actor Sonia Pivac on 1989 television series Strangers (see photo).
Having seen drama therapy in action in English jails, Harcourt came home and began interviewing Kiwi prisoners who had committed violent crimes, alongside writer William Brandt. The result was solo play Verbatim, which Harcourt performed in prisons, theatres and schools across Aotearoa (plus the Edinburgh Fringe Festival). Harcourt is thankful that the "extraordinary experience" of acting in the play was captured for 1993 documentary Act of Murder, thanks to director Shirley Horrocks. The interviews done for Verbatim and "intense" later show Portraits, all fed into 2003 feature film For Good (see below), which Harcourt helped develop.
Harcourt briefly put acting aside to be interviewed for 1993's It's in the Genes Girls. The documentary asked several mother and daughter artists the same question: is art in the genes? The rest of the 90s showed Miranda shared her mother's work ethic. She played wife to a straying Kevin Smith in TV drama City Life, and was nominated for her work in sci-fi thriller Typhon's People and Duggan TV movie Death in Paradise; she narrated the animated Hairy Maclary, and cameoed in acclaimed TV series Cover Story and movie Topless Women Talk about their Lives.
Harcourt also featured in docudrama Clare, playing cervical cancer whistleblower Philidda Bunkle. She was part of Maurice Gee ensemble drama Fracture, and later played mother to the main character in two well-regarded telemovies: Jean and Tangiwai - A Love Story (she was nominated for a NZ Television Award for Tangiwai). Onstage, she won rave reviews and a 2009 Chapman Tripp theatre award, for autobiographical show Biography of My Skin.
In 1997 Harcourt made her screen directing debut with short film Voiceover, an experimental documentary inspired by her radio announcer father. Pavement described the film as "fascinating, provocative, yet surprisingly personal". Voiceover won the award for Best Short Film at the 1998 NZ Film and TV Awards.
That year Harcourt began a seven-year stint teaching acting at Toi Whakaari. Her time at the drama school can be glimpsed in behind the scenes TV series Tough Act, directed by her husband Stuart McKenzie. During this period Harcourt made another short, which she co-directed with fellow acting teacher Rawiri Paratene: 1940s-era tale Needles and Glass was invited to the Montreal Film Festival.
Harcourt is a partner in the company MAP Film Productions, alongside McKenzie and Neil Pardington. She has appeared in short films directed by each, including McKenzie's darkly comic Ends Meat and Pardington's The Dig(which was invited to Cannes, as part of a special showcase of New Zealand shorts).
The MAP trio worked together on McKenzie's debut as a feature film director. For Good follows a young woman (Michelle Langstone) haunted by the actions of a convicted killer (Tim Balme). Harcourt plays the mother of a murder victim. Christchurch Press reviewer Margaret Agnew praised her "superlative" work: "Harcourt's raw pain and anger is awe-inspiring." North and South called her "bloody brilliant". Harcourt talks about the film in this video interview.
In 2017 Harcourt and McKenzie were finally able to realise longtime passion project The Changeover; the couple shared the directing reigns. Adapted from Margaret Mahy's coming of age novel, it tells of a teenage girl who meets a man with strange powers (played by Brit Timothy Spall). The cast includes Melanie Lynskey and Lucy Lawless. Listener reviewer David Larsen called it "an involving, likeable adaptation of a modern Kiwi classic".
Harcourt has also made her mark in a very specialist field: as an acting coach for screen actors. Back in 1993 she was given just a few hours to guide newbie Melanie Lynskey on her audition for Heavenly Creatures, and help determine if the teenager was up to a starring role. Fast forward two decades, and Harcourt was becoming a sought after acting coach — sometimes working on-set, sometimes via Skype. Although the job varies widely, often she works with young castmembers, including on locally shot projects The Lovely Bones, Kaitangata Twitch, and Bridge to Terabithia.
In 2015 she was in India for movie Lion, coaching both Hindi-speaking extras and Dev Patel (Slumdog Millionaire), for what would be an Oscar-nominated performance. Two years later, Australian Nicole Kidman made a point of thanking Harcourt while taking an Emmy award for TV series Big Little Lies.
In 2002 Harcourt was made an Officer of the New Zealand Order of Merit, for services to the theatre and the community. She confesses to having passed the "terrible virus" of acting to her daughter Thomasin and son Peter.
Cherie is a singer, actor, vocal coach, director, producer, and a company director of Last Tapes Theatre Company. She is a graduate of The Actors’ Program, has a double degree in Drama and English from the University of Auckland, and has studied singing for the last 20 years. She is the founder and creative director of Ihi Musical Theatre Company.
Cherie teaches singing to a private studio of students, for The Actors’ Program, as an itinerant teacher, and for The Auckland Performing Arts Centre. Cherie regularly vocal coaches voice and singing for professional productions in New Zealand.
Cherie has been directing since 2011. Recent credits include: Hubbub (Basement Theatre), Love and Information (Asst. Director, Basement Theatre), Swimming With Whales In Tonga (Nelson and Hamilton Fringe), 99% for the Short & Sweet Festival where she won Best Director.
Cherie has been directing large scale musical theatre productions for high schools since 2015, including Seussical, Grease, Threepenny Opera, The Wiz, and The Addams Family.
Cherie co-created and performed in Last Tapes’ show ‘Valerie’ in 2016, named cabaret of the year by The Herald, and most original production at the Auckland Theatre Award. Other acting credits include: Twelfth Night and Into The Woods (Fortune Theatre), The Tempest (Pop Up Globe), Hungover (Basement Theatre), The Last Five Years (Herald Theatre), Verbatim (North Island Tour), and Shortland Street. Cherie is represented by Auckland Actors, and is a proud member of Actors’ Equity.
Alix’s focus is on developing and producing work by strong, authentic Kiwi voices.
Over the past decade, she has established herself as one of New Zealand’s most prolific music video producers, supporting over 30 different directors to develop their visual storytelling skills. Her favourite -directed by THUNDERLIPS- is ‘Glare’ for Sheep, Dog & Wolf. This clip earned a Vimeo Staff Pick, Best Music Video 2014 at Show Me Shorts Film Festival, Best Abstract Video at Vision Feast 2015, and a nomination for Best Alternative Video at the UK Music Video Awards.
Outside of her work in music videos; Alix has produced numerous short films, web series, and two feature films to date. She worked as an Associate Producer on Dustin Feneley’s debut feature ‘Stray’ (premiered Moscow International Film Festival 2018), and Co-Producer on Tim van Dammen’s recent feature ‘Mega Time Squad’ (premiered Fantasia Film Festival 2018). She was also the Producer Intern on Taika Waititi’s ‘Hunt For The Wilderpeople’ (premiered Sundance 2016).
Alix was one of 12 fledgling film producers picked by the New Zealand Film Commission for the inaugural ‘A-Z Producing Course’ presented by AFTRS in 2017.