Hone Kouka studied English Literature at Otago University, then acting at Toi Whakaari. A leading figure in Māori theatre, Kouka is an acclaimed playwright (including The Prophet, which was filmed for TV in 2012). He has also written for the screen; he studied screenwriting at Amsterdam's Binger Institute, and co-wrote dance movie Born to Dance and NZ TV Award-winning Treaty of Waitangi drama Ngā Tohu: Signatures. In the mid 2000s Kouka executive produced a run of successful short films (Nature’s Way, Run) and worked in development at the NZ Film Commission, advising on films like Boy and The Orator.

...I realised there weren't many stories from my generation. I decided I wanted to write. And that is all I have done ever since. Hone Kouka, on attending drama school Toi Whakaari and being inspired to write, The Press, 10 August 2016

Mahana

2016, Executive Producer - Film

Inspired by Witi Ihimaera's BulibashaMahana saw director Lee Tamahori making his first film on local soil since a very different family tale: 1994's Once Were Warriors. Temuera Morrison stars as a 60s era farming patriarch who makes it clear his family should have absolutely nothing to do with rival family the Poatas. Then romance enters the picture, and son Simeon sets out to find out how the feud first started. The powerhouse Māori cast includes Nancy Brunning (who is included in the interview clips) and Jim Moriarty. Mahana debuted at the 2016 Berlin Film Festival, before NZ release. 

Born to Dance

2015, Writer - Film

Tu (real-life hip hop champ Tia Maipi) has six weeks to show the talent that will win him a spot in an international dance group. As the high octane trailer for Born to Dance makes clear, that doesn’t leave much time to muck around. The first movie directed by actor Tammy Davis (Outrageous Fortune) features music by P-Money, and choreography by Manurewa’s own world champ hip hop sensation Parris Goebel (who helped choreograph J. Lo’s 2012 tour). The cast includes Stan Walker and American Kherington Payne (Fame). Playwright Hone Kouka is one of the writing team. 

Atamira - The Prophet

2012, Writer, Original Author - Television

The Graffiti of Mr Tupaia

2008, Executive Producer - Short Film

In this short film, a Cook Island school cleaner (Whale Rider's Rawiri Paratene) responds to an unusual graffiti message on a girls’ toilet wall, with life-changing consequences for him and the mysterious author. Paratene's performance won him a Qantas Film and TV Award; the film also won Best Short and Screenplay (Paul Stanley Ward). Tupaia travelled to more than 15 festivals and director Chris Dudman was nominated for a Leopard of Tomorrow (Best Short) at Locarno. Dudman, Ward and producer Vicky Pope teamed up on another short film success, Choice Night (2010).

Fog

2007, Executive Producer - Short Film

Ricky is shy and has an overbearing father. He and extroverted misfit Telly (Chelsie Preston Crayford) slip out into the night, commandeering Ricky's father's fishing boat and heading out into the freedom of the fog. Peter Salmon's short film highlights oppression, boredom and sex in a small New Zealand town. Fog was shot in Ngawi, an isolated fishing village on the Wairarapa coastline. It was invited to 20 international film festivals, including the Critics' Week section at Cannes. At the 2007 NZ Screen Awards, Chelsie Preston Crayford was awarded for Best Performance in a Short Film.

Kete Aronui - Hone Kouka

2007, Subject - Television

Iti Pounamu

2008, Subject - Television

Run

2007, Executive Producer - Short Film

Nature's Way

2006, Executive Producer - Short Film

A girl is murdered and her body dumped in the forest. Nature's Way is a short film that explores the mind of a murderer who thinks he's gotten away with it. In Jane Shearer's haunting Cannes-nominated film, the dense native bush acts as witness to what the killer has done. In the absence of dialogue, Matthew (Out of the Blue) Sunderland's paranoid protagonist, sublime cinematography by award-winner Andrew Commis (The Rehearsal, Beautiful Kate) and an eerie, spare soundtrack by Rachel Shearer evoke the themes of utu at the suburban fringe.

