• Pasifika Film Festival

Talanoa with the talented - TODD KAREHANA

Interviewed and transcribed by Gabriel Faatau’uu-Satiu

Self portraits of Todd Karehana

Tell us about yourself:

Kia ora, my name is Todd Christian Ranginui Karehana. I am Māori and I was born in a small town called Kawerau which is in the Bay of Plenty, North island of New Zealand. I am a filmmaker. I studied film at University while also gaining a Masters in Drama and Directing. And I have been working predominantly as a writer within the industry for the last 3-4 years.

What area of the film industry do you primarily work in and other areas you dabble in?

Predominantly as a writer which I mentioned, but I have worked in crew as a 1st AD for many projects, co-produced and produced a few short projects too. I’ve also worked as a social media manager for 2 television series here in Aotearoa. One is Ahikāroa and the other one is Aroha Bridge. I like to think that I am multidisciplinary, but ultimately all storytelling related.

Did you always envision this for yourself? Was there a defining moment for you?

I grew up going through many phases. At one point, I remember wanting to be a model.

Same. Haha.

Right? I think everyone secretly wants to be fab and imagine themselves on that runway. But it changed as I grew older. I wanted to be a kickboxer, even though I had never kickboxed in my life. I even wanted to work in fashion as a buyer for a clothing store/big brands. I wanted to study psychology even. It’s been such a winding journey.

But it wasn’t until I was in my post-graduate years (5 years ago) that I knew I wanted to do this full-time. I did a course in documentary directing and after making a short doco - called the Kweenz of Kelston, I really fell in love with storytelling. I never felt so much aroha and passion towards anything of that level in my life previously.

I know a bit about you and your experience growing up. Do you want to talk about some of those adversities?

I was born and raised in a small saw mill town called Kawerau. A population of approximately 7000. And I was born in a family of 10, so 9 siblings. We were raised mostly by a single mother who was on the benefit. We were a low income family that struggled a lot with finances. It was tough times for my Mum. I went from primary/intermediate and college in Kawerau. The townspeople were mostly Māori and/or Pakeha. I remember one Sāmoan family, one Chinese and a few indian families. But other than that, Māori/Pakeha dominated.

It was quite tough particularly for me growing up. When I was 10 years old I lost one of my brothers. It impacted me heaps emotionally for a long time and will do for the rest of my life. I was also bullied for being effeminate. People teased me with the assumption of being gay. And I didnt think I was. Gay for me (at the time) meant dressing up in woman’s clothing, liking men. And I didn’t have that realisation until I was 18. By then I was out of Kawerau and living in Australia.

The Spectacular Imagination of the Pōhara Brothers - Written and directed by Todd Karehana

How have those adversities shaped who you are now as a filmmaker?

The first 3 films that I made explore all those struggles. At University, a little 3mins short film I made where the lead boy (who was 8 years old) who was struggling to come to terms with his brother dying. Mostly set in a marae, a tangi of sorts taking place. That was the first piece of art that I made that explored my own brother’s loss. And it was very healing.

When I made my 2nd film, called, ‘The Spectacular Imagination of the Pohara Brothers’ about 2 young Māori boys trying to raise money to pay for their mother’s power bill. That related to my own struggle growing up too. Again it was from the kid’s point of view but I did it in a way to not show ‘being poor’ but highlight how upset the kids were for their Mum. In my own experiences, I never knew growing up that we were poor. Thinking about my Mum and how she struggled to put food on the table etc, seeing how sad she was all the time, it was disheartening. And it made sense now knowing that being poor is what made her sad. So this film really explored that as well as the relationship between 2 brothers.

Now heading into my Masters and doing my thesis, I wrote ‘My Brother Mitchell’, which explicitly explored the loss of my own brother through my experiences and my Mothers. It was set in a tangi, where the child version of Todd takes his brother on a journey, somewhere important to their relationship. Along that journey, the actions of child Todd has some impact on the Mother where she ends up having to look for them. Through that film, I explored how I was feeling about losing my brother, Mitchell. and the impact I had on him dying, if any. I also had to explore my own memories, because I was young when he died, so I had to talk to my sisters and explore their memories of him also. Overall, the experience of making this film was a poetic exploration of all those things related to him.

