Web-based show reveals South Auckland talent

SIMON DAY
Last updated 05:00 23/06/2013

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Forget X Factor, on the streets of South Auckland you can bump into the next big Kiwi star on the bus or in The Warehouse.

And that's exactly where the producers of The Factory, a web series sequel to the successful stage production of the same name, found talent for the show.

The auditions involved a bus, decorated in a rainbow of Pacific designs, stopping at places like the Otara markets and Polyfest for open talent shows to find the cast.

And the exploration of South Auckland revealed hidden talents on every corner.

R'n'B artist Rasela Sosoli, 19, thought her bus audition would involve only singing. But acting came quickly and naturally, and she won the role of Losa Saumalu.

"I like the idea of being in someone else's shoes for a while," she said.

She had auditioned for X Factor but was passed over by the judges. The next day she was signed to a record label.

Now one of her original songs will feature in the show, which follows the Saumalu family through the neatly named Ex Factor competition to find the best singing group from South Auckland's factories.

The Saumalu's patriarchal grandfather was discovered in The Warehouse.

Ben Taufua, 58, the senior Pasifika national adviser at Massey University, ran into Pacific Island theatre company Kila Kokonut Krew founder Vela Manusaute, who asked him to read some lines for their updated stage show.

When he was offered the part of Tigi Saumalu he accepted, thinking the two lines he read in audition was the entire role.

"I went and picked up the script. When I got there, there was a pile of papers. I said, ‘Well that is interesting because I don't think I can do it.' I was really scared and fearful of failure," he said.

But the experienced producers, Janet McIvor (Whale Rider) and Robin Scholes (Once Were Warriors, Mr Pip), welcomed the new actors.

The raw talent was polished by letting the actors be themselves.

"There were a couple of my lines, where growing up in South Auckland I would never say that. And they let us change it," said Sosoli.

It's a culture where humility can mean talent is hidden, but the show celebrates the beauty of South Auckland and its people.

"The people that came in to do guest performances - they were all amazing. These were people you might have seen around the shops, then you find out they are a crazy singer or dancer," Sosoli said.

"Being humble is not about pretending you are not capable of something."

Despite his initial fears, Taufua is proud of his achievement.

"It is never too early, never too young, never too late, never too old to make the most of an opportunity," he said.

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The series, which launches on Monday, was not only a chance for new talent, but also for new customers. Partner Telecom hopes the web series can help it reach into the South Auckland market.

"We have a lower market share in Auckland than I would like, so one of the key customer groups is the Pacific Island community, where Vodafone have a stronger market position than we do," said Jason Paris, Telecom's chief marketing officer.

Data usage on mobile devices has tripled over the past 12 months and the seven-minute online episodes let Telecom reach young customers who are increasingly looking outside television for entertainment.

The first web series will go live online at 11am tomorrow at www.thefactorystory.co.nz.

- Sunday Star Times

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