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Tom Scott

Tom Scott’s Biography

Last Updated:
20/05/2019, 11:05 am
Award for Patronage 2006 - Denis & Verna Adam
Tom Scott’s parodies of New Zealanders in the Dominion Post are iconic images. As well as political commentary, Tom, ONZM, has made a name for himself as a writer of prose and non-fiction, and as a film maker.

Tom Scott was born in England but migrated to New Zealand with his family when he was 18 months old. He is most famous for his work as a political writer and cartoonist with the New Zealand Listener and later the Dominion Post. However, Tom has also had considerable success as a writer and producer of documentaries, television programmes and his feature film Separation City, which was released in 2009.

Tom was political correspondent for the New Zealand Listener from 1973, illustrating his articles with cartoons. From 1984 to 1987 he worked for the Auckland Star before becoming editorial cartoonist for the Evening Post, now the Dominion Post, in 1987. Tom has received numerous accolades for his cartoons, winning the Qantas Award for Cartoonist of the year six times; 1990, 1992, 1993, 1995, 1996 and 1997. He also won the Qantas Award for Political Columnist of the Year in 1997 and 1998. Tom released a book of his work as a Cartoon Annual in 1992, 1992 and 1994.

It is impossible to talk about Tom Scott's life and work without the mentioning Sir Robert Muldoon. The Prime Minister's vocal dislike of Tom's difficult questions and scathing cartoon profiles put Tom in the centre of the political debate that dogged Muldoon's Government.

As well as political writing and satire, Tom has an interest in non-fiction writing; seen in his book The Great Brain Robbery (co-authored with Trevor Grice in 1996). This has also been expressed in documentary work. In 1997, Tom was commissioned by TVNZ to make a documentary on the life of Sir Edmund Hillary. The result was View from the Top (later named Hilary on Everest). Tom and Sir Edmund developed a strong friendship through the making of the film that continued until Sir Edmund's death in 2008. Hilary on Everest was sold to eight countries.

In 2003 Tom set up own production company, Direct Hit, with Danny Mulheron. Direct Hit has produced shows such as Seven Periods with Mr Gormsby and Reluctant Revolutionary. Direct Hit successfully marketed Mr Gormsby to Australian audiences, as it became the first New Zealand comedy to ever play on free-to-air television in Australia when taken up by ABC in 2005. Direct Hit co-produced Separation City in 2009.

Separation City is a "bittersweet comedy drama about falling out of love for the very first time." The story draws on Tom's own life and also the universal experiences of people that have gone through a divorce. The film is also in homage to Wellington, New Zealand, where much of the footage was shot.

Denis and Verna Adam selected Tom as recipient of a $10,000 donation made as part of the inaugural Arts Foundation Award for Patronage in 2006. On receiving this acknowledgement, Tom said: "I am pleased as punch to receive this exceedingly kind and totally unexpected grant from Denis and Verna. Their generous support of the arts over a long period of time is legendary. In particular, I am deeply appreciative of their stalwart support of the cartoon archive. Denis and Verna know that art supplies what life can't."