Looking back at all the work I’ve done, my struggles are definitely at the forefront and key force to what makes up my stories and storytelling. All of my films are based on something real and something that has happened to me. Something that I’ve experienced. I find that place of creating, you’ll get this being a creative person yourself, but it’s something that is so fruitful for me because it comes from a real place and something I want to share with the world.

The Kweenz of Kelson is another film of yours that in some ways comes from your experiences, your struggles as a queer person. Can you tell us a little bit about that film, and that experience for you?

I did this film in my first year of postgraduate studies. We had to do a 15min short documentary film. And I was trying to think of ideas/themes that I wanted to talk about. So to give some context, during the age of 20-24, I was working for a fashion retail store in Newmarket. I was on the unemployment benefit after they closed down and I was invited to a Queer Support Camp. It was organised by the NZ Aids Foundation and I was there as a tuakana. The camp had kids as young as 11 to as old as 28. And it was a safe space, retreat, learning environment where we got to learn queer rights, history of queer in Aotearoa. It was a chance to bond with new voices but also those still coming to terms and understanding their sexuality. Anyway, I met some amazing fa’afafine, akavaine, fakaleiti who called themselves the Kweenz of Kelston because the majority of them had attended Kelston Boys High School. Anyway, after the camp, I kept in touch with all of them. A few were attending AUT and I’d visit them for lunch when I could. But I loved seeing them in their authenticity and it inspired me to actually go to university myself. So at the age of 24, I signed up, did my film degree. I always wanted to give them a space to tell their stories because they were so amazing, talented, smart and vibrant.

So when the opportunity came to do a short documentary, I asked them if they were keen, would they be interested, and they were all on board. They even suggested that I get in touch with some of the younger Kweenz that are currently in high school to really highlight the contrast as a before and/or after. And I really wanted to highlight all their voices as a way to show people the reality of these beautiful people both during and after school. So I followed them on their journey as part of an inter-school talent quest held specifically in West Auckland. So myself, a class friend and my boyfriend followed them with a camera and mic while they were practicing. We also followed the actual competition and them into their homes and they shared about what their lives were like. That whole experience culminated in the short doco, The Kweenz of Kelston. Looking back, I feel so honoured to have been able to sit in that space, to be in a space with people who shared so openly, to talk about their place in the world, and talk about their ongoing fight. It’s important. And so inspiring. I love them so much.

That’s so beautiful. I actually recall this short-documentary being part of a gallery exhibition. It’s where I saw it many years ago.

It was part of the Poly Typical Exhibition at Fresh Gallery in Otara. It was actually such a privilege to be part of that exhibition. The film was sitting alongside other Pasifika and Māori artists. To really be sitting in a space that spoke directly towards queerness. It was a really beautiful experience. And I am so lucky!

Do you want to talk about some of the film circuits and journeys your films have played at? This is your chance to humble brag any awards won, talk about going to a few international festivals which I know. Let’s talk about some of those successes.

Success for me, in the storytelling sense obviously, is finishing the project. It’s really tough! First you have to come up with the idea, then plan and do the shoot, edit, and then deliver a project that speaks not only to the vision, but to you as the storyteller. Just knowing that its finishing is a joyful experience. I’m so thankful that the works that I have been creating have resonated with different people across the world and different programmers from other film festivals. A number of my films have screened at a Māori film festival called the Wairoa Film Festival and they play in the wharenui in Nuhaka. And that was such a beautiful experience in the way that the film was played directly for my people, in that intimate environment. There’s nothing else like it. And it was a great and humbling way to start my filmmaking journey.

