How and why did you get into the screen industry?
I have spent many years in the theatre as a storyteller. I have always had a love of visual image making. Over the past 20 years with our company The Conch I have explored Pacific stories through works such as Vula, Masi, Marama and The White Guitar. Our first collaboration with the Luafutu family in the making of The White Guitar, led to the play A Boy Called Piano. Through his courageous script Fa’amoana Luafutu brought the story of his time as a state ward in the boys homes to the stage as a “voice for the voiceless". We were due to tour in 2020 when Covid struck and, having always dreamt of making a film, we sidestepped as a team and translated the project into a documentary. This was a deep learning curve as I sought to translate my visual storytelling into a new medium. I was so blessed to have Jess Charlton as Cinematographer and Lala Rolls as Editor who were able to listen in a Pacific space and Katherine Wyeth’s meticulous producing skills. Moreover, I am blessed to have the love and trust of Fa’amoana, Matthias, Tāne and the Luafutu Aiga - my journey maybe how but their unflinching commitment to bringing the truth into the light is why.
What kind of things could you be doing day-to-day in your current role?
Being a small company and being a working mum there are many roles and many things to do! From driving my youngest son to school to creatively developing the stage play of A Boy called Piano due to tour nationally this year.
What strengths do you need to do your role?
The Strength to move between the intimacy of creating and the distance necessary to retain one’s objectivity on the material. To sit within the space of not knowing, to keep looking and refining and to not cave into pressure. To hold on to one’s way of seeing and one’s vision and to have the strength, trust and love of a team that can hold that space for you.
What are the things you love about it?
I love the frame of the screen and how this relates to the frame of the stage - and yet opens a whole new way of storytelling. I adore working with highly skilled people who can translate a vision into a reality. I love the editing process and how one can journey deeper into the essence of the story telling and the incredible impact of grading and colour, which like a lighting design can so transform the way the film is read. The process of working with Matthias Luafutu, as a very experienced film actor, taught me a lot and I loved the way he could lead, and I could follow. There is the team that makes the film and the team that stands by you. I love the Pacific women who have stood by me in telling their men’s story - none of it would be possible without two incredible women - Fa’amoana’s wife Carol Luafutu, the great heart who has held the whole journey together. And the dearly departed Losa Luafutu, Fa’amoana’s sister, whose blessing and trust set everything in motion. Vinaka, Vinaka, Vinaka Vakalevu.
What advice would you give to other women who want to make documentaries?
I have learnt so much from this journey.
Listen to yourself first and how you want to tell the story.
Listen to the story and how it wants to tell itself.
That there is a tremendous creative power in not knowing how, or what to do.