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

The Factory - Series

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

In this music-heavy web series, a South Auckland family competes in a local talent quest. Alongside battles over  performing the traditional Samoan music favoured by their grandfather, the Saumalus have to deal with a dodgy competitor and some last minute changes of tune. There's also romance, heartbreak, and a shifty Palagi factory boss. The final episode (of 20) features behind the scenes bloopers. Directed by music video veteran Joe Lonie, The Factory began as a highly successful stage musical from South Auckland-based theatre group Kila Kokonut Krew.

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.

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".

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).

KTV

2006 - 2007, Writer, Producer - Television

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.

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.

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 to 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. Fijian European Lala Rolls directs.