Director, Producer [Ngāti Tamaterā, Ngāti Raukawa]
In a turbulent media landscape, director/producer Kay Ellmers feels that the long-form documentary is still powerful. Her screen CV includes acclaimed doco He Toki Huna: New Zealand in Afghanistan, and popular series like Marae Kai Masters and Mīharo. Ellmers is Managing Director of Tūmanako Productions, and a consultant on documentary and factual programming for Māori Television.
The potential of interactive documentaries is very exciting, but I think there'll always be a place for linear documentaries too. Humans have always liked stories that journey from beginning to end. Kay Ellmers
Hosted and created by comedians Pani and Pani, this Māori Television reality show aimed to "sort the bro’s from the boys" by testing 12 Polynesian men on their ability to tackle traditional warrior skills. The popular bros-meets-The Bachelor series produced shirtless calendars and an award-winning 'Lover Boy vs Lavalava Boy' advertising campaign. As of 2017, two seasons had been made by Tiki Lounge Productions. In the second, ex-league player and Code host Wairangi Koopu joined as Games Master. Stuff reviewer Pattie Pegler praised the show’s self-deprecating approach.
He Toki Huna sets out to provide an independent overview of New Zealand’s involvement in Afghanistan (the longest overseas war in which NZ has played a role). The documentary follows journalist Jon Stephenson conducting eyewitness interviews in Afghanistan, and poses provoking questions about Kiwi troops' involvement in a conflict that co-director Kay Ellmers calls an “ill-defined war against an unclear” enemy. Ellmers and Annie Goldson made the Moa Award-winning film for Māori Television, alongside an extended cut which played at NZ’s 2013 Film Festival.
In 2006 the two-year long Pasifika Styles exhibition launched at Cambridge University’s Museum of Archaeology and Anthropology. The show was ground-breaking for confronting the contentious origins of the museum's Pacific artefacts, by inviting 15 contemporary Māori and Pacific artists over to show works and "revitalise the taonga" already on display. Shown on Māori Television, this documentary follows two of the artists, George Nuku and Tracey Tawhiao, from K Road to the cloisters of Cambridge to collaborate with objects, curators, fellow artists and scholars.
This NZ TV award-nominated documentary tells the story of radio station Mai FM. Founded in 1992 by Auckland iwi Ngāti Whātua, its mix of hip hop, r’n’b and te reo soon won ratings success. Original breakfast host Robert Rakete recalls early days when the station was a CD player hooked up to an aerial, while Mai FM's champions argue the station has executed its kaupapa: promoting Māori language and culture to the youth of Auckland, including the breakout phrase, “it’s cool to kōrero!” The introduction by Tainui Stephens was done for Māori TV's doco slot He Raranga Kōrero.
Mai Time was an influential magazine show for Māori youth, exploring te ao Māori and pop culture (it was one of the first shows to show local hip-hop), with presenters speaking in te reo and English. Running for 12 years, it began as a slot on Marae, then screened on Saturday mornings on TV2. Mai Time was a breeding ground for Māori television talent: launching the careers of Stacey Morrison (nee Daniels), Quinton Hita, Teremoana Rapley and others. It was the brainchild of Tainui Stephens, and was produced by Greg Mayor, then from 2004 by Anahera Higgins.
Made for the Government's Careers Service (now Careers New Zealand) and the National Bank, Pathways was a 20-part video resource for young people, aimed at providing easily digestible advice and inspiration on careers and training. It combined advice from experts, and interviews with young people in various jobs from dance teacher to meat inspector. A series of 'mini-dramas' added levity; the actors included Karl Urban, Katrina Hobbs (Home and Away), and Robbie Magasiva in an early screen role. Gavin Strawhan and Liddy Holloway were among the writers.
Marae is the longest running Māori current affairs programme. First broadcast in 1992, the magazine programme aims to keep its audience in touch with the issues, political or otherwise, that affect Māori, and explain kaupapa Māori from a Māori perspective. The Marae Digipoll gives the programme publicity in other media as a respected barometer of matters Māori. Marae was re-launched in October 2010 as Marae Investigates, presented by Scotty Morrison and Jodi Ihaka Marae. It screens on TV One, and is presented half in english and half in te reo Māori.