Posted by Dave Gibson
Sunday night I got a call from Gaylene Preston telling me of the death of well-known screenwriter Graeme Tetley. Graeme wrote two of our recent very successful telemovies - Aftershock, about an earthquake in Wellington, and Eruption, set in Auckland.
He was also the originating writer for TVNZ's Shark in the Park back in the late 1980’s, a show the Gibson Group inherited and created a further two series.
You can read the official version of his life in this obituary or on NZ on Screen and there is no doubt that he was one of the major screenwriting voices in New Zealand over a very long period.
He was also an incredibly warm, caring human being who I always looked forward to working with and spending time with. He was bloody hard to get a script out of on time, but at least it meant that you could go round to his place and spent a few hours with him while he made bad coffee. And then you could talk about interesting things that had happened to each of you, pretending that it was somehow relevant to the script that he was supposed to be writing.
A few days later when you really needed the script of course, it would be more frustrating. “ Ah well I know you think it just needs a tweak at the end Dave , but I’ve gone back to the start…”
I sometimes thought that he so obviously loved writing so much that he just couldn’t bear the idea that the scripts had to leave home.
Recently, just before the second earthquake, he set off for Christchurch to take up a position for the rest of 2011 as writer in residence at Canterbury University, promising me that he would really crack a new series we were working on.
After the earthquake I tried to get hold of him…his words from here…
I got back to Wellington last night. I drove up to Picton and came across in the ferry.
I’m pretty well and safe. Thank you for your concern.
The earthquake itself was the most ferocious thing imaginable. Unimaginable. No rumbles. No warning tremors. It just leapt out of nowhere roaring.
Poor Lyttelton. Not a church left. Not a down-town building with its street wall still facing the street, the Time-ball busted, walls caved in. Boulders rolling down out of the hills. Everyone affected. I went to the Civil Defence yesterday. People in bare feet in the rain. Their houses gone. Lost. In shock.
I knew nothing about Chch because I had no phone. No radio. No TV. No broadband. No power. No water. No sewerage. (Had to think – now what did they do in that tele movie about when the big one hits Wellington?) I was scared to use my mobile in case there was another big one ahead and I would have used all the juice.
I drove into Chch yesterday – over a rough road from Governor’s Bay. Poor Christchurch.
Needless to say I did mental checks on what happened and what we thought might happen in Aftershock. We were pretty good. Yesterday was Day 2 - day 2 in the Civil Defence Bible was supposed to be the day of confusion. Dead right. If we got anything wrong it was the effect of shock on everyone. But really we should be proud of what we did. The TV when I did get to hear/see it - looked like a rerun. I would put in a Maori woman from Lyttelton who turned up at the Civil Defence centre with all the food she had found, her barbeque and cups - made tea and breakfast for everyone - while the 'real' civil defence went about slinging to their clip boards - in shock. She told people off who didn't clean up after themselves. 'How are we going to run this thing if you don't tidy up?' A lady popped out of her house and asked me - 'You okay? Need a place to stay?' And the Maori guy who ran through the quake to let his dogs loose out of their kennels.
We did pretty damn good in our situations and the emotions.
What happens when your electricity, your phone (landline), your mobile, your radio, your water, sewerage, radio, tv, broadband, power (house, friends, family) disappear is you realise what's left has to be in pretty good shape if you are going to manage.
I appreciated you contacting me.
Thank you Graeme, it was a pleasure to spend time with you and a privilege to have worked with you.