"HOW DO WE CONNECT WITH PEOPLE ON A HUMAN LEVEL TO JUST SAY, IT'S OK TO BE DIFFERENT"
– Vea Mafile'o & Jeremiah Tauamiti
Mapping Creative Hustle is a series of interviews with creative entrepreneurs connected to the Māngere Ōtāhuhu area. The interviewed were conducted by Ema Tavola with portrait photography by Vinesh Kumaran.
In your own words, what do you do for a living?
JT: Malosi Pictures is a production company that makes film and television content and also online content. We’re kind of transitioning out of TV, but Vea and I have both been working in TV as writers and directors and a little bit of producing, and we’re currently transitioning towards film. Vea and I are directing a feature documentary with funding from the New Zealand Film Commission (NZFC). Vea has worked on lots of films as an art director as well, and I am finishing off my second NZFC funded short film. We also do events which is Vea’s branch-off company called 'Talavou Design', doing dressing of live events. And I do a bit of acting as well.
Why do you do what you do?
VM: That's a good question, I think probably we realised that we are both pretty creative and we can't actually keep down 9 to 5 jobs. I guess it’s just something that we can't really escape from, it’s a way of doing something that we enjoy, and trying to make a living out of it, and it's something that we can take all our children along with us on the journey for most of the things that we do.
JT: I’ve always wanted to be a director so that’s why I do it, because I love it.
Have you had an epiphany that has led you to this path in life?
VM: Well, I know for me, getting into the industry has just been a bit of a rolling ball; it was never really something that I had anticipated going into, or even had ambitions of going into but these opportunities kept on presenting themselves. It started in art school when we had to do professional practice paper, that’s where I met the art director from 'Pacific Beat Street', and that’s where I ended up getting my first job in the industry. I was the bum girl on Pacific Beat Street, then a couple of years later Jerry started working there as the bum boy!
For me it was from art department, to camera, then someone gave me the opportunity to try directing, and I thought, ‘yeah, why not’! Then more opportunities came along, I got to produce a short film, and various segments for TV, and the video segments for the Pacific Music Awards. But for me, it has only been since I’ve been working on this documentary (For My Father’s Kingdom), in the editing process, where I’ve realised that this is what I really want to be doing.
The doco is still in post production and we should be finishing in a couple of months. It’s a personal story and I’ve been looking back at footage realising that I’ve actually been working on this for a really long time, since art school.
JT: For me it was actually a bad experience at one of my first jobs, and from then on I knew that if I had a production company it would hopefully really stand for Pacific values and our style of how to interact with people. It would be that our employees and the people we work with are like family and friends, and that’s the kind of production company that I wanted to have.
If there was one thing you could outsource to help you do more, or be more effective, what would it be?
VM: Accounts and accounting. Without a doubt. Someone to actually sit down and take control of the situation.
JT: But, as producers and directors, we are in leadership positions on projects which includes organising crew, so in that respect as far as outsourcing, that’s a normal part of production; you hire freelancers to do their job so that our job is done. In terms of the business side of things, we’ve started working with the Pacific Business Trust and they’ve been really helpful. Kim Tuaine is amazing, she doesn’t piss around when it comes to making money for your business, that’s what I like - she’s a straight shooter. She’s put us onto a really good tax lawyer to help sort out the tax side of things. These are the things you don’t get taught at film school.
VM: Or art school!
JT: It’s such a massive gap in your learning
What is something you wish you could do/find locally that would support you as a creative entrepreneur?
VM: Other collaborators like editors, camera people and sound people, rather than having to go and find soundies in town.
JT: There has been talk of creating a creative hub in a train station in Manukau, we both got emailed about it to see if we would be interested in using the service, but I don’t think it’s really feasible for us. I don’t think there’s actually a whole lot of P.I. creatives that need to go out of their home environment to work, because that’s the whole point of it – keeping overheads down.
VM: But, it might be good to meet local people who need video content done, to grow our client base.
What do you wish you could change in societal attitudes that would enable you and other creative entrepreneurs to thrive?
VM: I think there’s some people in today’s world that are really open to other cultures and ideas, and there’s still so many people who are very closed minded. People actually have to make that change themselves. So, for me it’s how do we connect with people on a human level to just say, it’s ok to be different.
JT: It’s a huge question. There’s this big push right now for more diverse voices in film, whether it be women or ethnic minorities playing lead roles.
VM: There’s this goal that by 2020, they want 50/50 equality in terms of films by male and female filmmakers getting funded. But if you’re not changing the people at the top, then heads and hearts are still going to be the same. We need systemic change so that there’s equality at the top, and not just in terms of gender, but ethnic representation.
What do you love about living and working in the Māngere-Ōtāhuhu area?
JT: I love living here, we’re surrounded by people who keep it real, because they’ve got nothing to lose. It feels like out here, so many people are who they are, nobody is pretentious and you can just be yourself. If I want to go out to a shop in a lavalava nobody cares and I feel right at home. I love living out here, there’s diversity, if I go a little bit more East, I’ll be in ‘China Town’ and if I go over here I’ll be in ‘Little Tonga’; I love it. Now, there are more and more Palagi coming out here, which is cool; they get to see how real it is and it changes the common misconceptions of what it’s like to live in South Auckland.
VM: I like living out here because it’s not as crowded as in Town, and there’s parking! It always just feels like a drama going into Town. We’re comfortable here and all our family is here.
Would you work or practice be different if you lived somewhere else?
JT: No, not really because our work is creative and so it’s fluid. We might work with a producer who lives overseas, we’re actually working with a producer who’s Hawaiian at the moment, or we might work with a producer who’s based in Wellington, so it doesn’t actually matter where we work; we could be based anywhere. But in saying that, out South we go to a lot of events in places like Māngere Arts Centre, so in that way we are influenced and inspired creatively by whatever is happening locally; I don’t feel like we’d get that in other parts of Auckland. For our recent work on the Auckland Museum exhibition, Volume South, we got to work with iconic and up-and-coming South Auckland musicians, and I don’t think we would’ve got that job if we didn’t live in South Auckland.
What inspires you to keep going when the going gets tough?
JT: The kids, family… my faith, but my faith enables me to look after my family, it’s pretty simple really.
VM:I try to finish what I start, it can be really hard but at the end of the day you’re only as good as your last credit, so you’re continuously striving to do better each time. For us, we’ve been given quite unique opportunities, and we know how hard it can be for people in our industry, so we have to show face and do our best work every time.
JT: We’ve had knock backs on other opportunities, but you have to have that get up and go attitude.
VM: And for the documentary, For My Father’s Kingdom, the reality is that your parents aren’t here forever, I know that this doco was meant to be made. That’s inspiring.