The Spectacular Imagination of the Pohara Brothers was the 2nd film I ever made. It screened at the Wairoa Film Festival and won several awards there. Best lead actress for Whirimako Black, best lead actor for Sonny-Beau Ngaheu and best script I think. I know it won 3 but definitely for those 2 actors. Then later it played at the imagiNATIVE festival in Canada which you know is the big indigenous festival and it was even part of the Pasifika Film Festival a while back. My Brother Mitchell also screened at those festivals aswell as the NZIFF (New Zealand International Film Festival) as part of Ngā Whanaunga Māori Pasifika Shorts in 2018.

Also, before I forget, I made another short film which was part of a Spark mobile competition where everyone had to make a 1 minute short film that was shot portrait style to suit the viewing on a mobile phone. Anyway, I didn’t win haha. But I came third, which was still really awesome. So going back to your question earlier about success, I just want visibility for my stories. I know they’re not for everyone. But I’ve received so many beautiful messages from individuals who have been impacted by my works. If it has helped with someone’s healing, or if it’s helped someone process something they’re going through, then as a storyteller, as a filmmaker, I’ve done my best.

Light. A short 1 minute film exploring the complexities of being a light skinned PoC. Todd Karehana was the director and placed 3rd in the Spark competition.

Do you want to tell us how you became part of the Ahikāroa world?

Yes! Christina Asher, who you know is a casting director here, heard about a new, young, rangatahi drama and were looking for new writers and new voices. Anyway, she put my name forward to some producers. Then they reached out, we had a hui, and I just explained my journey as a filmmaker and the types of stories I wanted to tell. Thankfully from that hui, I was selected to be part of the storyline writing team.

Do you want to talk about the difference between writing film and TV? You know this but I began writing for TV which in comparison to film is a whole nother ball game. Do you want to elaborate on your experience having studied film?

It was a BIG learning experience. At uni, I majored in film. And we had the luxury to take our time with writing one story and really explore it. So time was a luxury in a way we don’t have it in the real world. With studies also, it came with a class that offered some much wisdom through constructive feedback and people to bounce off ideas with. There was so much freedom in the learning experience to do that.

Whereas in actual TV writing, particularly through Ahikāroa, we worked on a time constraint, allowing 6-8 weeks to get everything written, particularly in the storyline phase. And the speed of how we worked in comparison to my experience in studies accelerated by 500%. I didn’t have the luxury of a few extra weeks to mull over one idea, explore one idea etc.

Was it your first experience writing with other writers? Writing film, although can be a collaborative process, is still a very individual one. Do you want to talk about that?

Thinking about it, yes! It was my first experience being part of a team of writings, particularly in the storylining phase. We had a team of 8. I wasn’t used to exploring character and story in a group setting. I mean, in university, we are working on our own project. Yes, we get feedback from our peers and lecturers etc, but ultimately we had to go away and write these ourselves. This was different. Learning the politics of collaboration was interesting and a huge learning experience. I loved it. Very giving experience but also a very rewarding experience. The knowledge that is shared collectively is huge. And others would always turn your own idea and make offers with things that I’d never think about. Knowing there is an end goal and seeing the progress on the table as each contribution (whether they be big or small) still played a vital part in the bigger story we wanted to share.

Having now worked in that environment, how has that impacted you moving forward? Is there something you can take in that experience that will help translate into making more film?

I worked with Ahikāroa for 4 seasons. In my first, I was there as a storyline writer and was offered an opportunity to write actual scripts. Then in the 2nd season of my experience there, I was writing storylines and scripts and was then offered an opportunity to become a script editor. Following that in seasons 3 and 4, I was writing storylines, scripts and again a script editor. I’ve written, looking back, about 20 hours of script content on screen. Which is like writing 12 feature length films haha. I learned so much in that whole experience. Understanding character particularly was a huge part of my experience. I got to really delve into the psychology of a character’s motivation. What drives them? What motivates them? What is their next action? All of these things and learning a character’s instincts to move them in a way that serves the bigger story.

