Fresh Culture

Fresh Culture was a documentary webseries created to examine culture as it was being created. Our focus in producing this work was exploring the nascent, multicultural voice emerging in our country.

We released a series of 11 episodes where we interviewed artists, activists, musicians, policy theorists, and other figures of cultural importance who spoke on cultural issues in New Zealand (Aotearoa Nu Tireni).

There are also two guest episodes (7 & 8) by Tomo Nogi, a Japanese filmmaker who studied with Stephen at Te Herenga Waka Victoria University of Wellington and was based in Canada at the time.

Fresh Culture was produced from October 2018 - March 2022 with the following crew:

Stephen Riddell:
Producer (all episodes)

Sound Engineer (all episodes)
Director (episodes 1 - 5, 9 - 11)
Editor (episodes 1 - 6, 9 -11)

Presenter (episodes 9, 11)

Director of Photography (episodes 9 - 11)

Amanda Riddell:

Producer (episode 6)
Director (episodes 1 - 6)
Director of Photography (episodes 5 & 6)
Composer (Title Music)

Tomo Nogi:

Producer (episodes 7 & 8)
Director (episodes 7 & 8)
Director of Photography (episodes 7 & 8)
Editor (episodes 7 & 8)

Michelle Mae Cameron:
Director of Photography (episodes 2 & 3)
Camera Operator (episodes 5 & 6)

Michelle Kan:

Director of Photography (episode 1)

Stefan J. Simons:
Director of Photography (episode 4)

Steven Solos:
Camera Operator (Episode 5)

Karl Jensen:

Camera Operator (Episode 6)

Megan Ward:
Sound Recordist (Episode 9)

Emanuel E. Garcia:
Protest organiser (Episode 10)

Fresh Culture
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Fresh Culture - Jutta Chisholm (08.11.18)
05:30
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Fresh Culture - Cannabis Referendum Conference (14.11.18)
07:11
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Fresh Culture - Geoff Simmons (23.11.18)
05:04
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Fresh Culture - New Zealand Initiative (06.12.2018)
05:08
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Fresh Culture - High Tea (20.12.18)
05:16
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Fresh Culture - New Zealand International Classical Guitar Competition 2018 (12.2.19)
05:35
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Venessa Pica (18.03.18)
07:24
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Fresh Culture - Michael Wills (19.5.19)
06:16
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Jericho - Stephen Riddell (NZ COVID Protest 17.2.22)
02:36
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A Day At The Protest (NZ Parliament - 17.2.2022)
19:36
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Arisin' - Stephen Riddell: Thoughts on the Anti-Mandate Protest
09:46
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Fresh Culture Episodes:

This is a list of the official episodes of Fresh Culture in their original airing order. Over the course of making this show both Stephen and Amanda made a number of small pieces relating to these themes that can be found on the Riddell Productions YouTube channel and Facebook page.

Episode 1: Jutta Chisholm (08.11.18)

As we were wrapping up post-production on our first feature film, Portrait of a Knight (2018), Amanda (then called Michael) and Stephen started interviewing the crew for a series of short behind the scenes extras about the production.

For one of these interviews we contacted Michelle Kan, who co-wrote the film with us, and headed to Jutta Chisholm's house. Jutta painted 'A Knight of the Realm', the painting which Reginald springs to life from in the film, and also has a small acting role playing an administrator at The National Library of New Zealand.

While interviewing her about the film we stumbled upon a series of paintings she had been working on and decided to make a short documentary about these as well. Thus was Fresh Culture born!

If you're interested in finding out more about Portrait of a Knight, you can check it our for free on the New Zealand On Screen Iwi Whitiahua website here: https://www.nzonscreen.com/title/portrait-of-a-knight-2018 or purchase it from us for a small fee on Vimeo: https://vimeo.com/ondemand/poak/

Episode 2: Cannabis Referendum Conference (13.11.18)

After faking a meeting with the New Zealand Film Commission's talent department so that we could discuss Portrait of a Knight with them, we were told that our work wasn't of interest because it didn't seem likely to sell on the international market. We were expecting this as we hadn't been able to get in contact with them at any stage during production and still don't know if they have seen the film. However, they did leave us with some good advice, "Maybe you should try making some social issue documentaries..."

