Tag Archive for: obituary

Derek Wooster (Ngāti Maniapoto, Ngāti Tūwharetoa, Ngāti Maru, Te Ātiawa) was a veteran television director and producer, serving on the board of DEGANZ from 2002 – 2005, including as Treasurer during that time.

He started out in theatre before crossing over to TV. Derek worked at TVNZ for many years and is credited with creating and producing Māori current affairs series Marae, amongst directing and/or producing many other notable programmes for our national broadcaster and Whakaata Māori across his long career.

Derek passed away on 5 July 2022 at 77 years of age. He is fondly remembered by many.

Kua hinga te tōtara i Te Waonui-a-Tāne

Tui Ruwhiu
Executive Director

Paul Grinder was a long-time member of DEGANZ, and a highly experienced Assistant Director, Second Unit Director and later Producer. I would occasionally see Paul at industry events between his long stints working locally or overseas, on films and series including Spartacus, Power Rangers and River Queen here, Black Sails in South Africa and Colony and Lost in Space in Canada.

Paul passed away on 26 May 2022. His service in Tauranga was attended by family and a host of colleagues from the screen industry who held him in high regard. He is sorely missed by many.

Tui Ruwhiu
Executive Director

Editor/director and DEGANZ member Michael Hacking died in March this year after a long battle with cancer.

Michael came to New Zealand from England after leaving University. He was a good-looking young man with a quick wit and in 1970s Wellington he and partner Carole Hartney, with their English accents and good looks, cut a dash – they were ‘cool’ and soon part of the smart set.

After learning how to cut film at John O’Shea’s legendary indie company Pacific Films in the 1970s, Michael Hacking moved into directing while working for TVNZ. After directing two episodes of 1987 series Journeys in National Parks, his work as a director, producer, and writer for Natural History New Zealand took him around the globe. It was a life of adventure: threats from apex predators, kidnapping by armed Papua-New Guineans, and a stay in London’s Tropical Diseases Hospital with malaria.

For a full bio, go to NZ On Screen.

Over a decade ago Michael was hit with a brain tumour. He died on 3 March 2022 aged 70. His battle with the big C and survival this long attests to his uncomplaining courage, attitude to life and the support of his family. Michael is seriously missed by his wife Carole Hartney and daughter Lily, son-in-law Oliver and granddaughters Poppy and Florence.

Howard Taylor
Board member

It is with regret that we record the passing of one of our colleagues, Tony Hiles.

Tony arrived in Wellington from England in the mid-sixties and started making commercials for Stan Wemyss’ production house. In 1969 he moved to TVNZ to direct and produce a variety of shows – factual, magazine, and comedy. High energy with a cutting sense of humour, Tony enlivened the Avalon TV centre (and club) for a decade.

1980 saw Tony and partner Judith Fife (at the time a TV presenter and now a lawyer) start their own production company – City Associates – making social documentaries.

Flight of Fancy marked the start of a life-long creative relationship with painter Michael Smither. In Flight of Fancy, Michael built wings and tried to fly. The film won a special jury prize at the NZ Adventure Film Festival.

A credit for consultant producer on Peter Jackson’s Bad Taste was followed by his own feature film Jack Brown Genius which he wrote and directed. Described as “a romantic comedy fantasy”, it was another film about flying. This time a modern inventor channels a tenth century monk to create a flying machine. The film won him a Best Director award at the NZ Film and Television Awards.

In 2009 Tony started a series of documentaries about Michael Smither, each one screening in the NZIFF. He was working on the last one when he was diagnosed with a rare form of dementia – Lewy Body Dementia. Tony was determined to find a positive in it and commenced recording his experience for other sufferers.

As he says on his website https://www.lewybodyandme.com/ “I’m determined to die laughing.”

He is survived by partner Judith, daughter Jo (production manager), sons Chris (sound recordist) and Trent, and stepson Jock.


Howard Taylor

Garth Maxwell and Rex Pilgrim

Garth Maxwell and Rex Pilgrim (right) during the shoot for When Love Comes. Photo credit Michele Fantl

By Garth Maxwell

I’m a filmmaker and director who has worked in New Zealand and Australia, and I was a close friend and collaborator with Rex Pilgrim, who died unexpectedly in Brisbane recently, in early September. I met Rex when he was working the accounts for James Wallace, who produced an early gay film of mine Beyond Gravity, and I found in Rex a sharp-witted, artistically minded activist spirit of just the kind I sought, for co-writing further projects. Subsequently Rex contributed to Jack Be Nimble, which made a savage splash as a covertly-queer dark fable of NZ horror, and to When Love Comes, written by myself, Rex, and Peter Wells, a film that looks at a creative cross-generational community of musicians and lovers, gay and straight.

Further efforts to make work together were frustrated by a range of issues, mainly the sheer cost of making films and especially the lower kinds of budgets available to gay-themed works, as compared to the ambition of Rex’s ideas, evidenced on a project we attempted set in Spain under Franco, called The Last Beat of My Heart. The film had a moment in the sun when Mark Ordesky, then a scout for New Line Cinema before he became a producer on Jackson’s Lord of the Rings films, championed it, and we were talking to agents for some of Hollywood’s greatest including Daniel Day Lewis and indeed Madonna’s manager. But the moment passed, and the film never happened. Rex went on to do further drafts but it was not possible to regain that crazed overheated momentum, and I think the disappointment was something he felt acutely.

I miss him for his grasp of what could be made of the moment – the moment to say your piece – the moment to represent yourself and your own sexuality and culture – the moment to speak up and to use your own voice. For someone who was a lifelong reader and admirer of great writing, he had a special flair as an activist writer to say the difficult things, and to draw attention to the absurdity and the hypocrisy we pretended not to notice. His sense of humour was delightful, sharp, sometimes acid. The space left behind him will linger for a long long time, for there are few with as unique a footprint as my friend and cowriter Rex.


Peter Wells with Rex Pilgrim

Peter Wells with Rex Pilgrim, photo credit Michele Fantl

By Peter Wells

My name is Peter Wells and I am a NZ author and film-maker. I met Rex when I came back to NZ in the early 1980s and a friendship blossomed. I was attracted to his quick intelligence, his laugh and also a certain sardonic take on life. We went on to work together editing ‘Best Mates, an Anthology of Gay NZ Writing’ which appeared in 1997. We gathered up writing of gay male writers as far back as we could and as far forward as we could. We struck problems with a number of estates who refused permission. We returned the compliment by showing a blank page with the author’s name at the top. It said a lot. Auckland Museum refused to give us permission to use a beautiful archival photo of two men affectionately kissing on a boat. We went ahead and used it as a cover. As a reader said on Amazon’s Goodreads recently, ‘if you are into queer studies, this is an important book.’ I am retrospectively so proud of this book that Rex and I put together. Not only is it a beautiful object filled with illustrations but it is, in its own small way, a landmark publication.

So in this sad circumstance when someone’s life leaks away, the loss of his charm, his ability to laugh, to be pert and sharply to the point, I like to think that a part of Rex remains forever in this very beautiful and important book. He meant it, he told it, he edited it, he put it together and while he has so achingly gone, this book is a testament to his intelligence, his wit and his grit.