30 years, Greenstone in the business of film and tv

Posted Tuesday 26 Mar 2024

30 years, Greenstone in the business of film and tv

30 years in business is no small feat! I had the pleasure of chatting with Tash Christie, Head of Factual, and Harriet Crampton, Head of Drama, two of the six women who uphold the leadership at Greenstone TV. In this interview we discuss what has kept them standing all these years, as well as how they will navigate going forward. 

What's it like to be in business with other women?

Harriet: Working at Greenstone is hugely collaborative. It's caring. It's a company that everyone who works here wants to stay within, and come back to. As women in the leadership team, we get each other, and we have a very common goal. Any one of us could have this conversation with you today and we would all entirely trust that we'd all be on the same page, that we'd all be able to deliver the same message coherently. 

Tash: It's an incredibly flat leadership team.  We have a hui every Monday morning. That's about all the teams sharing something, whether it's something they've watched, even if they're not wanting to share about their work situation now. But it's really an update because without knowing everything, you don't care about it, right? So, because we share it all, we all care about each other's areas.  If you’re doing well, we are all doing well. 

So, you're operating in a way that is non-hierarchical? 

Tash: Completely non-hierarchical, which sounds a bit kumbaya, but it's not. We're all incredibly busy. When our heads are down, our heads are down and our tails are up and we've got a million things happening, but it just seems that when the pressure is on, in Harriet's camp, for example, we can just help. 

I imagine you would have come from different working environments, were there deliberate structural changes that were made?

Harriet: It really comes down to Rachel, our CEO, and the way in which she works with people. 

Tash: She also came from production, so she understands. She's an incredible brain on one hand, in terms of business brain, but she also comes from grassroots production, so, she understands all those elements and understands the risks we must take every day to deliver something creative. And she's had us come on board because we are like-minded.

Harriet: Having been in top-down structures, I just don't know why anyone would think that was the best way.

Tash: If there was a fabulous male out there, they would be welcomed. It's not exclusive. It's just the way it's evolved. It happened this way. And I mean, Rachel would agree, the best people are in those jobs. 

What's something that you're proud of?

Harriet: I'm proud of everything I make. It's always so bloody hard to make. I'm really proud of Vegas. I'm really proud of Kid Sister. I'm really proud of Tongue Tied. I'm really proud of the Tender Trap. We've got a show called Happiness coming up that's made by Kip Chapman and Luke Di Soma. And I'm already really proud of that! It's just so fucking hard out there. I'm proud of the industry itself as well. I look at the shows that come through and you just think, fuck, that's incredible! We punch above our weight all the time. 

Tash: Yeah, and we make stuff at a third of the cost. 

Harriet: Yeah, and it's really good. It's really world class. It sells overseas and it's successful. 

Tash: I'm proud of the fact that I've been able to and lucky enough to work on shows like Motorway Patrol, which is now 22 series in. The Zoo, which also went for almost that long, but also series like The Big Ward, and even Neighbours at War which was a really fricking tough show. But again, it was really important because it created a conversation between two neighbours. It gave you both sides of the coin, both sides of the argument, and it brought them together to listen to each other.

Within the factual sphere what I think is so cool, is every day I get to relate and connect with teams that are also out there connecting with everyday New Zealanders, real people, from cops to punters to people going through surgery. It's this incredible world that yes, it's a business and yes, it's entertainment and we make stuff, but every day is different because every day you're working with different people from different parts of New Zealand, sometimes the world. 

When you both speak there's such a palpable aliveness and passion that you both share.

Tash & Harriet: We feel very fortunate to be able to do our jobs. I'm grateful every day to be able to come here. 

You make these shows for a third of the cost. Tell me more about this.

Tash & Harriet: New Zealand on Air hasn't had a funding rise since 2007. They've had a couple of injections of cash, but they've had no serious funding increase. So, where the world is getting more expensive, we're just staying in the same place. 

Harriet: Our people who we work with, the crew, the editors, the production teams are incredible because they are making absolute top quality for our marginal budgets compared with what they get in Australia, US and around the world.

What is a challenge that Greenstone has previously faced and overcome? 

