After 27 years as in-house TVNZ Producers of Tagata Pasifika (now in its 35th year), SunPix was founded in 2014 as TVNZ outsourced its Māori and Pacific Programmes, including Tagata Pasifika. John Utanga, Ngaire Fuata and Stephen Stehlin established SunPix, bidded for the show and took it into the private sector.
Since then, Sunpix has been involved with a range of productions displaying the breadth and depth of Pacific communities. From their involvement in the Arts Pasifika Awards to postproduction across the industry, Sunpix has a singular goal: telling Pacific stories in a genuinely Pacific way.
So, when the opportunity arose to be involved with a funding and development platform for Pacific broadcasters to tell their stories, the choice was clear. Sunpix partnered with PasifikaTV as commissioner to deliver the inaugural Pasifika On Air program (POA) – A first of its kind that saw eleven broadcasters from eight Pacific countries take part in producing documentaries about life in the islands.
Stephen Stehlin, Managing Director of Sunpix, was excited to be part of the project. “We were thrilled to hear about POA since it’s a watershed moment in our relationship with Moana countries.”
While excited about the prospects of what Pasifika On Air could achieve, Stephen was surprised for Sunpix to be selected. “We did not expect to be commissioners for POA but how could we say no.”
Stephen and the team at Sunpix were involved throughout the process, from script editing at the outset to constructive feedback of final editing.
Naturally, a lot of the stories developed revolved around the impact of the pandemic, but they focused on the strong resilience shown in the face of unprecedented challenges.
Beyond the struggles of Covid, broadcasters grappled with their size and inexperience creating “long story formats which some broadcasters are not familiar with” says Stephen. “In addition to that there is subtitling for the languages – and there are many.”
The Pasifika On Air had its moments – both good and bad. “The heartbreak of the eruption in Tonga gave us a personal look into that tragedy” says Stephen but the key message throughout “is the remarkable strength of people of the Moana and their positive outlook on life despite losing their jobs, businesses, and sometimes their homes.”
For Sunpix, being a part of Pasifika On Air was more than just producing stories for television, it represented “the start of a conversation with the Pacific, rather than one way traffic” says Stephen. “We are at last having a meaningful conversation with the great Moana Nui a Kiwa.”
With the stories to be launched on PasifikaTV in June, Sunpix’s role as commissioner is wrapping up. The question hangs in the air – what next?
“I see the POA programme as a starting point” says Stephen, hoping that the broadcasters have learned “the process of pitching, reporting and actually being funded for projects.” Developing the skills, knowledge, and relationships for a Pacific production network is no small task but Stephen notes “it starts with one step. This one.”
The shows from Pasifika On Air 2022 are currently being broadcast across the Pacific on PasifikaTV, with more information on each broadcaster involved and their show released on pasifikatv.co.nz when they premier.