The Diary: Drama king hits back at funding comments

Shane Cortese likes his drama.
Shane Cortese likes his drama.

The future of New Zealand's local television drama industry has found an advocate in TV star Shane Cortese who has shot back at suggestions made by former NZ On Air chairman David Beatson in the Herald last week that NZ on Air needs to revise its unhealthy focus on funding drama series.

"That attitude, that it's 'unhealthy' for the funders to focus on drama, doesn't take in the bigger picture," Cortese said.

"Like it or not, we do have to fund television in New Zealand in order for our stories to continue to be told and made.

"Documentaries and dramas are sold overseas and a portion of the licence fee from those sales goes back to NZ on Air to continue the process of developing and making more Kiwi television."

Cortese was speaking at a luncheon event at a Viaduct eatery on Tuesday. He joined Rachel Lang, head writer at South Pacific Pictures, who quipped: "this 'unhealthy focus on drama' has given New Zealand some of its best-loved television shows of the last decade".

Cortese, who is shooting scenes for the new series of Nothing Trivial, has a vested interest in the nature of television drama here. It's his livelihood. But he's had widespread experience across a variety of telly genres, fronting docos and starring in comedy series, too.

He's also dipped his toe into the reality show format, hosting talent show So You Think You Can Dance and appearing on Dancing With The Stars.

Rumours are rife that reality TV producer Julie Christie may take a more hands-on role at MediaWorks and put more focus on reality shows instead of drama.

Cortese believes there's a place for both - but one has the ability to be more self-sustaining.

He says "shiny floor shows" like X Factor and New Zealand's Got Talent, are formatted reality shows that are commercially viable and can find their own funding through corporate sponsorship deals - but not at the expense of television drama.

"They are also among the biggest rating shows in the country and are therefore more commercially attractive to sponsors. I don't believe these shows should be publicly funded at the expense of our documentaries and our dramas."

Gilda gives birth

Tehran-born rich lister Gilda Kirkpatrick has become a mother for the first time, welcoming a beautiful baby boy on Tuesday, born by scheduled caesarean section at Auckland City Hospital and weighing 3175g. But the new mother and her property magnate husband, James Kirkpatrick, are yet to pick a name for the newborn and are mulling over monikers.

It's a double celebration for Gilda, who turned 40 yesterday.

She was home last night at the Paritai Drive mansion she shares with her 83-year-old husband, who has five adult children from two former marriages, and the couple's dogs.

Gilda skipped a baby shower. Instead she'll host a "celebration party" to introduce her son to friends and extended family. She doesn't need gifts. Ralph Lauren furniture, Gucci blankets, Dior onesies, a horsehair baby mattress, and a designer stroller imported from New York cram the nursery.

Mrs Dotcom's 25th

Mona Dotcom turned 25 this week and celebrated with an intimate dinner party at home for a dozen close friends.

Or were they? Emmett Skilton, star of The Almighty Johnsons, was there but admitted he doesn't really know the birthday girl.

Skilton said he was a "guest of a guest" and had never visited the Dotcom mansion before.

He accompanied former Shortland Street actress Kimberley Crossman, who has struck up a friendship with the Dotcoms since performing together in the Basement pantomime Mega Christmas.

She was joined by fellow actor Ryan Richards and writers Nic Sampson and Barnaby Fredric. Millie Elder-Holmes was there, too. Some guests rugged up in puffa jackets, despite the surrounding gas heaters. It must be chilly in the Dotcom mansion. No wonder Kimbo's always wearing a scarf.

Mona blew out candles on a birthday cake designed as a Chanel handbag accessorised with marzipan Louboutin heels and a confectionary No. 5 scent.

Brown's inner circle

Mayor Len Brown was on television on Monday singing happy birthday to 10-year-old Britomart with transport chair Mike Lee. However, other Auckland councillors were miffed at being excluded from the early morning celebrations.

North Shore councillor George Wood took to Facebook to vent: "The first thing I knew about this celebration was when I saw it on TV last night. Would have been good to at least get an invitation."

"Problem is, George," Howick councillor Sharon Stewart responded, "we are not in the right circle."

- NZ Herald

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