“Don’t you know, we’re talking about a revolution sound, like a whisper” — Tracy Chapman
Producer Mia Marama and Director Hanelle Harris are the duo behind a recent TV series called The Baby Mama’s Club. Unique in the way that it captures the lives of four young brown women from New Zealand, humorously linking them together on a quest to hunt down they’re children’s father Johnny who is missing, the series proved critics wrong when they said it was unoriginal, boring and no one would watch it. This criticism came among other concerns it wouldn’t sell and was therefore unworthy of a funding investment from NZONAIR.
Determined to execute their vision the pair self funded the pilot episode before receiving a $100,000 grant in the 2017 NZONAIR funding pool. “Our audience came in droves” offers Harris. Attention toward its potential came after the pilot episode racked up over half a million views.
“Let’s be real, we were probably one of the strongest applicants for that funding round – we had views on one pilot that amounted one projects total views in a season,” says Harris.
The pair are proud of their progress but plan to keep pushing representation of minority communities in mainstream NZ media. For Baby Mama’s Club the pair said TV executives didn’t interfere too much with their creative vision.”We were really privileged that the broadcaster was hands off but we’ve got really great executive producers at South Pacific Pictures. They’ll give their advice which comes from a raft of experience from making so many TV shows and they’re considering the budget and the feasibility of what we wanna pull off.. in the end I don’t think we cut anything really that I wanted to keep.”
“We’re so grateful for the support and people really need to understand we can’t do it without them, we don’t have the power. When people are asking us for season two or more episodes they need to really hear us when we’re saying the power’s not in our hands, its really in their hands. They need to be active and fight for it and hear us when we’re saying we have had to fight harder but it is a battle, we cant do it on our own,” says Harris.
Mia says “In order for us to be enabled to make anything as brown people it has to become a media sensation, so like Hanelle said, comment share post about it talk about it and support the kaupapa”.
“We have been able to prove to the primary broadcaster in the country that there is an audience for Maori and Pacific Island voices and they’ve come in droves, our audience has come in droves and TVNZ have been wonderful not only have they platformed us they’ve put us front and center.
“Representation matters because it validates us as a people that should have an equal voice in society and when you don’t see yourself in media you are therefore an other and being an other means your voice doesn’t get heard and when it is heard….it doesn’t have as much weight…
It really is on that psychological level, you really are grooming the perceptions of people when you’re saying these are the faces that represent New Zealand that is what you are saying, when you are constantly seeing white faces on New Zealand screen you are telling the next generation, this generation, the one before it, that this is what New Zealand looks like and we know it’s not true,” says Harris.
Producer Mia Marama points out “As Polynesian peoples, story telling is a very natural and integral part of our culture, something that’s been happening for generations and generations so whether we’re channeling that in the media, music, film, television it probably hasn’t been done more because of opportunity, but I don’t think that limits us — as people we’ve already shown we’re resilient now we just need to continue to fight for those opportunities so that we can share those stories to a global audience because it’s clear now that people want to see it.
“Once Were Warriors, Whale Rider, Boy, Hunt For The Wilderpeople, these are films that have made millions and millions of dollars so the fact that we’re still trying to prove our ‘diverse’ stories can make money is tiresome.”
Hanelle says “I don’t want to be comparative to mainstream media, my goal is to be better than mainstream media in New Zealand and to be getting the money, not based on the fact that we have this cool, hip, niche audience but based on the fact that we’re fucken good and everyone likes it, and that’s the point which is that white people do love our show, they fuckin love it and I think there are actually white New Zealanders out there that agree that the New Zealand we see on TV is not the NZ they know and if you live in Auckland that’s definitely not the NZ that you’re seeing every day”.
In this interview for Ryz FM and The Plug they discuss NZ MUCIC, RACISM IN NEW ZEALAND, FEMINISM, TALL POPPY SYNDROME, HATERS, YOUNG FATHERS, and THE NEED FOR MORE genuine BROWN MEDIA & more.
LISTEN TO THE INTERVIEW:
Watch Pilot episode HERE.