We the Living

2006, Executive Producer - Short Film

Frontseat

2007, Subject - Television

With five series and close to 100 episodes, Frontseat, produced by The Gibson Group, was the longest-running arts programme of its time. Billed by TVNZ publicity as a "topical and provocative weekly arts series investigating the issues facing local arts and culture", and hosted by actor Oliver Driver, it (sometimes controversially) took a broad current affairs approach to the arts of the day, covering "all the big events, reporting the stories, and interviewing the personalities."

Ngā Tohu: Signatures

2000, Writer - Television

This TV drama follows a whānau taking a claim to the Waitangi tribunal, over plans by a Pākehā neighbour to build a resort on disputed land. Ngā Tohu jumps between the present day and 1839/40, when Māori chiefs were canvassed to support the Treaty of Waitangi and a settler makes an equivocal land deal with Chief Tohu (George Henare). The exploration of the Treaty's evolving kaupapa is effectively humanised by an age-old love story, and it scored multiple drama gongs at 2000's TV Awards. Director Andrew Bancroft wrote the teleplay with playwright Hone Kouka.

Backch@t

2000, Subject - Television

Backch@t was a magazine-style arts and culture show that appealed, from the opening acid-jazz theme tune, to a literate late-90s arts audience. Fronted by media personality Bill Ralston, the show included reporters Mark Crysell and Jodi Ihaka, and Chris Knox appears as the weekly film reviewer. In keeping with Ralston’s journalistic background, Backch@t took a ‘news’ approach to the arts, debating topics in the studio and interviewing the personalities, as well as covering the sector stories.

For Arts Sake - Waiora

1996, Subject - Television

Arts magazine series For Arts Sake screened on TV One for two hours on Sunday mornings for 22 weeks in 1996. This segment features the acclaimed Hone Kouka play Waiora - The Homeland, about a Māori family struggling to deal with their move from traditional rural ways to city life in 1960s New Zealand. The item includes excerpts from the play, and interviews with playwright Kouka, director Murray Lynch, and cast members Rawiri Paratene, Nancy Brunning and Mick Rose. The play and this story feature both English and te reo Māori.

For Arts Sake

1996, Subject - Television

Arts magazine series For Arts Sake screened on TV ONE for two hours on Sunday mornings for 22 weeks in 1996. The show featured a range of artists including dancer/choreographers Michael Parmenter and Mary Jane O'Reilly, playwright Hone Kouka, sculptor Michael Parekowhai, painter Graham Sydney, photographer Ans Westra, and animator and sculptor Len Lye. Former TV current affairs journalist Alison Parr was the show's presenter and interviewer. Each week's programme had a theme represented by local stories and interviews, as well as international items.

Men of the Silver Fern - A Winning Reputation (1870 - 1924)

1993, As: George Nepia - Television

Men of the Silver Fern was a four-part celebration of all things All Black, made in 1992 for the centenary of the NZRFU (now known as New Zealand Rugby). This first episode covers the early period from when Charles Monro kicked off the sport in NZ in Nelson on 14 May 1870, through the establishment of rules, provincial unions and the New Zealand Rugby Football Union. The programme surveys the front-running international tours — from the 1884 Flaxlanders to the 1888 Natives, 1905 Originals and 1924 Invincibles — where the All Blacks’ "winning reputation" was forged.

The Edge

1994, Subject - Television

The Edge was an early edition in a series of magazine style arts shows made by the Gibson Group. Later shows included Sunday, Bookenz, Bill Ralston-hosted Backch@t, and Frontseat. Diverging from then-standard Kaleidoscope model (sometimes lengthy documentaries, often on single subjects) The Edge took a faster-paced approach, with multiple pieces in a half hour show. Subjects ranged from the birth of special effects company Weta to early landscape painter Alfred Sharpe. Fronted by writer Mary McCallum, two series and over 60 episodes of the show were produced. 

Dicing with Debt

1991, Actor - Television