Tioreore ‘the one’ for Taika

Distributors have high hopes for Wilderpeople.

Distributors have high hopes for Wilderpeople.

ALL SMILES: Tioreore Ngatai-Melbourne's film will be released next year

WHEN Taika Waititi said he was looking for a short, funny Maori girl who could sing, play the guitar and ride a horse, Tioreore Ngatai-Melbourne’s mates thought they knew just the one.

“They all thought it sounded just like me,” says the Hicks Bay teenager.

“They reckoned I should get the part.”

The part in question was playing Kahu, friend and love interest to Ricky, the main character in Waititi’s new film, Hunt For The Wilderpeople.

And Ngatai-Melbourne got it — though, she admits, it was a pretty intimidating process.

After Waititi’s collective Piki Films put out the call for a Maori girl who was “independent, can handle herself in the bush, and is an experienced horserider”, she was one of 150 young hopefuls to send in video applications.

And the recording of herself telling one of her papa’s cheesy jokes hit the mark — she was among about 30 budding actors summoned to Auckland for a live audition. Once that was whittled down to a top three, she did a Skype interview and script reading with Waititi and acting coach Rachel House.

That won her the part, about which she says she was “pretty happy”.

“That’s an understatement,” laughs dad Taiarahia Melbourne. “She was over the moon.”

“But he was freaking out more than me!” Ngatai-Melbourne says.

Student at Hicks Bay

The 15-year-old is a student at Hicks Bay’s Te Kura Kaupapa o Maori Kawakawa Mai Tawhiti — the school also attended by younger sister Keeti, and where her father and mother Kararaina Ngatai-Melbourne both work — so plans were made for her to travel to Ohakune and Auckland to shoot her scenes.

Then a couple of weeks before filming was due to start, tragedy struck: her 22-year-old brother Perohuka died.

That was tough, says Melbourne — not only did his daughter have to decide if she could do the job, Waititi wanted to be sure she wasn’t under any undue pressure.

“But in the end Piki worked around her,” he says. “Taika delayed her scenes and limited them all to Auckland. And Rachel House was amazing. She wasn’t just an acting coach . . . she was a mentor and a big support for Ore.”

For her part, Ngatai-Melbourne just had to knuckle down and do what was required, as well as meeting fellow cast members including award-winning young actor Julian Dennison (Ricky), who first worked with Waititi on 2013 drug-driving advertisement, Blazed.

Starring Sam Neill

Also starring Sam Neill, Stan Walker and Rhys Darby, the comic adventure Wilderpeople is an adaptation of Barry Crump’s novel Wild Pork And Watercress, about cantankerous foster uncle Hec (Neill) who goes bush in the Ureweras with his city kid nephew Ricky after Social Welfare threatens to put the boy into a home.

Since the shoot Tioreore Ngati-Melbourne has been back on the Coast to focus on her NCEA exams and the hair and beauty trades training she does in Gisborne twice a month.

This week, however, she headed back in Auckland to film the pick-ups Waititi needs to complete the film, which is due out early next year.

Australian company Madman Entertainment has acquired all rights to the film for Australia and New Zealand while London-based Protagonist Pictures has taken on international sales rights, and they have high hopes for its future.

“Taika Waititi is one of the most exciting filmmakers in the world,” Protagonist chief executive Mike Goodridge told US film magazine Variety.

“His natural talent for warm comedy is even further demonstrated in this wonderful and winning new movie. We think this is the film that will take him to the next level on the world stage.”

Hunt For The Wilderpeople is currently in post-production, and is due for release in early-to-mid 2016. There is a similar timeline for Lee Tamahori’s adaptation of the Witi Ihimaera novel Bulibasha: King Of The Gypsies, which was filmed under the name The Patriarch but has been retitled Mahana.

WHEN Taika Waititi said he was looking for a short, funny Maori girl who could sing, play the guitar and ride a horse, Tioreore Ngatai-Melbourne’s mates thought they knew just the one.

“They all thought it sounded just like me,” says the Hicks Bay teenager.

“They reckoned I should get the part.”

The part in question was playing Kahu, friend and love interest to Ricky, the main character in Waititi’s new film, Hunt For The Wilderpeople.

And Ngatai-Melbourne got it — though, she admits, it was a pretty intimidating process.

After Waititi’s collective Piki Films put out the call for a Maori girl who was “independent, can handle herself in the bush, and is an experienced horserider”, she was one of 150 young hopefuls to send in video applications.

And the recording of herself telling one of her papa’s cheesy jokes hit the mark — she was among about 30 budding actors summoned to Auckland for a live audition. Once that was whittled down to a top three, she did a Skype interview and script reading with Waititi and acting coach Rachel House.

That won her the part, about which she says she was “pretty happy”.

“That’s an understatement,” laughs dad Taiarahia Melbourne. “She was over the moon.”

“But he was freaking out more than me!” Ngatai-Melbourne says.

Student at Hicks Bay

The 15-year-old is a student at Hicks Bay’s Te Kura Kaupapa o Maori Kawakawa Mai Tawhiti — the school also attended by younger sister Keeti, and where her father and mother Kararaina Ngatai-Melbourne both work — so plans were made for her to travel to Ohakune and Auckland to shoot her scenes.

Then a couple of weeks before filming was due to start, tragedy struck: her 22-year-old brother Perohuka died.

That was tough, says Melbourne — not only did his daughter have to decide if she could do the job, Waititi wanted to be sure she wasn’t under any undue pressure.

“But in the end Piki worked around her,” he says. “Taika delayed her scenes and limited them all to Auckland. And Rachel House was amazing. She wasn’t just an acting coach . . . she was a mentor and a big support for Ore.”

For her part, Ngatai-Melbourne just had to knuckle down and do what was required, as well as meeting fellow cast members including award-winning young actor Julian Dennison (Ricky), who first worked with Waititi on 2013 drug-driving advertisement, Blazed.

Starring Sam Neill

Also starring Sam Neill, Stan Walker and Rhys Darby, the comic adventure Wilderpeople is an adaptation of Barry Crump’s novel Wild Pork And Watercress, about cantankerous foster uncle Hec (Neill) who goes bush in the Ureweras with his city kid nephew Ricky after Social Welfare threatens to put the boy into a home.

Since the shoot Tioreore Ngati-Melbourne has been back on the Coast to focus on her NCEA exams and the hair and beauty trades training she does in Gisborne twice a month.

This week, however, she headed back in Auckland to film the pick-ups Waititi needs to complete the film, which is due out early next year.

Australian company Madman Entertainment has acquired all rights to the film for Australia and New Zealand while London-based Protagonist Pictures has taken on international sales rights, and they have high hopes for its future.

“Taika Waititi is one of the most exciting filmmakers in the world,” Protagonist chief executive Mike Goodridge told US film magazine Variety.

“His natural talent for warm comedy is even further demonstrated in this wonderful and winning new movie. We think this is the film that will take him to the next level on the world stage.”

Hunt For The Wilderpeople is currently in post-production, and is due for release in early-to-mid 2016. There is a similar timeline for Lee Tamahori’s adaptation of the Witi Ihimaera novel Bulibasha: King Of The Gypsies, which was filmed under the name The Patriarch but has been retitled Mahana.

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