HERALD WEEKLY ISSUE 598: 11 January 2012

Maria Taner Spends 5 Minutes with ... Nikki Siulepa
The biggest thing for me is that I tried to make things happen at the very beginning,” explains Nikki Siulepa of her testing film making career to date, “I put all the eggs in one basket and it just didn’t happen.”
Freelance reporter and director Nikki Siulepa, who is responsible for the Tangata Pasifika reality TV series ‘Walk the talk’ and latest achievement to an already impressive CV ‘Snow in Paradise’ the short film that took place in Atiutaki February 2011, first cut her teeth scoring the lead role of ‘Marty’ in the Ian Mune directed film ‘The Whole of the Moon’, a production that’s based around the friendship of two children who suffer from cancer. In fact it was Siulepa’s high school classical studies teacher that first convinced the young Samoan student to audition for the challenging role, and nine auditions later Nikki Siulepa can not only view her name in the rolling credits as landing a lead role in the New Zealand/Canadian feature film but also recipient of the ‘best actress in a film’ 1996 for both the New Zealand Film and Television Awards and the Giffonni Film Festival, Giffonni, Italy. It’s not a bad way to score out a career, especially at such an undeveloped stage in Siulepa’s life, “My career started off with a bang,” Siulepa says, “and then, there was nothing there.” Being sent to countless auditions for unsuitable roles would surely takes its toll on anyone and feeling the mounting pressure of her family Siulepa retreated to securing a “normal job,” she laughs, “oh there were all these lead roles that my agent was sending me to, but weren’t really suitable to me, so I kinda put the TV career on hold.” A decision that saw Siulepa spend the next four years as a MAF Quarantine Controller at the International Airport watching her peers who worked within the same industry walk through the airport, until she got “sick of it,” she admits to me.
Nikki Siulepa she’s a bold character, it takes a fair bit of bravado to quit your safe and secure job to lie your way into a bar job so that you could pursue script writing “I didn’t even know what to do, but I was writing all my own stuff,” which is how she met veteran Maori film maker and actor Don Selwyn, who would turn out to be an instrumental force In shaping the impressionable Siulepa’s career. “he said to me I’ve read your play and I really want to make this into a film so we might need to make this into a screen play,” however like most things, good things take time and for Siulepa it wasn’t until she returned to New Zealand after taking some time out to travel and get ‘a bit more worldly’ that things started to ‘kick off and take fruition.”
Self taught and picking up the tricks of her trade from the helpful camera boys at TVNZ the concise and on point Siulepa slowly built up her skill base learning how to use a camera correctly and how to edit efficiently can now pop out documentaries and short films faster than the opening of a new McDonalds. Spending a total of two intense weeks in the Cook Islands, Siulepa and Justine Simei-Barton -co director- successfully managed to scout for the ideal cast and location, and film and produce their final product ‘Snow in Paradise.’ “As soon as we got here we were looking, we were scouting and putting out calls for casting,” shares Nikki, “We had got it done in a week, it was really intense but we had no choice, it’s not like we could do any pickups.” Although ‘Snow in Paradise’ was a longtime coming completing the short film was a “huge achievement in itself” so landing in the prestigious 62nd Berlinale Film Festival means that “Atiutaki will be shown on an international stage, and that’s why I make films,” says Siulepa staring down the barrel of my lens. -Maria Tanner

Herald Issue 554 09 March
- Norm exposes Trio of Doom
- Briefs from PM’s media conference Tuesday
- Tourism Industry ponders $5 million draft strategy
- Norman George resigns from Cook Islands Party
- Letter of Resignation from CIP
- Norman selfish says Prime Minister

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