Blatant Name Dropping

Earlier in the week I attended Playmarket‘s 2008 Pasifika Playwrights Development Forum. Fellow BREAK survivor and newly appointed Playmarket development coordinator, Jenni Heka, was responsible for my attendance: she’s scary.

In my experience, Pasifika* gatherings have been the last place to have a good time. I’ve felt out of place at them, like I’ve gatecrashed someone’s birthday party. Most have been a combination of boring gabfest, bitch sessions, and/or a mob hysteria where one had to choose sides or get the hell out.

Not so this week. It wasn’t once boring. Instead of “woe is me” rants, we had fire and passion – where outsiders might’ve seen some rabble-rousing radicalism, I saw empowerment by example and vision. And everyone – everyone – was so freaking nice. There was an atmosphere of collegiality, of a common goal of telling Pasifika stories. A feeling of community.

I hadn’t expected to be so inspired: seeing my competition fellow Pasifika creatives making things happen; swapping numbers and email addresses; making contact. Future posts will explore the culture scene thingie (obviously, I’m still sorting it out in my head) but for now I’ll just name drop:

  • Insiders Guide to Happiness lead, Fasitua Amosa (Samoan);
  • Royal Court Theatre head, Ola Animashawun, who provided his dramaturgy services to the forum;
  • Love Handles and Miss South Pacific writer Arnette Arapai (Niue);
  • Actors Equity representative, Teresa Brown;
  • director, screenwriter, fellow guild member, and all-round gentleman, Tony Forster;
  • award-winning playwright and actor Dianna Fuemana (Niue/Samoan);
  • And What Remains writer, Miria George (Rarotongan/Cook Islands);
  • writer, director, producer, comedian and Killa Kokonut, Vela Manusaute (Samoan), who is many things because he simply gets it on;
  • established playwright and currently New Zealand Film Commission development executive, Hone Kouka (Maori);
  • New Zealand acting icon Nathaniel Lees (Samoan);
  • Fulbright scholar and playwright, Victor Rodger (Samoan/Scottish);
  • Phoenix Seve, whose work-in-development In the Name of the Father was given a public reading by professional actors and I was simultaneously electrified and brought to tears – and it’s still in development;
  • BREAK survivor and actor, the irrepressible Bronwyn Turei (Maori);
  • and writer and filmmaker, Louise Tu’u (Samoan), who also showcased some scenes from her work-in development, Providence, which is my must-see for 2008.

So many names that I recognised, whose work I’d seen and adored. And I got to meet them! For real! It was so cool!

I must get out more.

* Note for international readers: in New Zealand, Pasifika means of Pacific Island origin, ie., not Maori. Here in New Zild, the Maori and Pacific Island population are already such a part of the Kiwi culture that to call them ethnic minorities, though statistically correct, would be like describing African Americans as an ethnic minority. We all be Kiwis here.


DateNight – The Morning After

After a week of jitters, it is done.

In the end, I pitched to six out of eleven producers and commissioners. Of the five that I didn’t sit down with, two were no-shows to begin with, two left before I started working my way around them (there were two rounds, as it were, and I was in the second round), and one left thinking she’d finished (or survived – understandable considering she’d just sat through twenty-plus two-minute* pitches without a break).

For me, the best thing was experiencing firsthand most of what I’d read or heard. It’s one thing to know in a theoretical sense, Don’t take it personally if they’re sitting there poker-faced, but it’s another to sit opposite someone and fight the urge to babble about your project just because they’re not leaping out of their seat, kissing you on both cheeks, and declaring the beginning of a beautiful relationship.

The most useful sit-downs were where a conversation took place. Once the logline, plot description and themes were out of the way – what else did they want to know? The remaining ninety seconds were filled up by a Q & A where I showed off the depth of my knowledge**. Whether they could do anything with the project or not was almost beside the point. It was pretty cool to talk about a project as if it had real possibilities, rather than as just An idea I’ve got for a show….

Did I like it? Yes – I rather enjoyed it actually. Even if you get an ignorant and short-sighted producer, it’s good to realise in the rush of blood to the head, I disagree with your noises of disrespect – my mistake for pitching a drama to a reality-programme maker.

Would I do it again? Yes. I have survived the gauntlet that is DateNight. Bring it on.

Short two producers, Mr Gannaway tried to ease the load by cutting the pitching time down from three to two minutes.
**  Except for when I was asked what target audience I had in mind. No matter how often you’re told and read that you need only write for yourself and don’t worry about the market – that’s what the producer worries about, you will be asked what target audience you have in mind for your project.