My favourite thing that I learned also was overlapping storylines, which you obviously know. Generally, we followed a formula of 3 main storylines. But how do we know which ones take precedent. Which ones serve the bigger story. Which ones need to take a back seat in order to tell whatever the narrative is. High points Turning points.. Omg I’m just throwing out scriptwriting terms to you. Which you already know. It’s like a dance with how these interweaving stories can serve a big story.

This is essentially my world and what I contribute as a storyteller myself. It’s exciting! But going back to my question, which I think you’re heading in. What did this experience do to serve you as a filmmaker?

It taught me to write fast.

Oh, 100% yeah!

Like I can write a full episode in 2-3 days. I know some people who can probably write faster. And I know some people who may see this as a shock. Writing is a long process. But TV writing really teaches you to write quickly. I also learned working with others, writing with others, reading others works, it all helped me actually. Because the knowledge shared on those tables is so rich. Everyone comes in with different levels of experience obviously. But we are all treated equally. And the collaborative process really allowed me to grow as an individual writer but also how I write with others. I learned heaps from some of those who may be considered less experienced than me. But that is the beauty of it all. It’s reciprocal.

But going back to your question, apologies for the rambling haha. Working at Ahikāroa really taught me about analysing. Being critical in a constructive way not only for myself but with the other amazing writers I worked with. Then there was the experience of really understanding the story and being able to contribute ideas that were tightly connected to the characters and plot.

Let's talk about the budgeting side of writing for TV. In my experiences, people (meaning friends and family who are generally not writers) have always asked me to contribute crazy storylines that require additional scenes of new spaces, explosions, additional characters left, right and centre. I don’t think they understand how this works haha.

I’m so glad you brought that up. For me, being realistic about budgeting is a HUGE factor which people don’t understand. Working on a project like this that has a fixed amount of funds, you can only include so many things like explosions. Who wants to see 10 explosions in one season though? Haha. But thinking economically smarter without compromising too much of the storyline and journey for these characters. I mean, yes, we like the big stuff. But there is always a way to get the same story in a less crazy, more intimate setting, without it. So it is about being smarter.

Ahikāroa. A scripted drama series on Māori Television. A show that follows rangatahi Māori as they navigate love, life and loss in the big city. Todd Karehana was a senior writer, storyliner and script editor on the show for 4 seasons.

So, I grew up as a 1st generation, Sāmoan, born and raised in Aotearoa. So my parents projected the migrant dream on me wanting a better life. Wanting me to pursue medicine, law, teaching etc. Obviously that didn’t work out for them, sorry haha. But they are proud of me. I guess it’s different for you, seeing you are indigenous to Aotearoa, but did you have a similar experience? Was your family really supportive toward your career as an artist?

Firstly, I want to say that storytelling and filmmaking to me, are doctors in a way.

Yasssss! And my thoughts exactly. Thank you!

We create artistic work that heals people that alters the perceptions of everybody that has tangible impacts on our lives, our physical selves. The way we move through society is impacted by the media. So I feel like we are doctors in a way.

Going back to your question, my family has always been supportive of what I want to do. So if I was to change my career choices every year, my family would 1000% continue to support me. I know their main thing is for me to be happy and I am. I feel so privileged. Which I am aware of for those who might not share that same luxury.

Some of the topics that you’ve covered in your film, actually most, speak of your personal experiences. About your upbringing. About your family. More specifically, your Mum. How did they react to those works?

A big thing for me in those works that I create, and a key process for me was to ensure that I didn’t trigger or hurt any of the people who are so dear and close to me.

Can you talk me through that process a bit?

I’d sit and talk with them. I’d always ask if they were okay with me telling the story, how do they feel etc. And for a lot of the time, I had to remind them also that the work may bring up some things that are painful, but it’s also an outlet and part of my healing. They always understood that the stories I shared are told from my perspective, the way I experienced those things myself. But, it never spoke in a way that was 100% reflective of them. I’m just really lucky that I had a really supportive network of people, and family around me who understood all of that because we spoke about it first.

