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Warner Bros Discovery NZ boards primetime Māori drama for Three, ThreeNow

Warner Brothers Discovery (WBD) in New Zealand has boarded the series Tangata Pai, its first primetime drama in which 30% of the dialogue is in the Māori language, to launch on its network Three and streaming service ThreeNow.

Amie Mills

The 8×44′ series tells the stories of five people in the last hour of their lives before a bomb is detonated at a Māori protest.

Produced by Green Sugar Media, the series will receive up to NZ$3.9m (US$2.3m) from funding body NZ On Air, which is backing a number of scripted productions with strong Māori themes in its latest co-funding round with Te Māngai Pāho.

Te Māngai Pāho is the New Zealand crown entity responsible for the promotion of Māori language and culture by providing support for Māori-language programming on radio and television.

A total of 25 applications were submitted to the round, with four applications receiving scripted production funding and five receiving suport for scripted development, amounting to a total of NZ$10.2m.

The other three productions to receive scripted production funding are: Rapunga the Hunt (6×26′), which is inspired by true events and follows an eclectic group of urban Māori who find themselves in the middle of the remote far north; Kupu X (6×15′), a drama in which a woman debunks local mysteries on TikTok as a front for her investigation into her mother’s disappearance; and scripted comedy Dead Ahead (6×23′), which follows a Māori family as they return home after a decade abroad.

The latter comes from HiMama for viewing on TVNZ+ and TVNZ 2 and will receive up to NZ$2.9m from the fund.

Rapunga the Hunt comes from Cinco Cine Film Productions for Māori+ and Whakaata Māori and will receive up to NZ$2.2m from the fund, while Kupu X will be made by Adrenalin Group for Whakaata Māori, TikTok and YouTube. It will receive up to NZ$951,280 in funding.

“Research had shown us that around 70% of funding going to Māori production companies from across the screen funding agencies was going towards non-fiction productions,” said Amie Mills, head of funding at NZ On Air. “This year’s co-fund was focused on redressing that imbalance and shining a light on the brilliant, scripted craft of our Māori screen storytellers.”

Larry Parr, head of Te Māngai Pāho, said the applications to the co-fund all have strong Māori themes as well as being larger scale projects with high production values and a high creative bar.

The news comes as the New Zealand screen sector has been pushed into crisis mode after the market’s dominant broadcasters, TVNZ and WBD NZ, confirmed significant job losses, cuts to investment in local production and the abrupt axing of local programming.

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