From being a presenter, producer, chart-topping singer to fitness instructor, Ngaire Fuata has come a long way in her career. She holds more than 30 years of experience in the television production industry. Having produced award-winning short films Ma and Liliu, Ngaire is now is one of the founding Directors and Producer at SunPix, the leader in the Pasifika representation on mainstream television.
Let us shed some light on her journey as a business leader.
The Inception Story
After nearly 26 years working for Television New Zealand (TVNZ, a media company), the department (Māori & Pacific Programmes) in which Ngaire was working, was outsourced. For most of that time, Ngaire and her team had worked on Tagata Pasifika, the Pacific Islands news and current affairs show. TVNZ was looking at existing production companies to bid for the show. This was the impetus for Ngaire Fuata and her business partners to create SunPix Ltd and put in a proposal as an external company to make the program. While they had years of experience producing and delivering the program, they had no business experience.
Between her business partners, Taualeo’o Stephen Stehlin, John Utanga, and Ngaire herself, they had a range of skills, a good track record of delivery and production experience, and very strong connections with the Pacific Islands communities. This made the collaboration solid, and while there were a few hoops to jump through, they were successful in getting the contract.
Ngaire asserts, “One of the most difficult aspects was being a new company, a new brand, new name, and the lack of name awareness and confidence from the funders. The Pacific Sports Awards show, which was scheduled, didn’t go ahead, so we decided to create our own awards show to celebrate the unsung heroes in the Pacific community. We just called it SunPix Pacific Peoples Awards. It was a good way of connecting with our audience and building the brand. SunPix is now into its 8th year and has grown from not only a production company with its own online platform to now having a post-production company as well.”
Engaging Pacific Communities
Ngaire mentions that SunPix is a group of companies with its primary focus on Pacific Islands stories in Aotearoa, New Zealand and the Pacific region. It produces TVNZ’s flagship Tagata Pasifika television program and has an online platform TP+ tpplus.co.nz to engage Pacific communities through high-quality and relevant storytelling.
A Profound Impact
Talking about creating the impact on the television industry, Ngaire says, “We’ve made an impact in our television niche through our people. Our team has close connections with their island communities, and we cover all sorts of things that mainstream programs wouldn’t do. We are proud to say that we have earned the trust and confidence of our communities. While the landscape is changing now, and the major broadcasters and even advertisers are seeing the value and contribution of the Pacific Islands people, our experience over the years has meant that we are leaders in this field.”
The most recent example of close and trusted links of SunPix is that it managed to get through to Tonga after the volcanic eruptions and tsunami when nobody else could, and its interview was used again by news outlets around the world.
Besides, the post-production facility of SunPix has played a role in filming and editing the Covid-19 Pacific Language messaging (10 languages) over the last couple of years.
SunPix’s legacy show Tagata Pasifika turns 35 this year and is still the only Pacific Islands news and current affairs television show. Its archive is extensive. It’s funded by the Public Interest Journalism fund through NZ On Air, its broadcasting funding agency.
Ngaire adds “Our company values are respect, cooperation and loyalty. We are a trusted brand and sometimes people will talk to us before they will talk to mainstream media. We celebrate our languages and use pacific languages where and when possible. This keeps our audience culturally connected to their homelands.
Encouraging Youths to Tell their Stories
We asked Ngaire what change she would like to bring to the digital media industry, to which she answers, “Although we are a small company, we take our roles seriously and try to encourage Pasifika youth to tell their own stories. We have done this with an attitude of never saying no to opportunities. Our dream is to provide Pasifika youth a surer pipeline into the industry as well as more stability. This may mean a challenging change to the gig economy which has led to a lack of diversity. So the change we would like to see is the creation of opportunity with the result being a more diverse Digital Media industry enriching the lives of all New Zealanders.”
Engaging Younger Generation Positively
When asked about the next big change in the Production & Management industry, Ngaire states that the industry is constantly changing, and there are so many formats and platforms to entertain people. While SunPix moves with this, the one thing that stays constant is the story.
“Our ability to be agile is how we prepare for this constant evolutionary process. Our great desire is to engage the younger generation because their stories and they matter in this changing and sometimes polarising world,” says Ngaire.
Building Sustainable Business and Creating Healthier Industry
In the upcoming years, SunPix aims to build a sustainable business with capacity that maintains a place for Pacific Islands storytelling by Pacific people. Ngaire believes that there’s enough room for more Pacific Islands production companies, and SunPix has helped and mentored some new ones coming through. She notes, “Collaboration, cooperation, and mutual respect is key and more capacity creates a healthier industry.”
Further, she also reveals that SunPix is making an independent feature film this year called “Mysterious Ways”, and it has some budding filmmakers and hopes to be able to support more projects like this in the future.
Ngaire adds, “We’re able to commission other programmes for our TP+( tpplus.co.nz) platform and support these new producers to get funding, so we’re not only creating content, we’re commissioning content for our platform. We have also taken the lead in acting as commissioners for MFAT’s Pasifika TV (PCBL Ltd) and we are mentoring regional broadcasters on their behalf. We are rock solidly behind the kaupapa (principle) of local stories made by local people.”