The first Niuean to graduate from drama school Toi Whakaari, Vela Manusuate scored a 1997 Chapman Tripp award for comedy, as part of duo The Brownies (alongside Canada Alofa). Facing limited roles for Pacific Island actors, Manusuate helped found theatre and music group Kila Kokonut Krew in 2002. The team's biggest hit to date has been The Factory, based partly on his father's move to NZ; in 2014 it was reborn as a web series.  

Having done the first Tongan play, and now the first New Zealand Pacific Island musical you can’t help but ask “What’s next?” Sharu Delilkan, in a Theatre Scenes review of musical The Factory, August 2011
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The Factory - 01, Wassup?! (Episode One)

2013, Executive Producer, Original Writer - Web

Tigi Saumalu (Ben Taufua) has worked at an Auckland textile factory for so many years, he is presented with a useless plastic key by his palangi boss to mark the occasion. But Tigi is more excited about getting his grandchildren to represent the factory in an upcoming talent contest. That way he can “pass on the old ways” — and the old Samoan songs — to them. Only the Saumalu children are busy freestyling to a very different sound... Web series The Factory began as a hit stage musical from South Auckland-based theatre and music group Kila Kokonut Krew.

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The Factory - 02, Gafa (Episode Two)

2013, Executive Producer, As: Mason, Original Writer - Web

Web series The Factory follows a South Auckland family as they prepare to conquer a local talent quest. In episode two the Saumalus get their first worried indication of their grandfather’s musical plans for them, after a summons to the factory where he works. Meanwhile news in the mail leaves older sister Losa worried if she'll ever pass her degree, and younger sister Moana starts hanging out with a music-loving Indian teen, whose newest role model is Che Guevara. The Factory is directed by Supergroove bassist and music video king Joe Lonie.  

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The Factory - 03, Sexy Time (Episode Three)

2013, Executive Producer, As: Mason, Original Writer - Web

A  knife-wielding duet is the highlight of this episode of web series The Factory. Tavita (Taofia Pelesasa) oldest sibling in the Saumalu family, sneaks out one night to earn some under the counter cash; he ends up showing off his musical chops, alongside Moka (Milly Grant). Meanwhile Mum Lily (Anapela Polataivao) starts to worry that the family’s devotion to their grandfather will result in serious musical embarrassment, once the talent quest kicks off. Polataivao was one of the creators of The Factory’s original incarnation, as a hit stage musical.

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The Factory - 04, Umu (Episode Four)

2013, Executive Producer, As: Mason, Original Writer - Web

Web series The Factory is a tale of family and music, inspired by a stage show that became one of the hits of the 2013 Auckland Arts Festival, then travelled to Australia and the Edinburgh Festival. In the fourth episode, try-hard next door neighbour Api tells Losa she ought to be singing alongside him, in the upcoming talent quest. Losa responds by comparing his haircut to a toilet brush. Meanwhile Losa's mother Lily is somewhat surprised to arrive at a party, and find her oven out on the street.

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The Factory - 05, Paua Struggle (Episode Five)

2013, Original Writer, Executive Producer, As: Mason - Web

Contest day has finally dawned; but will the competitors make it on stage in time? In this fifth episode of the PI-flavoured web series, it is the big day for the X-Factory contest, but as the first teams start performing, one of the Saumalus is missing in action: oldest sibling Tavita (Taofia Pelesasa) is caught up in some delicate yet insult-filled negotiations involving black market paua. The makers of The Factory auditioned talent in various South Auckland halls and markets; nearly half of the cast are first time actors. 

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The Factory - 06, Showtime! (Episode Six)

2013, Executive Producer, As: Mason, Original Writer - Web

In this episode of the 2014 web series, South Auckland family the Saumulus finally make it on stage to perform in a best-of-the-factories talent quest. Tensions rise before the family debut, with teenager Tavita late to arrive. The Saumalus sneak through, but one of the judges warns that their act needs an upgrade: “this is X Factory not the History Channel.” Later a fish spill threatens to expose Tavita’s after hours work, as events at the laundry heat up. The Factory was inspired by the Kila Kokonut Krew musical stage show.

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The Factory - 07, Sh*t Salad (Episode Seven)

2013, Executive Producer, As: Mason, Original Writer - Web

This 2014 web series follows a South Auckland family who set their sights on winning a best-of-the-factories talent quest. In the seventh episode the Saumalus have just snuck through to the next round of the quest, but patriarch Tigi doesn’t seem to have heeded the judge's advice to come back with something from “this century”. Factory boss Keith makes a shock announcement about the factory’s future: the sale of the factory threatens half the workforce. As discussions continue on how to respond to the news, Tavita gets the Romeo and Juliet blues.

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The Factory - 08, Time to Shine (Episode Eight)

2013, Executive Producer, As: Mason, Original Writer - Web

In the eighth episode of this tale of family, factory and music, the Saumalus protest the sale of Murdoch Textiles and expeted loss of jobs. Indian-Kiwi student Dev (Shaan Kesha) enlists Moana in his plan to break into the boss’s office and make the workers' voices heard. Even if Dev’s blundering scheme doesn’t impress Moana, it does enable subtle marketing use of the show’s sponsorship from Telecom (now Spark) — “what’s your phone number again? 027 SHITFORBRAINS?”.

