2008 Conversations

The aim was to create a time capsule of future thinking in New Zealand in 2008. We wanted to capture people today thinking about and imagining a kaleidoscope of ‘tomorrows’. This snapshot would then serve the twin purposes of acting as a research tool for Project 2058, and encouraging discussion about New Zealand’s long-term future. At the McGuinness Institute, we strongly believe that long-term thinking and sustainability require integration of ideas, disciplines, systems and minds. It was in this light that we embarked upon a project of bringing great minds together and recording their ideas.

If you have any questions or would like to find out more foresightnz@mcguinnessinstitute.org.


  • Roger Dennis & Megan Hosking: A strategic innovation consultant and a designer question how far technology can take us, how far we really need to go and what wild cards we may face in the future.
  • David Young & Joe Williams: An historian and a High Court Judge tackle the big issues: climate change, population, our own diversity and how we will live together in an increasingly crowded world.
  • Suzi Kerr & Jacqueline Rowarth: An environmental economist and the director of Massey Agriculture discuss challenges facing New Zealand in the next 50 years and address how we can face and adapt to the ‘big picture’ as individuals.
  • Richard Randerson & Jo Randerson: A Bishop and a playwright, who are also father and daughter, look at changes over a generation, what we talk about around the barbeque and where they sit on a scale of hope to despair for our future.
  • Peggy Fairbairn-Dunlop & Joris de Bres: The Race Relations Commissioner and the Director of the Va’aomanu Pasifika at Victoria University address the status of environmental refugees and building and valuing diversity.


We felt that previous dialogue in this area had only taken place as lectures, speeches or debates. These took the form of an expert sharing ideas, or placing people of opposing opinions against one another. Ultimately, we decided that the project should meet the goals of developing long-term integrated thinking about New Zealand, therefore the focus should rest on building consensus through dialogue and learning rather than focusing attention on the points we disagree on. In order to achieve this, we needed to find a medium that would encourage integration and involvement. After research and discussion of the concept, it was decided that the best format would be the long conversation.

Our process involved four stages. We agreed upon the concept, selected the participants, filmed the conversations, and finally decided what we should use of the resulting footage.

  1. Concept – Several discussions took place from November 2007 in order to fine tune what shape and form this time capsule would take. The results of this discussion are outlined above.
  2. Selection – With an initial list of 80-100 possible candidates, we set out not to find the perfect people, rather the perfect combinations. It was important for us to provide a platform for the type of future thinkers not usually represented in mainstream media. As such, we wanted to showcase some of the great New Zealand minds already thinking about this area across a range of personalities, ethnicities, ages, backgrounds, disciplines and expertise. A long time was spent researching each of our possible candidates, and as the process went on it slowly became clearer who might or might not work well together. It was also important to us to avoid an overtly political stance; we wanted the ideas to be the focus rather than the politics. Additionally, we felt it was important that although these people would be experts in their respective fields, we would seek those whose thinking possessed great enough breadth and depth to enable them to be open and willing to explore new areas or ideas.
  3. Filming – Once the final ten conversationalists were chosen, filming began. It took place over the course of three days in June 2008 at Toi Poneke, Wellington’s Art Centre.
  4. Editing – Over 12 hours of footage was taken, with some conversations stretching to more than two hours. With such a wealth of raw material, the importance of focus became increasingly significant in order to ensure the project as a whole continued to reflect this ethos of integration and exploration.

Production Team

Jess Feast – Director, Producer, Editor

Jess Feast is a documentary filmmaker, best known to date for her award-winning documentary Cowboys and Communists. Feast studied and worked in theatre before researching her first documentary in the late 1990s. She worked as a director on a series about the 2000 Rockquest, which won both the Qantas and NZ Screen Award for best children’s programme. While living and working in Berlin, Feast came across the subject for her hour-long documentary, Cowboys and Communists. The film premiered at the 2007 New Zealand International Film Festival. The same year it won the Golden Key award for best documentary by a young filmmaker at Germany’s Kassel Documentary Film Festival. On returning to New Zealand, Feast worked as a development executive for Wellington production house The Gibson Group. She has directed segments for the award-winning arts programme The Living Room, TVNZ’s on-demand arts show The Gravy and Gather Round, a one-hour documentary about one of New Zealand’s biggest music events. Feast worked with Bret McKenzie and Jemaine Clement on Flight of the Conchords: A Texan Odyssey, a documentary about the comedy duo’s early attempts to break into the American music market. Feast’s most recent documentary is Black on Red, for TVNZ’s Artsville, which follows The Royal New Zealand Ballet’s trip to China. In 2008, Feast travelled with Oxfam to film residents of the Cartaret Islands of Papua New Guinea, to raise awareness about climate change.

Cheryl Cameron – Research/ Assistant Director

Martyn Williams – Lighting/Camera/Sound