18 Feb More About the TELESA Film Project

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Karin Williams of Multinesia Productions is the (powerhouse) woman responsible for taking TELESA to the NZ Film Commission. Here’s what she’s got to say about how it happened and where we’re headed.

Telesā: Producer’s Statement

I read the entire Telesā series over Christmas-New Year 2014, including the Daniel Tahi novella. And then I read it straight through again. By the time I got to page 16, I knew this was something special. I’d never seen anything like it, especially from a Pacific writer.

Immediately, I knew that these characters and their stories needed to become a movie or television series. At first I was puzzled that the Telesā series hadn’t been picked up by a major publisher or film studio. Then I realised that mainstream media has no frame of reference for Pacific mythology or Samoan teenagers. Lani was flying under the cultural radar. But not for long!

People call Telesā the “Samoan Twilight”, but Leila Folger is a much stronger character than some wimpy girl who moons around after sparkly vampires. She’s more like the Samoan Buffy – a tough woman who fights the forces of evil and kicks butt. Leila’s the real “Girl on Fire”!

I admire Lani’s tenacity in getting the books published, never taking no for an answer, and her passionate relationship with her fans. Most moviemakers would kill for a loyal, intelligent, active fan base like the Telesā readers. It’s also a huge responsibility. All readers fear their favourite book will be botched by a bad film adaptation, so it’s important we get it right.

When I first sat down with Lani to talk about adapting these books for the screen, I asked what her worst fear was. She worried the films would never get made, that the project was just too big and no one would care enough. My biggest fear is not that the movies don’t get made, but that they get made wrong. The idea of “Hollywood” whitewashing Leila and the Sisterhood is a horrifying prospect. Cultural integrity is paramount to this project.

We’re at the beginning of a marathon – or maybe a triathlon. It’s a huge challenge and it will be a long journey to translate these books for the screen. Neither of us have done a project of this magnitude before, but with the backing of the NZ Film Commission, I have faith that we will find the right team of supporters who believe in this project as much as we do.

Karin Williams
February 2015

Multinesia Productions is a global indigenous production company with South Pacific roots. Founded in Los Angeles, now based in Auckland, we are proud to create, manage and produce award-winning projects for stage and screen. We’ve worked with communities from Alaska to Aotearoa to tell authentic stories of our ancestors and other native people.

8 Comments
  • Dana
    Reply

    I am thrilled that Telesa will be making it to the big screen. Telesa will, without a doubt, put “Twilight” to shame with its strong female characters and GORGEOUS, DREAMY, #chunkhunk male character, Daniel. I am so proud of you, Lani! You are an inspiration to young Samoan girls everywhere and aspiring female authors.

    February 18, 2015 at 9:34 pm
  • I am so proud to be a faithful follower of the Telesa Series and even more grateful to have a brilliant Samoan Writer like Lani Wendt Young, who could really projects Samoa in the Spot-Light Internationally. Cannot wait to see all these dreams come true. Thank you so much Mrs Young for all the hard work and the tireless effort you have put into this project. God bless you and your work!!!!

    February 18, 2015 at 11:53 pm
  • Lima Tufaga
    Reply

    I am so thrilled, I think many of the Telesa readers, including myself felt the same way. The need to have this on the big screen. Growing up in a Samoa, I can relate to the stories of Telesas’

    February 19, 2015 at 3:27 am
    • Lima Tufaga
      Reply

      Mālo Lani! I am one proud Sāmoan, and friend.

      February 19, 2015 at 3:28 am
  • Siovhan hutcherson
    Reply

    Fabulous news!!! I hope it reaches globally, because I absolutely love this series and want to explore a visual representation of Lani’s great cast if characters and (for us in the west), an eye-opening view into Pacifica people and culture. For a woman who loves what she learns about Samoa, but doesn’t have the bucks to get there, a film version would be the next best thing to being there!

    February 19, 2015 at 5:33 am
  • Fotu
    Reply

    Congratulations, Lani! Awesome news 🙂

    February 23, 2015 at 12:39 am
  • Here’s to a long, rough, but exciting road ahead. May everyone keep heart and may those who have the enormous responsibilities involved in moving the story across the mediums handle it with the utmost care and respect.

    February 23, 2015 at 11:29 am
  • Kurdi
    Reply

    Any update of the movie of Telesa….Really looking forward to this…

    September 8, 2015 at 7:08 am

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