Do you have any advice you’d give our rangatahi? Or advice for any youth or anyone new and emerging who are interested in pursuing the arts but might not have the luxury support both you and I have.

Everything comes from love. I’m not making my films because I want to hurt people. But also sharing them in a way that helps me heal. And the cool thing about that is the ability it has to resonate with others, help them with their healing journey and process. I know a lot of people who have lost someone, a child, a brother, struggled to pay their bills, or have kids to feed. Everything I do comes from that place of love. So my advice to other filmmakers and people who create or want to create, have that network of people who love and support you too.

Also, know that you can’t please everyone. There are always going to be people who might not agree with what you say, that might irritate them in a bad way, but know those conversations are important too. Film has the power to make change. Help people see a different perception. So talking about topics that are a bit taboo, a bit yucky, those are fine too. All in all, it's part of pushing society to change for the better.

Speaking on society to change for the better, this is an awkward question but one that I am battling constantly particularly here in Sydney. Where do we draw that line that separates but also unifies Māori as Pasifika?

Great question. Yes I am of Māori descent and I consider myself as a Pasifika person because we are all connected to the Pacific Ocean. In saying that, the Pacific Ocean is such a pakeha ideology. Where we demarcate Aotearoa, with Australia, with other parts of the Pacific came from whakaaro and ideas that are not Māoricentric, or not Pasifikacentric. Like, who decided this is the boundary. So I’m skeptical how we demarcate from each other because of that.

In saying that, the way Māori are separated here in Aotearoa from Pasifika and its importance because of te tiriti o waitangi. This is our land. This is our home. So the expectations that we have of this government to recognise our place in Aotearoa and re-right a lot of the wrongdoings. These are experiences that aren’t directly shared with other Pasifika nations, because they have their own unique relationships with the NZ government and their own governments in the islands they are from.

So it’s important to distinguish between the two for equality as the indigenous people, but it is also just as important that we do call ourselves Pasifika and that we stand in solidarity of our brothers/sisters, and our cousins in the wider Pasifika community to feel supported here on our land. So glad we got to talk about this. The importance of both.

The Kweenz of Kelston. A short doco that follows a group of teenage fa’afafine, takaatapui, transgender students from Kelston Boys High School that compete in a high school talent quest. Todd Karehana was the director and editor.

Let’s kinda break away from the serious questions, I want to ask a fun one. So, if I could give you all the money in the world, offer the best resources which you’ll have at your disposal, what would that project look like? This is the chance to project what your big dream is, without being humble.

I’d make a documentary about a Māori filmmaker, myself haha. But giving all this money to people of colour to make stories about who they are and the way they see the world. I’d also want to create a platform, the biggest media platform, where those stories can sit and be shared with everyone.

And... try to destroy, hahaha...

SAY IT! Don’t hold back haha. I don’t have money. Speak those dreams into existence my friend.

Hahahahahaha. I’d want to expose all the billionaires and people in power.

Ooh. Love! Well, let’s go find that money.

In another vein, I really want to make a huge drama. I love sci fi. I really love it. I think it has real power. We can create an image of the world we want and point out the things we don’t want in that image. I’d tell an epic Sci-Fi that has so many people of colour, queer people both in front and behind the scene. I really want to write and direct it. But also give the opportunity to others. I have a brother actually who is a filmmaker. So maybe I’d co-write and co-direct this with him.

What’s stopping you from achieving that? What needs to change and how?

Nothing is stopping me actually. But there are things in my day to day journey that are definitely slowing down the process.

Do you want to elaborate on this?

Particularly as someone who is still very new and emerging, there are funding barriers. Sometimes, it's very vague expectations from the proposal stage. Things are very transparent when trying to apply. So when it comes to selecting who is successful, that process in my experience is always quite biased towards someone who is more established or people who are friends and in those circles of those on the panel. The application process and judging is something that I really want to change.

