I’ve always been a tinkerer.
Growing up, I spent most of my time drawing, carving, and making things. I would pick up the tools and teach myself by doing, feeling my way through it. As an editor, it’s something I still do to this day.
My career started with my whānau in Tūrangi. My uncle hired me to be his graphic artist and edit a tamariki show he was producing in preparation for the launch of Whakaata Māori. It was an opportunity to ‘learn while you earn’, and I found huge satisfaction in crafting images with sound. I equally enjoyed learning about the tools.
By day, I was cutting. By night, I was researching components.
Soon after, I met a DOP named Mike Jonathan. I moved to Rotorua and started cutting shows with him and Hula Haka Productions. I got to cut a range of genres and work with different directors and producers. They gave me the freedom to try new things, which was important groundwork for figuring out my style as an editor.
Like many, I was drawn to the creative energy of Wellington. From musicians to writers to animators, the city was bursting with expression. It was infectious. I hit the streets, knocking on doors and saying yes to anything from cutting news and current affairs to adverts, web series to new series. By default, I set myself up as a business, which made it easier to freelance around town. In my downtime, I sharpened my tools, kept up to date with new tech and software programmes, bought new (and second-hand) computer parts, and started designing systems. I trained myself to use everything; the industry demands relentless evolution. It pushed me to broaden my skills from the basic NewTek system to Adobe Suite, Avid, DaVinci Resolve, Blender, Premiere Pro, After Effects, Photoshop, and many others that came and went. I honed my craft, learning from incredible storytellers like Annie Collins, Tainui Stephens, Fiona Kupenga, Tina Wickliffe, Ngahuia Wade, and Maramena Roderick (my now mother-in-law). It was years of hustling, layers of grunt work, and a special time with incredible people.
A few years ago, I moved to Auckland, ready to do something different. Off the back of some of my long-form factual work, I’ve had the opportunity to work in scripted drama and films. It’s broadened my relationships with Māori creatives, challenged my limitations, and deepened my craft as an artist.
Right now, I am again cutting with Mike Jonathan, this time on his first feature as a director. It’s taken us twenty years of patience and perseverance. Maybe it’s serendipitous. Maybe it’s planned. Maybe it’s whakapapa.
I still love tech. I still love learning new things. I still love to tinker.
Through the grace of many who’ve supported me, I’ve built a career that is all three.
I’m a Māori boy from Tūrangi with no qualifications or formal training who never spoke English until he was 16. It sounds cliche, but it’s true. If I can do it, so can you.
About Te Rurehe Paki
‘Ko te ahi whakakakā, ko te ahi whakahikahika, ko te ahi whakakihihī, hei whakahoro kakā i te manawa. Ka tuu ki te mura o te ahi, pae tu, pae hinga, karawhiua ki ngā pari karangaranga, whakapaohotia atu rā, kia haruru ki te rangi, kia rū ki te nuku, ko Te Rurehe tēnei, e tau nei e.’
Te Rurehe is a video editor and owner of The Suite Limited, the post-production facility that has shaped numerous television series and films including, 2021 NZIFF Jury Award Winner Washday, 2019 Victoria Film Festival Winner Merata: How Mum Decolonised the Screen, and the 2018 Fifo Film Festival Winner Making Good Men. As an editor, he focuses on the narrative and pace of a story, following his intuition that he has honed from working on various formats and genres throughout his career. He approaches each project with a fresh perspective, applying his skill as a storyteller with his passion for computers and technology. He promotes opportunities to do this in his first language, te reo Māori, and share with audiences what was nurtured in him – a unique Māori worldview.
How I Got Started in the Industry is a guest blog series from the Directors and Editors Guild of Aotearoa New Zealand (DEGANZ). Our members reflect on how they made their way into assistant editing, editing, and directing—with no two stories the same. They offer advice for those starting out. Get in touch with firstname.lastname@example.org if you’re a member and would like to share your story.