A production still from the series After the Party filmed in Wellington. Penny (played by Robyn Malcolm), wearing a helmet and a beige blouse, rides a bicycle on a road with a blurry seagull taking flight in the foreground.

The six-part series set in the capital launched on TVNZ 1 and TVNZ+ in late October 2023. It was launched internationally in early October and is set to air on ABC Australia in mid-2024.

‘After the Party’ tells the story of Penny. Played by Kiwi actress Robyn Malcolm, Penny’s world implodes when she accuses her ex-husband Phil of a sex crime, and nobody believes her.

Filming took place last summer. Locations spanned from Wellington’s south coast beaches and bays, to Mākara, Johnsonville, and Lower Hutt’s Alicetown.

After more than 30 years in the industry, Kiwi-born Helen’s first time filming in Wellington was a positive experience.

“I loved shooting in Wellington. It’s so compact, varied, and welcoming. People are eager to help and tolerant of film crews.

“Whether we were shooting in schools, playgrounds, nightclubs or on beaches we found it very easy. The proximity of such varied locations allowed us to move a lot and get a much richer look to the series for the scale of our budget.”

The Sydney-based Lingo Pictures’ founder/producer was looking for a small city as a film location, surrounded by steep hills, that was a little wild with plenty of wildlife.

“Wellington gave us all that. Once we chose Wellington, we realised how perfect it was and how seldom it’s seen on screen as itself.”

Helen Bowden

Mākara is one of Helen’s favourite locations.

“The hills with the wind turbines, the rough seas, the lonely shacks and the piles of driftwood eloquently spoke of our lead character’s inner turmoil — a lot of production value right there.”

The other thing Helen loves is the way Wellington’s houses are stacked on the hills.

“It is incredibly picturesque and quite unlike anywhere else in the world.”

It isn’t hard for Helen to see why Wellington is a designated UNESCO City of Film.

“Wellington is highly unusual in the world for the number and quality of the cast and crew based here. You wouldn’t expect such a small place to have the level and sophistication of crew that it does. We have Peter Jackson and Fran Walsh, Richard Taylor, Tania Rodger, and Taika Waititi to thank for that.

“While none of the originators of the project were from Wellington we used a lot of local talent for cast and crew. They were just fantastic, we were blown away.”

‘After The Party’ was born out of Robyn and screenwriter Dianne Taylor’s frustration with the lack of decent roles for middle-aged women. They decided to do something about it and joined forces to create the series.

Robyn’s character Penny, best described as hard, tough, and a battler, is reflective of Wellington’s environment, says Robyn.

“It’s rough, it’s rocky, and there are all those little inlets that sort of come in on your life.”

Some of Helen’s most-loved scenes are of Penny cycling all over Wellington. When she wasn’t battling up hills against the wind, she had her grandson Walt in the child seat.

“There’s a marvellous scene where she’s cycling along Island Bay with all the fishing boats behind her and Walt on the back.”

Shooting during one of the capital’s best summers meant consistently fine days and long twilights for filming.

“And when the weather did turn wild, it came up so well on screen,” says Helen.

“Wellington truly is a fantastic looking place, it’s a wonderful film location and a very cost-effective place to work.”

A production still from the series After the Party filmed in Wellington. Penny (Robyn Malcolm) rides a bicycle with Walt (played by Ziggy O'Reilly) in the rear seat with a body of water and a cloudy sky in the background.