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Read: Farewell NZ On Screen, and thank you for the memories

Ten years ago, I embarked on an amazing journey when I was hired on a freelance basis to interview people for NZ On Screen (NZOS). This week, that journey ends as I step away from the organisation and continue to develop my own online content.  

The decade I spent interviewing for NZOS has been quite remarkable and it has literally changed my life. It gave me the chance to meet and question some of the talented individuals who have made huge contributions to the cultural life of this country through film and television. 

My first interview was in May 2009 with James Griffin, writer and columnist and one of the people behind many mega kiwi TV hits such as Outrageous Fortune. The job called for me to run the camera and lighting, do the interview, and then edit it. Nowadays I can take all of that in my stride, but back then I was pretty nervous being responsible for all of that. James was really nice and thankfully it all worked out. 

A week later I interviewed actor Robyn Malcolm who delivered one of my favourite anecdotes ever. She recalled how the director of the Court Theatre said she’d have a wonderful career “playing mothers and whores.” And that, she confessed to me, is pretty much what happened.

Later that year I met Ilona Rogers, who was so hospitable and kind she insisted on cooking lunch for me after the interview and we chatted for almost an hour afterwards. 

In 2013 I got within a couple of meters of a real Oscar statuette after interviewing costume designer Ngila Dickson. As I was leaving her home, I spied it on a shelf. I had an urge to walk up and touch it, but I suddenly felt a little awkward.  

Over the years I managed to meet a number of TV legends from my youth. People I’d grown up watching read the news or present shows. It was such a thrill and they were all so nice and professional.  Each of them in some way have inspired me in my own career as a journalist and TV presenter: Dougal Stevenson, Jennie Goodwin, Roger Gascoigne, Bob Parker, Brian Edwards, Ian Johnstone, Bill McCarthy.

There were people who made me laugh both during the interview and beforehand such as Greg Johnson (the actor, not musician), Rima Te Wiata, Mark Hadlow, Peter Rowley. 

There were ones so lovely I just wanted to hug them: Alison Bruce, Peter Elliott, Judy Bailey, Ian Hughes, Donogh Rees, Katherine Kennard, Rachel House, Robert Rakete, Lisa Harrow, Morgana O’Reilly, Amanda Billing, Jared Turner, Pana Hema-Taylor. 

I particularly remember Gary McCormick. He was so incredibly authentic and so focused on wanting to know all about me, I had to remind him I was there to interview him!  But that’s the secret to his popularity, he’s genuinely interested in other people.

Then there were those who have since died: Jon Gadsby – so humble and genuinely sweet; David Beatson – a man who influenced how I approach doing interviews and despite dying from cancer, still willing to give me an interview; Whai Ngata – a man with such grace and dignity; Phillip Leishman – talented and so very approachable; Ray Columbus – so honoured to be asked for an interview and incredibly hospitable; and Pua Magasiva – warm and friendly with the biggest smile I’ve ever seen.  

Over the years there were several I would have loved to have interviewed, but unfortunately they were never available: Peter Jackson, Lucy Lawless, Phillip Sherry, Tom Bradley. 

Of course there are some big names I did get – those whose careers often took them overseas and into the big leagues: Lisa Chappell, Sara Wiseman, Jay Laga’aia, Temuera Morrison, Cliff Curtis, Jennifer Ward-Lealand, Craig Parker.

I sometimes had to travel – both within NZ and to Australia. The most curious one was meeting and interviewing my childhood idol David Bellamy on a small marae in the middle of Te Urewera National Park. Despite his advancing years, he had lost none of his energy or charm. 

There were so many others, many of them behind the lens – producers, directors, cinematographers, writers, costume designers. I mean no disrespect and certainly no devaluing of them if I haven’t mentioned them by name.

The history of this part of my career would not have been possible without the incredible colleagues I worked with over the years at NZ On Screen. 

First up was Brenda Leeuwenberg the CEO who hired me and who has become a good friend. She left a couple of years after I started, but managed to develop NZOS into something quite remarkable. 

Then there was the lovely Irene Gardiner, the Content Director for the first eight years I was with NZOS. She was wonderful company, extremely knowledgeable and gave feedback on my work that was honest yet kind. I’ve missed working with her but we have a friendship that has endured. 

Then there are the other wonderful people I’ve come to know and appreciate, some still work at NZOS, others have moved on, but all of them have been fantastic to work with: Kim Baker, Ian Pryor, Alex Backhouse, Jimmy Kirkus-Lamont,  Kathryn Quirk, Paul Ward and Janine Faulknor. 

For me, these past ten years have been incredible. I have had the absolute privilege of spending time with the most talented individuals who have, collectively, created a phenomenal body of work exploring and celebrating New Zealand culture.

I have literally had the opportunity to touch the stars and for that, I will always be profoundly grateful. 

You can visit NZ On Screen by clicking here

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