The amount of money, especially for newcomers and emerging people, needs to be increased. Currently, for Fresh Shorts, the NZFC offers $15k. And with that amount of money, people are still working for free or being paid way below what they are worth so often having to work in favours.

More specifically, for Māori and Pasifika funding, there is a lot less for us, which is strange because it's our films that are being recognised the most.

We are often competing against each other, which is another issue in itself, right?

Right! It’s either Pasifika and Māori fund. Or Pasifika and other funds. ‘Other’ meaning every other ethnicity that is not Māori and not white. Which is another issue in itself.

Of course. I just think that there should be a funding that is specific to Māori . I know it’s slowly changing. But going back to your korero earlier in relation to te tiriti o waitangi, there should be Māori funding. For Māori only. No one else.

We’d love our own Māori Film Commission. I don’t want to be a little wing. We’re always going to be treated as a tick in a box. We’re not a priority. It has to change.

I want to see other Māori organisations like Te Mangai Pango get just as much money as NZ on air. I just hope that diversity becomes a key pillar of any organisation, film related or not. It’s 2020. I’m so tired of us being a side piece to what is considered the norm.

I guess the big dream, and here I go again, is to see the model of this industry keeping people safe mentally and emotionally, paying them what they deserve, but also having the workforce to be as colour and diverse to reflect society, and also the people in power to reflect that too.

My Brother Mitchell. A short drama that follow a young boy on a journey of grief in the wake of his brothers death. Todd Karehana was the writer and director. A short drama that was created as his masters thesis at the University of Auckland.

Who are your Pasifika influences? Any specific to Māori culture? Film related? Or not?

This might sound cheesy, but everyone that I’ve interacted with has inspired me in some way. I’m learning so much about myself. And while learning about myself and interacting with people, I also learn about them, how to make myself better around people and the way I treat them too. They might treat me a certain way, and it inspires me to do the same for others. Some might teach me something I didn’t know before, and I’m inspired by their point of view on the world. So everyone I come across.

In relations to filmmaking, I am inspired by Barry Barclay. He was a Māori filmmaker who has passed now. And an academic. His works really resonated with me. I just love how he sees the film sector and how it can make it more Māori.

I also love the work of Merata Mita. And her foresight and politics.

Oh, I just remembered that they were lecturers. Have you met any of them?

No, so they both taught at my university, which you obviously know. And it’s sad that I never got to meet them both. Their works mean so much to me. It really spoke to me as a Māori filmmaker in the making.

If they were both alive today, what would you say to them?

I’d say thank you, for waking me up to all of the changes that need to happen in this world. To make it a better world. A more colourful world. I’d ask them if they could help us. Even though they have passed, their work is not done. We need to push for more fairness and equality in the film sector.

Is there anything you are working on currently?

Well, we’ve been on lockdown for about 2 months. And I thought I was going to be super productive, get my laptop out and really focus on banging out heaps of work. But I’ve just been adapting and trying to cope with the reality of the covid situation. In saying that, the last 2 weeks, I have been writing a short film. It is fun, a different tone to what I’m used to writing. There aren't themes around loss, poverty. It does talk about struggle but in different ways. I have a few things on my slate, hold on. Yup, I have about 17 things on my slate. Obviously they are in much early stages and things I want to progress bit by bit over the rest of the year. Some of them are web series, one focusing on a queer story. A few feature length film ideas, and many one line ideas, some just character ideas which will eventually evolve into whatever works they speak into.

Did you recently do something with Coco Solid?

I’m co-producing a short film for her through Toi Whakaari. She is amazing. And actually, she is a close tuakana model and someone that I look up to in a similar regard to Merata and Barry. Oh my gosh, there are now some many people coming to mind. And I’m afraid I’ll forget someone. Anyway, going back to Coco’s Toi Whakaari short film, the story was locked, crewed up, organised actors to come to Auckland. 2 days before lockdown, we basically had to put everything on hold.

What did that mean for you financially?

