Abba-Rose Dinah Vaiaoga-Ioasa on Mama's Music Box

Posted Wednesday 09 Dec 2020

Abba-Rose Dinah Vaiaoga-Ioasa on Mama's Music Box

Lockdown inspired a number of amazing screen projects, and we've enjoyed showing yours off in eNews! For this last issue of eNews we have Mama's Music Box, produced by Abba-Rose Dinah Vaiaoga-Ioasa and screening in selected cinemas now!

Check out the trailer here

Keen to get working after the first lockdown, Abba-Rose Dinah Vaiaoga-Ioasa and her writer-director brother Stallone came up with a challenge for themselves: the pair, who already have several successful features under their belts, decided to make a self-funded feature film in just 30 days. They wanted to end the year on a high, and create an enjoyable film for the Pasifika audience. Oh - and to have it in cinemas before Christmas. Not too much to ask was it?

The resulting film, Mama's Music Box is a Christmas comedy. On Christmas Eve two grandchildren Matai (Unaloto Funaki) and Sam (Sieni Leo'o Olo) go looking for their grandmother's (Yvonne Maea-Brown in her third feature film role) music box - but both for very different reasons. What starts as a simple search turns into a wild chase as they uncover family secrets and unexpected obstacles in a race to get the perfect present before Christmas Day.

We talked to Abba Rose about how it all worked out.

WIFT: What was the inspiration behind the 30-day challenge?

Abba-Rose: After the first lockdown a lot of movies were getting pulled from cinemas or going straight online. We thought it was a good opportunity to make a movie and so we aimed to get it into cinemas by early December. The inspiration was the 48Hours film, but a feature version instead. We thought we'd do it ourselves first to see what was possible, then maybe next year invite others to do it.

WIFT: How many days did it actually take?

Abba-Rose: We started it on 16 October and finished 15 November, and that included brainstorming ideas, writing the script, casting, filming, the music and editing. We left the colour grading and sound out.

WIFT: Apart from the time constraint, what were some of the challenges you faced?

Abba-Rose: The budget was tiny, $25,000 - you'd use that to make a short film, not a feature! That meant even the brainstorming and scripting stages were difficult because we'd go round in circles with ideas; we knew if we wanted to get the film into cinemas it needed to be at a certain standard. Also it had to be entertaining to our primary audience of Pasifika people. And we had to think about casting and who would actually be available for that time.

The Art Department was a challenge. There was no dedicated art department! And we'd made it a Christmas film which we thought was a great idea since the film would hopefully be released in December. But we were filming in October so we were trying to source Christmas decorations and a Christmas tree just before Halloween! We had to ask family and friends if we could borrow some. But we made it work.

WIFT: What was easier than you'd expected?

Abba-Rose: Our composer Andrew Faletau, was with us in Auckland - normally he's in Sydney. He started on the first day and he brainstormed a lot, he had lots of ideas for the editor. Instead of using other tracks from other libraries we could use his actual work, which made workflow easier. Normally he sends a track through, we listen, then send our feedback, so it was quicker.

WIFT: How did you get the film into cinemas?

Abba-Rose: We touched base with Hoyts and Events cinemas before we started and so they were aware we had a film. They needed to see a draft after the 30 days and they were interested. Our audience doesn't get many feature films.

WIFT: Would you do it again?

Abba-Rose: Haha, I would after I've had some sleep! I would extend it to 40 days, for a feature or 45 and include the colour grading and sound. So the full film can be properly finished.

WIFT: What's the main thing you took away from the experience?

Abba-Rose: As much as it is hard, it is possible to make a feature film in 30 days! Also, Stallone and I were really grateful for our supporting cast, Tui Eddie Taualapini who was 86, and Yvonne Maea Brown who is 76. Working with them both on one project was an awesome and humbling experience for us. I think everyone's going to fall in love with them.

WIFT: What does your mum think of the film?

Abba-Rose: Mum was actually on the unit, she did the catering for us (as she has for our other films!) She thought it was entertaining but she was surprised how emotional she felt by the end. It's a funny film but also very heartfelt.