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Meg Douglas

Producer [Te Arawa]

As a child, Meg Douglas was a self-confessed "little performer" who loved dancing and being on stage. Her first television appearances came at age 13: she roller skated for a commercial, and reported for children's show Kidsworld. Although Douglas loved being in front of the camera, in her early 20s she left the spotlight to work behind the scenes.

Douglas says she was lucky that her Māori grandfather introduced her to his friend Ernie Leonard, who was Head of the Māori Programmes Department at TVNZ. Leonard hired her as a researcher for Māori current affairs programme Marae, soon after she finished an arts degree majoring in English. "From that point on, it was up to me to prove myself."

Douglas was briefly a reporter on the show, a role she disliked. Then she nabbed her dream job: directing. "Working on Marae was a matter of throwing you in the deep end and seeing if you floated," says Douglas. "I was ambitious and hungry to learn, so I took up all the opportunities that came my way."

After three years at Marae, Douglas headed to London in 1993. She landed a job at BBC Worldwide working with the Natural History Unit, as a programme materials coordinator (which included assisting with international sales). In 1997 Douglas returned to New Zealand. She spent a year production managing te reo children's programme Tikitiki, then began four years at Greenstone, production managing on titles such as My House, My Castle and the debut season of Motorway Patrol. Having two daughters also kept Douglas very busy.

Her first producing role was on Pēpi (2004), a documentary series following four couples after they had a baby, for new station Māori Television. One year later Douglas set up her own production company Scottie Productions, naming it after her grandfather in tribute to his part in netting her first television job. "I have a lot to be grateful for in my career thanks to the advent of Māori Television," says Douglas. "I think it would have been a lot harder (if not impossible) for me to go out on my own and set up a production company, had it not been for the advent of Māori TV."

The company's first documentary was Toi Māori on the Map (2006). It followed artists George Nuku and Tracey Tawhiao, as they prepared for a Māori and Pacific art exhibition at Cambridge University. The university had been criticised for its collection of contentious Pacific artefacts. Working on a "really low budget", Douglas was proud to demonstrate "I could make something on my own" (she was director, producer, researcher, and production manager). 

Children were at the heart of many of Scottie's early shows, including 2008's Tamaiti for Māori TV, a parenting programme that followed four whānau, and 2010's Tamariki Ora: A New Beginning, a landmark two-night broadcast which set out to teach New Zealanders how they could help stop child abuse. 

In 2011 Scottie Productions won its first award: Māori architecture series Whare Māori was named Best Information Programme at the Aotearoa Film and TV Awards. The following year series Whare Taonga and one-off documentary The Green Chain were judged Best Māori Language Programme and Best Popular Documentary respectively, at the New Zealand Television Awards.

In 2015 Douglas's company scored a major coup when it won the contract to produce Waka Huia, the long-running te reo tribal history series. TVNZ had been producing Waka Huia in-house, since it began in 1988. Said Douglas: "This programme is a national taonga and I’m so blessed to be a part of its making."

She went on to produce shows ranging from comedy to finance to hunting. They included On The Ladder, which provided advice on how to get on the property ladder, and  two seasons of travel show Te Araroa: Tales From the Trails, hosted by Pio Terei. The second series of Te Araroa was a Best Lifestyle Programme finalist at 2017's NZ Television Awards. Waka Huia was also a finalist that year in the Best Māori Programme category.

In 2021, Douglas' project Origins arrived on kiwi screens, after almost a decade in development. The three-part series explores Māori origins and the far-reaching journeys taken by Aotearoa New Zealand's first people. Hosted by Scotty Morrison, the show was a collaboration between Scottie Productions and Greenstone TV. In coming up with the series concept, Douglas was inspired by her father's research into the origins of their iwi Te Arawa. Origins was nominated for Best Factual Series at the 2021 NZ Television Awards. 

While Douglas is pleased at the jump in Māori content on Kiwi screens thanks to the formation of Māori Television, she feels that the channel's funding allocations are unfairly low. "It still sickens me that it is funded at about 40% less than what mainstream productions receive. I hope that changes sometime soon."   

Profile written by Natasha Harris; Updated on 10 March 2021

Sources include
Meg Douglas
Scottie Productions website. Accessed 19 September 2018
Liam Cavanagh, 'Outsourcing Māori programming still raw, but the show goes on' - NewsWire website. Loaded 1 April 2015. Accessed 19 September 2018
Meg Douglas, 'Megan Douglas: My StoryPoutama website. Loaded 22 December 2016. Accessed 19 September 2018