Thankfully, alot of the services and providers we had contracted for the film were able to offer full refunds. Unfortunately, we did lose some of the money due to flights. We had paid for 13 people to fly here from Wellington to do the shoot. We lost some money, but in return we got some vouchers in return that we can reuse obviously in the future. Toi Whakaari were really supportive in everything and are still really keen and passionate to get this film made. So whenever that happens, we’ll be ready to go.

We are working on a contingency plan currently, to see how we can get this film made. We can start now, but because we’re such a low budget production, things that are considered normal have changed immensely eg. food has to be delivered a certain way and handled in a way that allows to keep safe distancing, non contact and abide to the screensafe measures that are in place. Even how long actors can be within proximity of each other, the way crew interact and work together, those things that are now being accounted for. And it’s harder. But we’ve just made the conscious decision to return to production when we return to level 1 or as close to whatever the new normal will be. We’re not in any major rush. The story is such a strong one and will be told when the time is ready for it to be told. In my mind, the story is taking a back foot to some degree and telling us, it’s not the time to be told. My time will come. I think that’s beautiful.

Do you want to tell us about your photography? Something that I know you do freelance outside of filmmaking. Actually, it is something that you could easily integrate and learn intertwined.

So I bought my first camera about 5 years ago. I watched so many youtube tutorials (so am obviously self-taught). But in the last few years, a few friends and I were given the space to do the publicity campaign for Ahikāroa and were given a small budget to dress the actors, take pics, direct them etc. It was great. We got to engage with Pati Solomona Tyrell who I know you know really well. And also worked with Jane Bucknell on costume design. That was specific to season 1. Then in another campaign for Ahikāroa, I had the ability to be part of the creative team and come up with the creative vision. So we engaged with Mataara Stokes. And although in this one I wasn’t the photographer, I was still very much part of the process and learned so much.

So now doing my own photographs, I had the privilege to photograph a lot of my family members like my Mum, my first cousin while she was carrying, and also some Te Ao Māori leaders. I’m still a very new photographer in the sense that I am still learning, but also in a place where it can be a side hustle in some ways, but also, I see it as an opportunity to exercise my other creative muscles. It’s storytelling in a different way. Moving image, what I am trained obviously but also having now immersed in the world, tells stories so differently in a way still images do. Posing a certain way, having a subject/person look at something specific or the direction they look at, or the emotion they evoke, that says a lot. As someone who directs, it’s quite awesome actually learning and understanding visual storytelling from a different point of view.

Photographs taken by Todd Karehana of his cousin with styling by Jane Bucknell and Steven Versfeld.

Where could people see and engage with your works?

I have a vimeo but it costs money to hold a certain amount of videos haha. So, I’d say send me a message. My name is Todd Karehana on Facebook. Hopefully with future projects, you can see them on TV and online. But the aim is to make a website, one that will hold space for all my works. My finished work has never been about making money. I just want visibility for my stories.

What has the current situation taught you in your everyday life?

To be kind to myself. Also, not to be hard on yourself. Like if I don’t write today. It’s fine. If I want to pig out today, do nothing, it’s fine. It’s also taught me about time, something that we take for granted. So catching up with people online, not just for the sake of the trend, but actually spending time with people, in open korero. Take advantage of this time to really give back to ourselves.

Any last words?

Speaking to the people in the film sector here in Aotearoa, although there are so many things happening and changing so fast in the world due to the corona virus situation eg because it's stressful and the economy is changing, there is an opportunity to rebuild the world in a way that is more fair and sustainable for us as people but also for the environment.

We need to raise our expectations of the government, current and future. And we as a film and television sector should be bolder with our ideas and thoughts on how we see the future for us. I want to see more younger people be given work, more people of colour get funding, more diversity in the leading/power roles, within crews, have Māori people at those tables, inclusive of Pasifika, inclusive of queer people.

This is the time to make major changes. Let's use this virus and the economic shift to be more inclusive for everyone. There’s room for us all!


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