Business is Boring is a weekly podcast series presented by The Spinoff in association with Callaghan Innovation. Host Simon Pound speaks with innovators and commentators focused on the future of New Zealand, with the interview available as both audio and a transcribed excerpt. This week he talks to Lisa Taouma, producer of Fresh.
Auckland is the biggest Pasifika city in the world and has been for decades. But for many years, you could consume an awful lot of media and not know it, save for a few off-peak slots where an institution called Tagata Pasifika showcased great stories at odd times, still made with an eye to not alienate any non-intended audience. And then around 2010 something really cool happened: a show called Fresh burst onto the scene. It told Pasifika stories in a true Pasifika voice, made with an eye to being relevant and real and proudly for the community first. It became a cult hit and helped to launch careers and talents into the industry.
The producer, Lisa Taouma, extended this as the monolithic media continued to give-away, launching The Coconet, a online virtual village that tells Pasifika stories in unique ways and is consumed and loved through the prime time of the internet. It’s such a cool force in today’s media, and to talk about the journey and being the change, Lisa joins us now.
How did you get started in onscreen storytelling?
I had done a lot of things in the arts realm. I’d done some moving image and I’d done art history and film at varsity, doing an MA, and made some short films which I’m really glad will never see the light of day.
Because I’d been working in moving image quite early of my own steam, when Tagata finally had a new placement to take someone on, TVNZ in those days had a lot of long term contractors – people rarely left. There was a gap in the market and I happened to be in the right place at the right time. They had a fantastic producer who shoulder tapped me and brought me on, which was hugely exciting because this programme, Tagata Pasifika is in its 35th year I think (editor’s note: this year is the 31st year of Tagata Pasifika) but they only had a budget for a certain amount of people over the years so there was only ever a chance for any Pasific person to get into storytelling if someone left.
There was few and far between because there was one programme for all Pasific people of all ages and every single island denomination and we had 22 minutes on telly for, at that stage, 15 years. That was it.
It’s hard to overstate now just how narrow the broadcasting was, if that really was the only position. There weren’t documentary strands, there weren’t youth shows, there wasn’t anything else kind of aimed at the Pasifika community.
Yeah and I think that had a lot to do with the way New Zealand generally thought about itself at the time – some would argue still do.
We’ve always been uncomfortable with our recognition of our identity as one of the biggest Pacific Islands nations. There’s always been this disassociation and I think in the 70s, 80s, and 90s there was still all this broadcast stuff that was clinging to a lot of overseas media, and the stuff that was being produced here was so divorced from our place in the region and reflecting the sorts of societies that we were.
The Pacific sector was seen as this tiny migrant sector that were really lucky to have any representation at all because we were this small migrant community and I think we’ve had to kick the door wide open. Not only with getting the broadcast sector to recognise that with its diversity, pacific people needed to be at the forefront of that, for many many reasons, but also that we weren’t just one homogenous group, there were so many sectors within that.
The biggest sector is our youth sector. We’re one of the fastest growing youth populations in the country so while the NZ population is rapidly ageing, and it’s an aged population, the Pacific population is browning by the minute. In 20 years the prediction is we’re going to be a very brown population and this is the future of Aotearoa.