Making the Series
A project like Frontier of Dreams is a huge challenge for any television production company. It is the largest documentary series ever made in New Zealand. It brings together all the elements that make great storytelling - people, pictures, sounds and music - and the stories and experiences that are told through those elements.
The history series is conceived and produced by Whakapapa Productions, a joint venture company between two independent film and television production houses, Te Reo Television and Top Shelf Productions. Whakapapa Productions was established specifically to make this series.
The producers of Frontier of Dreams and principals of Whakapapa Productions are Vincent Burke and Ray Waru.
Ray Waru - Te Reo Television: Ray Waru has been involved in radio and television since the late 1970s. In 1980, he established the first Maori production unit in New Zealand television and produced and directed a wide range of Maori programming, including the first ever full Maori language drama production, Te Ohaki a Nihe, and coverage of the Te Maori exhibition.
In the 1980s he produced and directed a ground-breaking documentary series, The Natural World of the Maori, a number of film and television projects both here and in Australia, and an IMAX production for the East/West Centre in Hawaii. As the Chief Executive of the Aotearoa Maori Radio Trust, he was responsible for developing a national Maori radio system.
In recent years Ray Waru had produced or directed over 40 hours of documentary films and series. He was co-producer of the last major history series, Our People, Our Century, a winner at the 2000 TV Awards, and produced Toro Mai, a 25-part serial drama in te reo.
Vincent Burke - Top Shelf Productions: Vincent Burke set up Top Shelf Productions in 1988. Since then the company has made over 130 hours of documentaries, doco-series and docu-soaps, corporate training videos, dramas and feature films.
Top Shelf has a significant body of feature and drama work including three one-off dramas, a feature film, a German/NZ co-production and a mini series.
Top Shelf films and documentaries have been screened at more than 10 international film festivals. They include Cinema of Unease, directed and presented by Sam Neill, which won Best Documentary in the NZ Film and Television Awards and was in Official Selection at the Cannes Film Festival in 1995, and the children's feature film, Flight of the Albatross, which won awards at film festivals in Berlin and Giffoni in Italy.
Frontier of Dreams brings together some of the most experienced television directors in New Zealand to add their vision to the story of our history.
Michael Bennett, Cheryl Cameron, John Milligan, Howard Taylor and Sue Younger between them have written, directed and produced hundreds of hours of top television. They cover a huge range of subjects, from natural history to films about racing drivers, the New Zealand Ballet, the Mikhail Lermontov, coroners and their work, the Kiwi bach and children with ADHA.
Michael Bennett - Wicked Weather, Dangerous Waters, Tenants and Landlords, Mountain Rescuers, Kiwi Killing Fields
Cheryl Cameron - In Search of the Moa, Destination Disaster - The Sinking of the Mikhail Lermontov (Best Documentary Qantas Media Awards 2001), Guests of the Earth, Cat Among the Pigeons
John Milligan - Von Tempsky's Ghost, Epitaph (10 episodes), Shipwreck: The Burning of the Boyd, ('Best Information Programme' Qantas Media Awards, 2001), A Summer Place
Howard Taylor - Death and the Coroner, Our People, Our Century (2 episodes), Hospital (12x ? hour episodes), Shark Gordon (13 x ? hour episodes)
Sue Younger - Out of Control Kids - ADHD (Certificate of Creative Excellence, US Festival of Film & Video), The Receivers, Happily Ever After, Rural Dreaming
Good stories and good television begin with good research. The history series has had some of the best and most experienced television researchers in the country working on it. Their role is to find the people, places and pictures to tell the story of each of the 13 episodes.
The supervising researcher is David Filer who has a great depth of experience in research, script editing and script writing for some of the big television series and major documentaries of the past 30 years. The research team is Louise Callan, Jayne Cooper Sue Younger, Jane Dowell and Kay Seatter-Dunbar assisted by Wena Harawira and Peata Melbourne. All have extensive research credits on programmes and documentaries as wide-ranging as the Maori Battalion, youth suicide, tertiary education and the changing role of women in 20th Century New Zealand.