Dinah Ioasa Vaiaoga is not your usual picture of a film producer. Not by way of her qualifications anyway.
She’s a past head girl from Auckland Girls Grammar, a former Miss Samoa contestant (coming 2nd runner-up 2016) and a University of Auckland graduate with a Bachelor’s of Engineering specialising in Chemical and Materials Engineering. Since graduation she’s also worked as a process engineer in the limestone industry.
So, how do you go from that to working in films? Easy – it comes from your film-making big bro.
“Yeah, I had no idea what a producer was or what the role would be but my bro Stallone said he thought I had the skills to fill the role and so I gave it a go.”
She’s talking about Stallone Vaiaoga-Ioasa, the celebrated writer/director/producer of the ground-breaking popular Auckland gone Samoa comedy ‘Three Wise Cousins’, the first inspirationally successful fiercely independent self-funded venture of its kind which proved one thing first and foremost in its success – there is a market/audience to be had for Pacific created, geared and targeted film content who will ‘turn-up’ to something they feel is from them and for them – a two-thousand percent plus profit market…
You may have seen a flicker of Dinah’s name on ‘Cousins’ as Associate Producer but that she says was more about just helping out big bro (so to did the siblings’ parents and other members of the family doing unit, extras and everything in between).
“It seemed kinda surreal we had all our family supporting. It was something he (Stallone) wanted to do for so long. It took awhile but he got there and we never really thought how it would be received. for me, it was just awesome seeing my brother have a vision and follow it through and put it out there.”
After that ‘amazing out-of-the-box’ experience Dinah went back to her engineering job in Canada and thought though it was a nice reprieve from her usual life; things were back to normal.
Then there came another call. This time big bro wanted her to produce – outright.
“I was kinda surprised, again I had no idea what I was supposed to do but I was definitely excited too. So, when he asked I quit my job in Canada and came to Aotearoa…
For me, I wanted to do something different and to see if my skills as a process engineer were transferable – But most of all I wanted to work with my brother again.”
Many siblings couldn’t stand the thought but these two are close.
“Yeah we’re like best friends and working together i knew it was going to be fun. It’s easy for us to be on that level where we can just speak our own minds and just carry on with things. If we had a fight one day the next we’d be all good or even later that day. We do try hard to make up for it which is good.”
The new film is called ‘Hibiscus & Ruthless’ and is a comedic story about two best friends – Hibiscus, who is Samoan and childhood bestie Ruth, who is Palagi; she’s nicknamed ‘Ruthless’. They’ve grown up together and are now in their last year of university.
“Ruthless has been around long enough to learn a bit of the Sāmoan language and understands the cultural side of things. She’s always at Hibiscus’s house. Hibiscus has a strict mum but now they’re in their final year she (Hibiscus) starts to notice boys et cetera. Ruth tries to keep her on the straight and narrow. We basically follow them as they try to deal with all the funny things that follow from that.”
Stallone again wrote the script for this film and according to Dinah “if you liked Three Wise Cousins, you’ll definitely enjoy this one.”
Again, they decided to follow the model of Cousins and do everything themselves – financing, production, marketing and of course mum and dad were back on board.
“Mum and dad are just part of the crew. They did all the food on Three Wise Cousins and again were our Unit Team for Ruthless. We have a much smaller budget than other films people are used to and so we try to do as much as we can ourselves. I’ve also been production manager and wardrobe, and my bro directed, organised post and edited (as well as writing of course). We’re cutting costs but not on quality. Though trying to find that balance sometimes is challenging.”
Dinah and the team are definitely hoping Hibiscus&Ruthless will be at least as successful if not more successful than Three Wise Cousins.
“…that’s what we’re aiming for. It’s been less than a year from script to production so it’s a fast turn-around and this gives me itchy feet, coming from a different industry. I haven’t completely ruled out engineering but I’ll be here (in Aotearoa) for awhile and maybe hopefully work on a few more films with my brother until he gets annoyed and I’m forced back to engineering,” she says with a laugh.
Hopefully not too soon Dinah, if at all. Here’s looking forward to what may be…