NZ On Screen's celebrity summer spotlights

00:37, Jan 07 2014
Amanda Billing
TOP SEVEN: Amanda Billing shares her NZ On Screen favourites.

Amanda Billing, who plays Shortland Street's Dr Sarah Potts and was most recently seen steaming up the stage as Roxy in Chicago, is charmed by dogs, sheep, kea, trains, Bruno Lawrence, and sweet lovers as she picks her top seven from NZ On Screen, the website that celebrates NZ film and television.

I watched quite a lot of TV when I was a child and funnily enough some of my clearest memories are of shows, movies and music videos made right here in New Zealand. Perhaps I remember them so well and with such fondness simply because they were homegrown.

Wandering through the NZ On Screen online archive has been quite a charming experience because I've watched things that I haven't seen for decades. It's a strange and magical thing to see them again. I feel like a child again in the best way. I recommend you take NZ On Screen's invitation to browse around. You'll be charmed too, not to mention informed and entertained.

Here's what I found:

I started with the music video section and basically could have spent all day there. After much wailing and gnashing of teeth I settled on Sweet Lovers by The Holiday Makers

Apparently they had no budget for this video but my 12 year old self wouldn't have been able to tell when this was released in 1988. It's just so gorgeous: the lead vocalists Peter and Mara are so darned beautiful and the band seems to be genuinely enjoying themselves, hamming it up in the background.


Watching RTR (Ready to Roll) was part of our family routine in the 1980s and I remember this being Number One for weeks (six, as it turns out). It makes me yearn for the tongue-in-cheek humour, simplicity and theatricality of music videos in the 1980s. Or maybe I'm just getting old. Oh, and I spotted my friend Steve Jessup - he's the one in the sailor hat - from The Wellington International Ukulele Orchestra (you can find them on the site too) so that's another reason this had to go on the list. Life's a funny thing and New Zealand is a small world, in a good way.

As I wondered what to look for next, A Dog's Show came to me in a blinding flash. Although my 2013 attention span was challenged by the slow pace, I remembered why I liked watching this back in the day. It wasn't just that I grew up as a "Townie" in a rural community, so I knew men like these, but that each trial is actually quite dramatic in a slow-burn sort of way. 

Man and beast need to work together (although the sheep are always cast in the role of cantankerous, stubborn villain), against the clock and against each other to be crowned human and canine kings/queens of the pen. I always want to learn to whistle like those farmers and expressions like "Hold" and "Get away round, Blue" will be forever etched in my mind. Kids today don't know what they're missing.

The next obvious step for me is to see whether Guy Capper and Jemaine Clement's The Pen is on the site: these guys combine sheep, plasticine and laconic silliness to produce comedy gold. The first time I saw The Pen, I cried and cried with laughter. Please, NZ On Screen, put as many of them as you can on your website, especially the first one. I love seeing Sheepy get himself in trouble.

We're pretty good at making documentaries exploring and celebrating life in New Zealand, so I had a look around in the documentary section of the website and found these gems about a hard-living Kiwi acting legend, the relatives of the kea that ate all the rubber off the door seals on my Holden Barina when I parked up at Fox Glacier in Winter 1998 (cheers, you little b*stards, but I love you really), kitschy Polynesian beauty, and Marcus Lush's train through my homeland, the Wairarapa.

They asked me for my five favourites; I had to stop at seven. Be careful, people: the NZ On Screen website is a wonderful rabbit hole. Enter with plenty of time up your sleeve.