Takes a Village is the local comedy series wearing its nuttiness on its sleeve

by Russell Brown / 25 October, 2018
Takes a Village, Thursday.

Takes a Village, Thursday.

RelatedArticlesModule - Takes a Village nz tv

Director Julian Aharanga's low-budget comedy series is daft and proud of it.

Julian Aharanga made his name as a director of documentaries and the celebrated factual series Songs from the Inside. So, how exactly did he and his company, Awa Films, wind up making a seaside slapstick comedy?

“It’s crazy, isn’t it?” Aharanga says with a chuckle.

Awa submitted a half dozen proposals in the same Te Māngai Pāho funding round and he freely admits that Takes a Village (Māori TV, Thursday, 9.00pm), the story of table tennis champ Tipene Harris, who comes home to Whara Bay after disgracing himself on the world stage, was not the one he expected to get the green light.

The project began when writer Dane Giraud came to Awa with an idea for a skit comedy show. In the course of working it around to a seven-episode narrative with a redemptive conclusion (“Dane’s all about the gags, but I like stories”), Aharanga found himself not only directing, but producing.

Takes a Village is, let’s be clear, quite daft, but it wears its daftness, and its shoestring budget, on its sleeve. Half of the core cast play two or even three characters each, which, says Aharanga, “made scheduling a nightmare”.

Other difficulties included having to restore the key location, a community hall in Porirua, at the end of each day’s shooting, so that its regular tenants, the local bowling club and Kapi Mana Rock ’n’ Roll Club, could use it in the evenings.

“It was a hard job, but we had a really good crew,” says Aharanga. “Everyone just bought into the whole kaupapa of what we were doing and most of the time we had fun. If you’re laughing 70% of the day, things can’t be too bad.

“Smaller production companies don’t get much opportunity with comedy and drama and the only way we can get opportunities is by torturing ourselves with low-end budgets. I’m hoping this show is received well, and that it gets some pick-up on demand, just so funders and broadcasters can see what we can do with no money.”

Aharanga may be getting his wish. Te Māngai Pāho and NZ On Air recently funded Colonial Combat (“a comedy wrestling show set in 1800s Bay of Islands”) for Māori Television and TVNZ OnDemand. He hasn’t left documentary-making behind, though – he’s working on an “epic wake-up story” about state-care abuse – but, he says, he came from drama as an actor and it’s always been in his sights.

“And, frankly, after Songs from the Inside, I needed to do something a bit more fun.”

This article was first published in the October 20, 2018 issue of the New Zealand Listener.

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