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48hr Challenge 2018, Sydney Participant: Palepa-Sabrina Timu


Uli Latukefu, Palepa-Sabrina Timu and John Tui at the Australian Premiere of 'The Legend of Baron To'a'


Can you introduce yourself in a few sentences?

My name is Palepa-Sabrina Timu. I am of Sāmoan heritage, born and raised here in Sydney, Australia. I identify as a storyteller, more particularly in acting and have developed a new love for writing.


How did you hear of the 48hr challenge in 2018 with PFF and what inspired you to apply?

I went through a really rough patch in 2018. I never had any thought that I would see myself as an artist now. I needed a distraction to get back on track with where I’m at and the PFF 48hr challenge was the word of mouth that was going around on social media. I entered, not knowing anything about the arts, about acting, about anyone to do with PFF. So on day 1, as I walked into ICE (Information and Cultural Exchange), I immediately knew I was in the right place. I look back and count my blessings. The 48hr challenge is the foundation and has helped me become the artist I am today.


Can you explain (for those that don’t know what the challenge is), what the 48hr challenge is:

The challenge is a space designed by the PFF team for all artists across all niches in the film industry to come together, collaborate and share ideas and stories about what they want to see on the screen. It’s a 3 day project - 2 days to make the film, and 1 day which consisted of a workshop, led and facilitated by guest mentors, Karin Williams, Bobby Romia and Cara Flores-Mays. After a 3hr tutorial from them, the participants were divided into 2 teams and were given a budget of $200 to create a short film. The theme was ‘underdog’ so we worked to collaborate our ideas into a film we wanted, which was later screened that weekend as part of the Pasifika Film Festival.


Who was on your team and what was your prime role?

We had a team of 5. Obviously me, who co-wrote the story and acted. Junior Meredith who was our DOP. Coco Karey who was our director. Didi de Graaf who was our writer and actor. And Carmen Smith, who was our soundie.


Palepa-Sabrina Timu (left) and Didi de Graaf (right)


What adversities did you encounter during the 48hr process and how did you overcome them?

We actually worked really well as a team. Our adversities were our appetites within the actual challenge hahaha. Our budget covered food and use of locations - we used 2 churches. It was hard but such a beautiful thing - especially with that fa’a’alo’alo aspect, respect for our people, our ministers, seeing them be gifted with food and money. We used 2 churches, where half of our budget was gone. The main adversity that I found personally was sourcing actors at such short notice. As a team, we had intentionally planned to be behind the scene, but looked around at each other and jumped in using the resources we had due to time restraints. We used what we had and pushed on forward.


Looking back, is there anything that you would have done differently?

For me, no. It was my first time. Looking back at the actual film now, I see it as my solid foundation which has encouraged me to pursue a career in the arts. Some people would see there are things to be fixed and adhered to, but I would do it again in a heartbeat - no questions asked.


PFF are going to run another 48hr challenge this year, do you think you’ll enter again this time? What would you do differently?

I would enter again this time for sure. It’s something good to be a part of. I met so many amazing people, a lot who I’m close to today are from that project. Eventually that led me to meeting and connecting with other Pasifika artists too, people that I’d call ‘family for life’. Anything I’d do differently? To be honest, I don’t know until I’m in that space again. But if I could think of something, it would be to yield more with our artists. I found that was my weakness. “It’s your idea, that’s my idea too”. And at the end of the day our main goal was to have the audience leave with a strong message to what we portrayed and wanted to say collectively.

Palepa-Sabrina Timu (far right) with fellow classmates from ACA (Actors Centre Australia)

Palepa-Sabrina Timu (far left) with fellow classmates from ACA (Actors Centre Australia)


As someone of Pasifika heritage, what does it mean to have spaces like PFF exist?

As a Pasifika person, it means a lot. Growing up as someone where negative stereotypes are projected on people like me is the result of those who weren’t necessarily from the Moana but were writing about our experiences. It’s such an important time to celebrate and recognise us as people. So to have a space where our stories can be told by our selves, is a way we can reclaim that. This isn’t to say we don’t have those struggles, of course we do and it exists, but we have come a long way as a people, and it’s about time we show that side too. To have a space like PFF that lets us do that is pretty amazing. This is our time, to reconnect with our own communities, break bread with the elders and find out what is breaking in their hearts. And for us to take that into account, make and create stories, that will live past our existence.


Do you have a Pasifika artist that you aspire towards, look up to?

She’s not a big name (for kinda mainstream sorta thing). But if there’s someone I could aspire to be like, it’s Regina Lepping, from the Solomon Islands. She is soooo amazing. You need to look her up. She works for the United Nations and is a youth activist. She was nominated for a prize with the Sydney Film Festival for the film, Blackbirds. The work she does as an artist, a woman, someone of Pasifika heritage, she is a voice - a force to be reckoned with. From what I’ve read about her, she’s had such a great foundation and support from her Father. Someone who encouraged her to always speak her mind and truths about being a woman.


How has the 48hr challenge helped you to become the artist you are today?

In 2018 I was actually working fulltime as a nurse. But it wasn’t until the screening of the works we’d created for the 48hr challenge that made me realise that I was meant to be an actor. I was meant to have gone through a rough patch then. This was just part of my journey and my story. And after that I immediately started looking at the various drama schools that we had in Sydney. I enrolled into ACA as part of the 6 month foundation acting program. And it was the best investment of $10,000 I put into myself. I came across many obstacles within that mostly being the only Pasifika person. I found it hard but also very motivating. I knew the responsibility I had to my family and people, and it was kept in the back of my mindset through the entire process. I did that full time whilst working as a nurse.


Have you worked on any projects since 2018 and the PFF 48hr challenge?

To name a few, earlier this year I worked on a project called ‘Untitled’ by Gabriel Faatau’uu-Satiu in the sound department. The project was one like no other working with an all Sāmoan cast/crew. But after working with him and maintaining an ongoing working relationship, he’s cast me in a short film trilogy series of his titled ‘Breaking Bread’ in the lead role as Sina. He’s enabled me to do a script analysis of the character (which is something I was obsessed with doing at drama school). I have been booked for a few ads but due to COVID-19, it’s been put on hold for now. So mostly just being on my own, working on and developing my craft independently as well. For example, I even worked briefly doing promo work. It helped me with confidence but mostly improvisational skills, something I did lack while studying drama. I am doing a bit of writing too, but that's about it. Sorry, that was a lot hahahaha.

Palepa-Sabrina on the set of ‘Untitled’ dir. Gabriel Faatau’uu-Satiu


Do you have any advice for any Pasifika people interested in PFF, working in the industry and doing the 48hr challenge?

My advice is to go for it, don’t look back. If not now, when? If not, who will? The way I see it, us as Pasifika people, we can spare so much time of what is needed from elders and our extended families, but there comes a time and place to check in with yourself daily. We are selfless and always serving our people. And it’s beautiful. But I think it’s so important to find a balance. Check in with yourself. Find out what you want to do. Conform to you. If this is what you want to do, go for it!


Any last words?

Shout out to the PFF team! Thank you for this space and giving me the opportunity to come into my own person. I hope and look forward to seeing and connecting with more Pasifika creatives who are just as passionate as I am about telling stories.

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