Getting the Message

As we stand outside the gates of Waikeri Marae waiting to be called on, I realise that what we’re about to do is a bit crazy. We don’t know the 25 young people that we’re walking on to the marae with. We’ve never met them before. They don’t even really know what they’re here for.

When the brief came through from REAL to help young people create a really positive conversation about sex, respect and consent, we were definitely in. We knew that we had to find a genuine way to connect people to this conversation, in a language and medium familiar to them. And, so that’s how we find ourselves here in this place, surrounded by a group of young people, about to make a music video, with only 3 days ahead of us to get it done.

GULP. And breathe.

But as we walked onto the marae together, as we were greeted, and shared a cup of tea together, something remarkable happened. This group of strangers became family. We became one. One group working with one common goal. That was the beginning of the magic of being on Marae, of kaupapa māori, of tikanga, of whakawhanaungatanga.

With this binding, we were able to have mature and meaningful conversations about sex. About consent. About the advice we’d received. The advice we wish we’d received and that we wished others could hear. We shared stories. We shared personal experiences. And, we laughed a lot.  

Being able to have these conversations together uncovered the message that we wanted our mahi to get across. And we went to sleep on the first night with these thoughts percolating.

Day two was entirely different. With the grounding done, day two was all about making. And making fast. We divided the group in two. One group to write and record music.  And one group to make the video.

Our music makers were in the very capable hands of Mark Arona & N.O.X from Illegal Musik, in their cool little pop-up studio inside the wharenui.

While the song was being written, our film makers Benj & Kaan were working with the rest of the group to script and storyboard what would become the music video.

Within an hour, the song was starting to take shape. The storyboards were drafted, and we knew the direction we were heading. The two groups shared their progress, gave each-other the nod. And then we were away.

Calling action. Capturing the shots. Directing, Acting. Take after take. Recording, polishing, recording again.

Patience and persistence were required by all of us. But the energy was amazing. We fell into a frenetic rhythm of creating. Everyone felt ownership of what we were doing. Everyone was in support of one-another. We could all feel it coming together.

On the third and final day, we captured the final shots, recorded the group audio, and Kaan edited like no man has ever edited before. And then, through a haze of exhaustion, we watched the first cut of our collective efforts.  

‘The Message’ was real. And, catchy! I’ve been humming it ever since that first play of the video.

The end product truly exceeded my expectations. I knew that we would make something. And I knew it would be good. What I didn’t realise was just how talented, productive, and passionate all of the young people would be.

The process was as powerful as the product. We got to see everyone step up, direct the shots, take starring roles, pour their thoughts into song, support one another, push each-other just a little, and we had so much fun doing it.

The Message is truly a product of everyone who was at the Marae with us; no matter the role they played. It was like we were weaving a beautiful korowai, and every individual involved was a thread that made it stronger.

There are a hundred thank you’s needed for this project. To the team - Kat, Benj, Kaan, thanks for holding the process, and keeping things moving. To Mark & N.O.X thanks for the power of music and sharing your skills and knowledge. To Chaz, Anaru & Neihana from REAL - your energy and commitment to your mahi gives us all strength, thank you. And to everyone who joined us at the marae, or worked behind the scenes to get this done - thank you for trusting the process and for giving yourself to it.  

But most of all; thank you to all of the young people involved who made your voices heard. This song is yours;  let’s make sure that people get The Message!


Ka pu te ruha, ka hao te rangatahi.

Eddy Royal