Michael BennettScreenwriter | Director | Author

Michael Te Arawa Bennett (of the Ngāti Pikiao and Ngāti Whakaue people) has written and directed many hours of prime-time television drama, children’s drama, and comedy in his native New Zealand. He co-created and co-devised the international award-winning children’s drama Kaitangata Twitch, and was head writer or episode writer on prime-time drama series including New Zealand’s most popular home-grown series ever, Outrageous Fortune, and Mataku (the Māori Twilight Zone). In 2013 Michael devised and wrote all 20 episodes of the comedy/musical/drama web-series The Factory.

Michael’s telemovie In Dark Places, based on his book by the same name, screened on TVNZ in July 2018 and was nominated for 11 awards at the 2019 NZ TV Awards, winning Best Feature Drama and earning Michael the award for Best Director for Drama. The film recounts the true story of the worst miscarriage of justice in New Zealand that saw Teina Pora spend 21 years in gaol for a crime he did not commit.

Michael is currently working on a true crime feature about one of the most notorious murders in UK criminal history. He is also developing a high concept procedural, an adaptation of an original graphic novel The Ballad of Helen and the Go-Go Ninjas, a wartime screenplay about a Māori soldier in the Korean war, and three Chinese co-productions. For a full CV please contact


  • He confessed to a crime he didn’t commit and spent 21 years in jail. How did it happen?
  • Teina Pora, a 17-year-old car thief, was wrongly convicted and sentenced to life in prison for the murder of Susan Burdett, who had been beaten to death with the softball bat she kept next to her bed for her own protection.
  • Tim McKinnel, en ex-cop turned private investigator, discovered the long forgotten case 18 years later, saw an injustice had been done and set out to win Teina’s freedom.
  • Reaching from the mean streets of South Auckland to the highest court in the Commonwealth, this is the story not just of Tim’s quest, but also of how an innocent man who was left rotting in a prison cell for two decades found the inner strength to rise above the dark places to which he had been condemned.
  • “Amazing. Almost novel-like in its writing… Deeply affecting… Beautifully pulls together all the elements of the case in one very cleverly crafted history… The book made me laugh and cry… Comprehensive and impressive.” Paula Penfold
  • “Pacy, accessible and important. A bracing read.” Russell Brown
  • “A compelling true crime story. In Dark Places puts our justice system under the microscope… Enough intrigue to rival any of the top rating true crime drama series…” Aroha Awarau – Mana Magazine
  • Published by Paul Little Books [To purchase, go to Publisher]

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