After spending five years as a community broadcaster for Radio New Zealand, Erina Tamepo set her sights on television. Working as a television producer's assistant for TVNZ at Avalon in the mid 80s, Tamepo gained skills that would become the foundation of a television career lasting more than 25 years.
In 1989 Tamepo moved to Auckland, where she had her first child, around the same time that she became a production manager for Kids TV. While working for the company, Tamepo undertook her first gig as producer: parenting series Parent Time (1992-1995), followed by Short Sportz (1991-1993), which aimed to encourage kids to play sports.
Tamepo accumulated a variety of credits as a freelance producer. Notable work during this period includes Three Chords & the Truth -The Anika Moa Story, which she co-produced with director Justin Pemberton. The documentary tracks Moa to New York as a teen, after she signs with a major American music label. Mama Tere profiles former sex worker Mama Tere Strickland, a youth worker and transgender advocate who helped many.
Out of the work that Tamepo has produced, it is the documentary Dalvanius that makes her "the most proud". A small production team travelled in a campervan with the terminally-ill songwriter and entertainer, to some of the locations around Aotearoa that had inspired Maui Dalvanius Prime. He died in 2002, just before the documentary was completed. Tamepo remembers when Dalvanius' hit song 'Poi E' was released, back in the days when she programmed music for RNZ. "I used to put it on as much as I could – there was initial backlash to it because it was so different with it’s space invaders effects and funky beats, but I didn’t care. Māori music... Māori anything, was rarely heard in those days".
The three documentaries above — which Tamepo produced between 2002 and 2004 — were significant in being her first productions to highlight the creativity of members of the Māori community. "Nothing is more satisfying", she argues, than giving people "an opportunity for their voice to be heard, their story to be told, their talent to be showcased".
As an in-house producer at Māori Television from 2003 to 2016, Tamepo produced a great many shows. Arguably the most successful was award-winning live karaoke competition Homai Te Pakipaki, which "became my baby". The series ran for nine years, from 2007 to 2015. Within weeks of launch, presenter Te Hamua Nikora "had people flocking to the studios". Tamepo credits Nikora's off-the-cuff handling of the show when the karaoke machine got unplugged, the wrong song was selected, or the voting system broke. For Tamepo, the show offered a voice to a previously invisible people. "We understood as Māori that when our people took to the stage they stood to represent not only themselves, but their whānau, their hapū, their iwi. We needed them and they needed us. We made sure they had a great time and they kept coming back".
Co-producing all-day live broadcasts provided another big challenge. Māori Television's 2007 Waitangi Day coverage began with a karanga and a karakia, led by their kaumātua, presenter Kingi Ihaka. He was "our go to guy, he was so eloquent, matatau i te reo me ngā tikanga, but he was also cheeky and very funny. And Mere Black was our kai karanga, a truly beautiful woman with a voice that reached deep into your soul." Tamepo went on to produce segments for an epic Anzac Day Broadcast in 2008.
Tamepo's other Māori TV productions include Te Harinui - A Māori Television Christmas (2004), Umanga (2004-2005), a series about Māori in business, Taupatupatu (2004), a te reo debating show that later became Tautohetohe (2007-2014), and comedy clips show Hardcase (2013). She also co-produced dance contest The Stage - Haka Fusion (2016) and the first two seasons of Māori current affairs show Willie Jacksons’ Newsbites (2009 - 2011).
Since completing her 13 years at Māori Television, Tamepo now runs Ngā Aho Whakaari – an organisation which develops the craft and careers of Māori working in the screen industry.
Profile written by Blake Smith
'Erina Tamepo'. Slideshare website. Accessed 11 October 2017
Ngā Aho Whakaari website. Accessed 11 October 2017
José Barbosa, 'Television: "A Show for the People' - 'Witnessing the End of Homai te Pakipaki's Māori Karaoke'. The Spinoff website. Loaded 11 November 2015. Accessed 11 October 2017
Unknown writer, 'Xmas on Māori Television' (Press release) Scoop website. Loaded 24 December 2004. Accessed 11 October 2017