In a screen career spanning more than two decades, Melanie Rakena has produced more than a thousand hours of television. Rakena has spent time in floor-management, executive producing, and as head of the Lifestyle Unit at TVNZ, where she oversaw an array of reality and magazine formats.
In 2002 Rakena set up company JAM TV with one-time television reporter Jane Andrews. Since then JAM has enjoyed significant success producing an array of award-winning popular factual programmes. Rakena is particularly passionate about adventure travel, and many of JAM's shows are based around travel and exploring, whether local or international.
Having enjoyed backpacking to far flung corners of the globe, Rakena convinced TVNZ of the worth of taking local celebrities off the beaten track, and out of their comfort zone. The result was Intrepid Journeys, launched in 2003. Each episode followed a famous New Zealander during a fortnight visit to a country (or countries). Over nine seasons, the globetrotting series won multiple awards for best series in its category, with travellers ranging from musicians and ex-Prime Ministers to an extensive list of actors and TV presenters.
Rakena then turned her hand to 2004's Off the Rails, a train show that managed to appeal to more than just trainspotters, becoming a breakout mainstream hit. With Marcus Lush as personable guide, the series looked at New Zealand and New Zealanders via a journey along the main trunk line. As well as producing the series, Rakena directed seven of the 12 episodes.
Lush and Jam built on their successful train partnership by exploring three further locales. The shows were Antarctic series ICE (2007), South (2009), which saw Lush exploring in and around his adopted hometown of Bluff, and North (2011) in which he returned to his native Auckland, then headed north. Rakena won Qantas best director awards for the first two shows, adding to an impressive awards tally.
Jam TV also produced back-to-nature lifestyle shows Off the Radar, and follow-up Radar's Patch. Both programmes feature comedian Te Radar endeavouring to live sustainably, while 2012 Best Information Series awardwinner Global Radar saw him exploring how human actions shape the world.
In 2013 Rakena got back on the road as producer of This Town, a rare JAM TV show without a presenter.
Jam TV website. Accessed 22 May 2017
'Her Insight' (Interview Melanie Rakena and Jane Andrews) - Her Business magazine, May 2007