18 Feb More About the TELESA Film Project
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.
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.