Well, we'd already made one episode of Fresh Culture, so maybe another one would be a good idea! With the help of Michelle Mae Cameron we headed down to the Cannabis Referendum Conference that was held to disscuss the Cannabis Referendum that had been put to the New Zealand public to vote on at the 2020 General Election. This is where the #makeitlegal campaign was born in Aotearoa Nu Tireni and we interviewed a number of people at the conference:

Phil Saxby - Cannabis Referendum Coalition
Arik Reiss - Druglawed
Egemen Yeter - Entrepeneur
Will 'Ilolahia - Change Consultant
Chlöe Swarbrick - Green Party of Aotearoa New Zealand
Dr. Eric Crampton - The New Zealand Initiative
Manu Caddie - Hikurangi Cannabis Company
Shona MacLeod - @clearthesmokenz
Irinka Britnell - The Cannabis Party
Chris Wilson - Activist

This episode is still one of the most successful pieces of content we have produced and received over 43k views on Facebook in the lead up to the referendum. The referendum narrowly failed with 50.7% of the voters of New Zealand voting to keep recreational Cannabis use illegal, though medical use is legal in the nation for health reasons. In Wellington, where Riddell Productions is based, support is believed to have been around 72.9% in favour of legalising recreational Cannabis (https://www.stuff.co.nz/national/politics/123323370/how-the-votes-on-cannabis-and-euthanasia-differed-across-the-country).

Episode 3: Geoff Simmons (23.11.18)

While we were at the Cannabis Referendum Conference we ran into Geoff Simmons, who it turned out lived a few doors down from us in Mount Cook (a suburb of Wellington). At the time Geoff was the acting leader of The Opportunities Party, a small political party contesting its second election after getting 2.4% of the popular vote in 2017. Geoff has a very eclectic work history and, amongst other things, has been an improv performer and an economic analyst for the New Zealand Treasury Department.

Michelle Mae Cameron dropped by and we decamped to Geoff's house to hear his thoughts on the state of the New Zealand economy. Unfortunately Geoff's party didn't do too well in the 2020 General Election, only getting 1.5% of the popular vote - quite a way short of the 5% threshold a party needs to meet to gain a seat in New Zealand's MMP election system.

Episode 4: New Zealand Initiative (06.12.2018)

One of the more interesting interview subjects from the Cannabis Referendum Conference was Dr. Eric Crampton, a prominent economist and a part of The New Zealand Initiative - a think tank sponsored by a variety of different interested groups (mostly corporations from what we could tell at the time). With the help of Stefan J. Simons, a multi-media artist from Newlands, we went to their office to discuss the cultural value of think tanks and a recent report that Briar Lipson had made on the New Zealand education system and NCEA assessments.

Episode 5: High Tea (20.12.18)

While our documentary at the Cannabis Referendum Conference had mostly focused on the higher level discussions, we also wanted to take a look at the nature of the core protestors in the movement. Fortunately, Gary Chiles, Dakta Green, and Fred MacDonald agreed to let us attend some of their protests with two camera operators (Michelle Mae Cameron and Steven Solos) so we could see what their ongoing efforts looked like.

These meetings led to the foundation of The Daktory, a social cannabis club in Wellington that operated as a kind of speakeasy in the grey areas established by the medical cannabis legislation. This was a repeat of an experiment that Dakta had tried in Auckland a decade ago and led to him spending time in jail.

Unfortunately the new Daktory ended up going the same way as the old Daktory, with a bust in 2019 at the club's premises near the Basin Reserve forcing them to shift to a new location in the old Temperance building (the irony...) where they operated in a vastly smaller way until the failed referendum forced them to consider other ways of continuing to fight for their cause.

Episode 6: New Zealand International Classical Guitar Competition 2018 (12.2.19)

Feeling a bit burned out by all this political work (we're artists, not journalists) Stephen and Amanda decided to focus more on artistic projects. Stephen started working on Sonic Spaces, an exploration of folk music that led to his first album in 2020, and Amanda arranged an episode of Fresh Culture about a competition organised by Jane Curry, her Guitar professor when she studied at New Zealand School of Music Te Koki.