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The Factory - 09, Ballbag (Episode Nine)

2013, Executive Producer, Original Writer - Web

In the ninth episode of this web series, Dev (Shaan Kesha) tries to make up for his protests over the factory's impending sale to Chinese buyers: including a spraypainted message in the boss's office, calling him a 'ballbag'. Uni accounting studies pay dividends, as Dev persuades factory boss Keith (Cameron Rhodes) to call the sale of Murdoch Textiles off. There are even more surprising developments to come, after Moana introduces Dev to a Saumalu family dinner. Actor Rhodes was also seen in acclaimed 2014 horror film Housebound

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The Factory - 10, No Butter Chicken (Episode 10)

2013, Executive Producer, As: Mason, Original Writer - Web

This 2014 web series follows a South Auckland family chasing a talent quest title. In this 10th episode (out of 20) the Saumalu family debates Moana’s shock announcement that she is getting engaged to Indian-Kiwi Dev. The head-girl and student DJ are a South Auckland Romeo and Juliet. Dad Kavana wants to send Moana home for some ‘Fa’a Samoa’ (‘Samoan way’) education. Meanwhile Moana finds out that Dev is already engaged, and decides to move things to the next level. The series was based on the hit stage show that debuted at the 2013 Auckland Arts Festival.

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Fresh - First Episode

2011, Presenter - Television

This first episode of the popular TVNZ Pasifika youth show is presented by brothers Nainz and Viiz Tupai (aka Adeaze), who are heading back to Samoa to play a post-Tsunami fundraising gig in the village of Lalomanu. Elsewhere, Vela Manusaute hosts Brown’n’around and is MC at Manukau PI festival Strictly Brown, before teaming up with Bella Kololo and Jermaine Leef to judge Fresh talent. Actor Jason Wu gets ready for the premiere of movie Matariki; the Samoan myth of Sina and the eel gets fresh retelling; and Bill Urale (aka King Kapisi) talks tatau.

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Matariki

2010, As: Russ - Film

Iaheto Ah Hi's play Tautai involved an urban car thief emulating his Tokelauan fishing ancestors — only instead of hunting sharks, he hunted cars. Twelve years and 27 drafts after first seeing the play, director Michael Bennett and co-writer Gavin Strawhan intertwined Tautai's story with seven other characters, each impacted by one moment of violence. Praising the "excellent ensemble" and Don McGlashan score, Herald reviewer Peter Calder argued that Matariki delivers "a touching series of intersecting stories about the fragility of life and the redeeming power of love".

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The Tattooist

2007, Original Idea - Film

Tattoo artist Jake Sawyer (Jason Behr, American star of Roswell) travels the world looking for ethnic designs to exploit for his art. At a tattoo expo in Singapore, he is introduced to the traditional Samoan tattoo, and falls for Sina (No. 2's Mia Blake) the beautiful cousin of tattooist Alipati. When Jake recklessly steals a Samoan tattooing tool, he unwittingly unleashes a powerful spirit that endangers everyone he touches. This inaugural Kiwi-Singaporean co-production was directed by Peter Burger and produced by Robin Scholes (Once Were Warriors).

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KTV

2006 - 2007, Writer, Producer - Television

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bro'Town - Honky the Wonder Horse

2005, As: Various roles - Television

Hit animated comedy series bro'Town was born from the poly-saturated comedy of theatre group The Naked Samoans. This episode from the second series sees the boys taking on a cast-off racehorse called Honky, and with help (and hindrance) from Vale and Valea's gambling-addicted father, training him to race in the Morningside Cup. Valea faces up to his horse phobia to ride Honky on the big day. Meanwhile special subtitles help explain what this horse is really thinking.

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bro'Town - The Weakest Link

2004, As: Various voices - Television

This animated hit follows the adventures of five kids growing up in the Auckland suburb of Morningside. The show's fearless, un-PC wit was developed from the poly-saturated comedy of theatre group Naked Samoans. In bro'Town's very first episode, Valea gets hit by a bus and wakes up a genius, allowing him to demonstrate that his school is not just full of dumbarses after the boys compete on a school quiz show. The Simpsons-esque celebrity cameos start strong, thanks to Robert Rakete, Scribe, PM Helen Clark, David Tua and "marvellous" John Campbell.

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Children of the Migration

2004, Presenter - Television

Through candid interviews and rare archival footage Children of the Migration tells the stories of the Pacific Island immigrants who came to New Zealand from the 1950s - 1980s and changed the cultural landscape of Aotearoa. Presented by David Sa'ena and actor Vela Manusaute, this humorous and moving documentary includes interviews with All Black Tana Umaga, boxer David Tua, actress Teuila Blakely, hip hop artist King Kapisi and poet Tusiata Avia. Directed by Fijian European Lala Rolls.