Film Producer Glenda Tuaine and crew on set. PC: TAONGA. 22052316
A film documentary on celebrated carver Mike Tavioni and his wife Awhitia has inspired a Cook Islands creative to rediscover her passion for storytelling.
Experienced producer and creative Glenda Tuaine is passionate about making the creative industry out of the Pacific an international wave.
Together with her
husband Maurice (Mo) Newport, they are Motone Productions, a creative
production company, and have delivered events internationally that build arts
careers and the industry.
In 2019, Tuaine
received the Creative New Zealand Special Recognition Pacifika Arts award which
recognises an individual whose work, influence and commitment have raised the
standards, expectations and reputation of Pacific arts and artists.
applied for funding from the Pacific Islands & Communications (PIC), an
American organisation based in Hawaii, to produce her very first short film
Her documentary TAONGA:
An Artist Activist will make its New Zealand premiere at Maoriland Film
Festival 2022 on July I.
The film celebrates creative talent in the Cook Islands focusing on local cultural icon, artist and activist, Mike Tavioni. Tavioni and his wife will attend the premiere.
Not only did Tuaine produce the film, she directed and managed it “with a beautiful team of people”.
“I want him (Tavioni) to be heralded, and for
him to experience this film, it is about him,” says Tuaine.
“Tavioni is a
taonga (a treasure), a treasure of our own and is of the ability to be an ‘artist
pure,” says Tuaine, who has spent many, many years talking to Tavioni and has
always been fascinated by his knowledge.
“I feel incredibly
honoured to be able to make a film about Mike and Awhitia.”
experiences with Tavioni, she has known him to an incredible voice for
politics, knowledge, culture and the community.
“He takes things and really does his own style of research on things, but he’s incredibly thorough,” she says.
Filmmaking is such an incredibly strong way of being able to capture and maintain
a really good record of “where we have been, what we are and where we are going
to”, says Tuaine.
“What I do see
here is that we don’t make films about our own people, we tend to think that if
films are made, then they’re made by people overseas ... and this film is made
by a completely all local crew.
“We have the
capabilities here, but you just have to find the right combination of people.
“And we should be using people in our community, celebrating our own.”
Her film is to be
screened internationally. Tuaine very quickly had to learn all about the
international rules and regulations behind filmmaking. They involve understanding
errors and commissions insurance, trademarking and understanding the actual
“If you want to
make film you actually really do need to understand the international market
place,” she says.
And making a film
cost money, “a lot of money”, says Tuaine and adding, it’s expensive if you
want to do it right.
To get funding for
a film you have to write a heap of stuff, she adds.
Tuaine had to also
reach out for physical sponsors to assist with film and is grateful for the
help from the “wonderful people” through the Give a Little Facebook page and local
“I learnt so much, it’s the community that assists people to get to where they want to go to, and that’s what we’ve got to learn here, the Pacific community is helping me make this film,” she says.
interruptions caused by the Covid-19 pandemic, filming started in early 2020
and ran through to the end of that year.
The tougher part was the post production phase which took another year and involved
the composition of original music. “I wanted original beautifulness,” says
She explains post
production also involves level out sound editing which takes a lot of time. “Transcribing
absolutely everyone I interviewed to see what relevance they have to the story,
what emphasis I needed, then time code all of that (took a lot of time).”
A rough cut goes
off to the executive producer who looks at it and gives feedback, “then you go
into a fine cut everyone’s interviews and go through them and work out the
pieces you want to use”.
Tuaine also had to keep up with the paperwork as funding agency, the Pacific Islands & Communications (PIC) wanted to see the deliverables, to see the rough cuts, the contracts with the team and the budget.
To be a filmmaker,
a lot of research and preparation is involved. “You have to have a really clear
picture of what you want people to say, what it is that you’re trying to do, even
before you begin the film … you have to understand what your film treatment is,
how the film will move …
maker is a storyteller, you’re there to tell peoples stories,” she says.
Tuaine is thankful
for mentors like Lala Rolls, a documentary film maker in New Zealand and Cook
Islander Karen Williams who constantly gave her “rock solid advice”.
Part of being a
filmmaker she says, is “you have to be open to people’s advice – don’t think
you know everything, be prepared for people to give you feedback and advice”.
“There’s no harm
in humility, this has been such an incredible experience. There’s so much more
to learn so much more to do and many more stories to be told,” says Tuaine.
The film also features
local artistic elements, Mii Taokia created animated sections, Teariki Ra (cameraman),
and Jim Perkins, Mo Newport and Rudy Aquino have composed music for it.
“It’s all original
and that makes me really proud, there is a lot of graphic and artistic elements
to the film that everyone has contributed to.”
The film is a “snapshot” of Tavioni’s life – “a man who does a prolific amount of
artistic work that many people don’t know about. And he just keeps on going and
going … that should be heralded, not scorned,” says Tuaine.
“He has the
richness of life. Mike does what he loves and what he is passionate about, and
lots can be learned from that. He has been told off, but he perseveres through
all of that and that’s powerful.
“Mike’s such a
good person to work with, and has many jewels and pearls of wisdom.
“He’s not getting
any younger, his heart is in the community, and his abilities are to be able to
be that taunga artist for us that teaches and shows, and should be referred
about the future of filmmaking in the country, Tuaine says the younger ones
should be given the opportunity on having comprehension and understanding of
how to make their own films, how to write their script, their own songs to
perform and how to tell their own stories.
And she believes that there is a new generation in the Cook Islands that are way better in understanding the need and the importance of being able to be creative and to be able to speak about our own stories.
“And to embrace
new ways of being is just as good as keeping a hold of our traditions. We need
to open up a little bit better to what needs to be said in the creative areas.
“We’ve got to get our young ones in that zone. We’ve got beautiful stories to be told here, our young people deserve the right to be able to do it and freely as well without bias and judgement, to be allowed to say the things they want to say…”
Tuaine has had an
incredible journey and will keep on pushing through. She has a vision, knows
her stuff, knows where she’s going and what she wants to do.
“The only reason I
know that is that I’ve had 35 odd years in the industry of arts and I know how
to do this stuff because people were kind enough to mentor me along the way,
kind enough to give their time to me.
“This film means
so very much to me as it signifies how film is the vital sinew that has to hold
our history/herstory so that generations to come know how we grew, what is
important and can learn from our wins and our losses. It illuminates those
times forgotten and captures us now.
“I could not have
made this film without the support of a community of people who believe in the Cook
Islands Creative Industry.”