For the episode Stephen, Michelle Mae Cameron, and Karl Jensen went to various events at the competition with Amanda to film footage and interviews. They talked to the contestants and the organisers to try and get a sense of the vibe that Jane was inspiring amongst young guitarists.

Episode 7: Venessa Pica (18.03.19)

As we were producing Fresh Culture we reached out to our previous collaborators to see if any of them would be interested in contributing. While people were keen, they were also busy and only one filmmaker agreed to produce some episodes. Tomo Nogi, who studied with Stephen at Te Herenga Waka Victoria University of Wellington, is a Japanese filmmaker and he was based in Canada at the time of filming because he was checking out the scene over there.

He got the vibe of Fresh Culture and set out in search of some local artists who might be able to speak to the wider cultural themes we were exploring. In his first episode he documents the work of artist and dancer Venessa Pica. This episode is only avaliable for a small fee on Vimeo as Venessa didn't consent to entering her image into the public domain.

Episode 8: Michael Wills (19.5.19)

In Tomo's second episode he explores the work of Michael Willis, a queer painter and former ice hockey professional. This episode focuses on the creative process and the holistic lens that Michael views his artistic practice through while discussing some of the demons that drew him to this lifestyle.

Episode 9: Jericho - Stephen Riddell (17.2.22)

With both of us exploring our own artistic work we didn't give a lot of thought to future episodes of Fresh Culture after Tomo submitted his work. Both of us also went through a very difficult time with our mental health as we begun to explore the unique nature of our identities and Stephen in particular had very negative experiences with the treatment he received under The Mental Health Act of 1992.

However, a large enough event happened that Stephen felt compelled to resurrect the webseries. On 6 February 2022 a convoy of people from all over New Zealand set off and converged at The Beehive (New Zealand Parliament) to protest the vaccine mandates implemented by the New Zealand government. Many of our friends, including close collaborators Emanuel E. Garcia and Megan Ward, were actively involved in this protest so Stephen headed down to check out the vibe.

He spent 5 hours on the ground of parliament interviewing protestors and soaking in the vibe then met up with Megan to record a spiritual song she liked - Jericho.

Episode 10: A Day at the Protest (17.2.22)

This 20 minute special episode of Fresh Culture was put together by Stephen overnight as it appeared that the media portrayal of the protest  presented by government media (RNZ, TVNZ) and some popular mainstream media (Stuff, Newshub) was spinning the facts of the protest and making what appeared to be a largely Maori led effort into something that sounded dangerously close to a white supremacist rally. Stephen released the episode and was met with widespread public abuse in the artistic community, though many artists reached out to him privately to express their congratulations on the episode.

The nature of this abuse centered around the ethics of Stephen's decision to give a platform to the protestors. Most of the artists who criticised him dismissed him out of hand due to the media portrayal that this was a fascist, extremist protest so the protestors needed to be censored in the public interest. As a company committed to the Public Domain and Creative Commons we were not scared off by these claims, especially as many of the most vocal critics refused to actually watch any of our Fresh Culture content while debating the issue.

Our regular collaborator Michelle Mae Cameron also attended the protest on the following day and took some pictures for her company, Gravity Studios: https://gravitystudionz.pixieset.com/protestday18thfebruary/

Episode 11: Arisin' - Stephen Riddell: Thoughts on the Anti-Mandate Protest (23.2.22)

In response to the critcism of episode 10, Stephen released this episode to justify his position on the protest and share Arisin' - a song he started writing in 2021 while fighting to be removed from The Mental Health Act of 1992 so that he could refuse the medical treatment being forced on him. He was removed from the act after a few months, but it costs him $320 a week in therapy (that the NZ government won't pay for) to work on the psychological issues he has encountered - some of which were caused by the horror of being forcibly medicated under state care.

He has continued to tinker with the song and played it at a few gigs, but this was his first proper recording of the song as he felt it also spoke to the spiritual issues raised by the peaceful protestors he encountered at The Beehive.