Harriet: We overcome challenges all the time. Every year. Last year when New Zealand On Air wisely introduced putting the screen production rebates alongside being able to apply for New Zealand On Air funding, which hadn't existed before, at the same time, it became more obvious that it was going to be more difficult for New Zealand On Air to actually fully fund New Zealand shows, which means that there is a threat to our IP because if we're constantly relying on international money, it means that our cultural creativity and unique position in the world has to compromise in order to fit international eyeballs. It is concerning that potentially there may be less te reo on screens, there may be less tikanga, because it is less accessible to international audiences.

We end up in a position where our unique culture is less and less seen. And this is the problem with cuts being made to our news and current affairs programs because it's an erosion of our culture on screens.

Tash: And our social issues, you know, things that we absolutely have to be talking about. No one else can talk about them. You know, no one else lives in Aotearoa and is experiencing things the same way. For producers and production companies and crews, every year is a challenge. 

Harriet: And we are constantly innovating. We are constantly changing the way in which we operate to suit the landscape. So, for certain politicians who may remain nameless, to suggest that the industry needs to innovate to stay ahead of the times, it's like, that's bullshit, man. We innovate every day. Every single day. That is why we're still here. 

Tash: We've had everything from international competitors to dwindling funding to COVID. We're coming up against AI now. Every year it's another thing. And every year, this is where our leadership team goes, we're just going to fight, we’re going to keep going because we've been in this for this long, and we give a shit about what we do. Every culture around the world has stories at the heart of their culture. We have to keep telling our stories. Otherwise, what's the point, right? 

Harriet: Yes, otherwise we just fall into homogeneity. You know, we get fed a diet of American and UK material and we lose our uniqueness.

Tash: I think the strength of our leadership team is being brave. We're brave, we've gone out there and we're trying to explore other things. And we're lucky because we're of scale that we can do that. And we've got a boss who lets us do that, but it is risky, but you kind of have to take risks and be brave in current times. And I think that's what Greenstone has always done, from the very beginning. 

That innovation piece, and I know innovation is overused, but it's the innovation piece, I think that we at Greenstone have always been good at it and is still central to what we do, and so is telling frickin good stories!

The image I have had in my mind is when there's pavement and then you see a little flower growing through the cracks. Life will always find a way. 

Tash: I think New Zealand women have always done that. It's just what we do. It's the wāhine toa approach to everything. It's like, we just gotta keep going and keep doing it. 

Do you have some advice for young women venturing into business?

Harriet: Don't get steamrolled. Remember who you are. 

Tash: Keep laughing. Very important. Humour is absolutely important to everything you do. Business is really hard, but women, young women, do it hard anyway, a lot of the time. So, they've got the power! You have the power in you. But laugh, it makes it all better. 

Harriet: Something I noticed a lot with young women is that they tend to think they have to be ready for it in a way, you know, be superpowers. In a way that men will often just fake it till they make it. I think women can afford to do that a little bit more. Don't assume that you are unqualified, just because you haven't got a doctorate in the subject.

Tash: With the number of teams that I oversee as an EP, ask questions, don't give a shit, just ask questions, because it's the only way you're actually going to get that knowledge. And don't be afraid to do that because most people are happy you have asked questions.

What are some ideas for how you grow and change as a company? 

Tash: Our kaupapa at Greenstone has always been about collaboration. From our perspective, collaboration, whether it's with other women and other production companies, or it doesn't have to be a formal collaboration, collaboration will save the world. It is the key to everything. 

Harriet: And, not imposing our own ideas or views onto the people that we work with. Somebody has a story that they want to tell, it's important that they get to tell it in their way and that we're not trying to create a voice that somehow exemplifies Greenstone over that individual's voice. We don't have a house style so much in terms of our material as much as a house - sensitivity. 

Tash: I think everything we do, whether it's scripted or unscripted, everything we make is about sparking a conversation. Because you want people to listen, but you also need to listen. And so, it's always a two-way thing. Understanding people better is at the heart of everything we make. So, it's always a conversation. 


There is so much passion behind the wise words of Harriet and Tash, and it's clear that dedication to their work, alongside their team is what continues to put Greenstone at the forefront. We are in unprecedented times, however, the women at the helm of this Greenstone world, will find a way, as they always do.


Interview conducted and edited by Nina Reed.