John Callen

John was born November 4 1946 in south-east London and attended Grammar School at Blackheath before heading to NZ with his family at age 16. He attended school for one more year, tried art school and then got his first job copyrighting for a radio station before moving sideways into journalism. All this time he was engaged in amateur theatricals through which he met an advertising director who employed him to do voice overs. That was 40 years ago.

While doing voice overs John met professional actors and hadn’t realized there were such creatures in NZ. He was asked to audition for radio drama productions and started getting more and more work before being “spotted” by one of New Zeeland’s then leading theater directors, Mervyn Thompson, who offered him a full-time contract at Downstage Theatre, New Zealand’s first professional theater company.

He has also started getting some minor TV roles and applied my journalistic skills to writing for radio and stage.

John has also been doing some directing and continued this at the theater and then into TV and the commercial world.

He has been in or directed more than 100 stage works, two dozen TV series, a few films, hundreds of radio plays, a number of commercials and literally thousands of voice overs, including 150 documentaries. What great fun.

In the past few years John has directed a lot of New Zeeland’s favorite “soap”, Shortland Street, more than 50 commercials, as well as dramatized documentaries, some of which he also wrote. This year a film called The Kiwi Who Saved Britain, which he directed and co-wrote, screened in NZ celebrating the victory of Kiwi Sir Keith Park over the invading Luftwaffe during the Battle of Britain.

In recent years John has also worked as a sometime lecturer teaching acting and media studies students.

He has lived in Auckland for the past 20 years and is married to TVNZ executive Judi Callen.


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