Tawera Productions and Black Pearl Productions

Tawera Productions and Black Pearl Ltd are two independent companies that come together to film people and their stories.

Toby Mills (Ngati Hinerangi) and Moana Maniapoto (Te Arawa and Ngati Tuwharetoa) are indigenous filmmakers from New Zealand. Both individually and as a partnership, they tell stories through film and music, using both Maori and English languages.

Producer / Director / Interviewer Toby Mills entered into the New Zealand film industry as an actor. He appeared in the Barry Barclay produced feature film Te Rua as well as Mananui (James Wallace Productions) and The Find (Donovan Bailey). He also worked in local drama series and commercials. Toby was also managing the very first Maori theatre company Te Rakau Hua o te Wa o Tapu, which toured Maori stories throughout theatres and schools.

Toby then turned his hand to directing, cutting his teeth on documentaries such as An Inside Story (an insight into the life of Maori inmates in New Zealand prisons). That was followed by The Family, which examined the role and impact of a Maori urban community trust. He also produced an educational resource package for Maori language schools, and a video for Maori Legal Services about the Resource Management Act.

Director / Researcher / Interviewer Moana Maniapoto is most well known as a musician, and leader of the band Moana & the tribe. A law graduate, Moana can also claim a strong career in both radio and television broadcasting. A talkback host on the very first national Maori radio station in 1990, she also hosted her own weekly night-time show on Radio Waatea and a music magazine series called Tribal Beats. She co-hosted a children's live television series, Yahoo (TV3) and acted on Shortland Street opposite Temuera Morrison.


'Ahakoa he iti, he pounamu. Small but precious.'

‘Our passion is to film our people telling their own stories, and to capture it with integrity.’



THE NEGOTIATORS (post-production)

Documentary series, The Negotiators explores the reality of treaty settlements through the eyes of seven lead negotiators. Funded by NZ on Air, The Negotiators will be broadcast through Māori Television in 2019. Producer Toby Mills, Director Moana Maniapoto


Feature Documentary: Actor/Director Julian Arahanga returns to Raetihi to find out what happened to his hometown after a tank at Turoa ski field leached some 19,000 litres of diesel into the Mākōtuku Stream, contaminating the local water supply. A Tawera / Awa Films Production (MTS) - Producer


Series: 10 x 10 min series for Māori Television. School pride and their Haka are showcased in this series through the stories of students and the school body performing their school HAKA.


Web-series: 6 x 15 mins NZ Herald / E-Tangata - Producer
Māori and Polynesian Wahine of influence tell their stories leading into International Womens Day.


Video Installations: 6 x 6mins Short Films – Producer/Director
Films that look at the Treaty settlement process from Tribal and Crown perspectives for the new Treaty of Waitangi Installation at the Auckland Museum.


Documentary Series: Led by waka legend Hoturoa Barclay – Kerr (Tainui) and skipper Frank Kawe (Ngāti Kahungunu) a trio of rangatahi are mentored in the ancients laws of voyaging. Waka Warriors is a 10-part adventure that follows the transformation of three rangatahi as they vie for a place on board a fleet of voyaging canoes sailing to the South Pacific.


10 x 30 mins MTS – Director, Toby Mills
Tribal stories told through areial landscapes.


This feature documentary explores the little known visit to Queen Charlotte Sounds by Russian Commander Fabian Bellingshausen (1820). Moana returns to St Petersburg and Kazan in search of taonga traded during the expedition as well as never seen before sketches and asks why the Russians came to N.Z and what happened during the 10 days they spent with Maori in Ships Cove? The documentary includes re-enactments based on actual diaries of the ships crew. It screened on Maori Television and was showcased at the Message Sticks Festival, Sydney Opera House in March, 2012.


The Bridge-builder is a profile on 80 year old Hekenukumai Busby; Mastercarver, waka-builder, celestial navigator and icon of the Pacific. It traces his rise from engineer and bridgebuilder in the north to his visit in 2008 to the small Micronesian island of Satawal, where Hec was acknowledged in a traditional ceremony, as a master celestial navigator taught by the great teacher Mau Pialug.


DVD (A Black Pearl / Tawera Production)
Everyone has seen it. But few have ever ventured onto Motutaiko, the small and mysterious island that lies in the middle of Lake Taupo. This bush-clad island is considered so special that even descendents of Ngati Tuwharetoa have maintained respect from a distance. Now, the island is home to rare plant, bird and insect life – as well as the sacred remains of revered ancestors like the great chief Te Rangituamatatoru. The Island is a documentary about Motutaiko, an island named after the muttonbirds it was once abundant with. But, it is also about the people who have ventured there and whose descendents occupy the shores of Lake Taupo.
Black Pearl Productions
English language / Maori (with subtitles)
43 mins


Feature documentary (A Tawera / Black Pearl Production)
A look at the impact on intellectual property system on Maori and the appropriation of traditional symbols, images and words in the global market-place.
World premiere, imagineNATIVE Festival (Toronto), October 2005.
Television New Zealand
English language
46 mins


Feature documentary (A Tawera / Seannachie Production)
A profile on top N.Z dance company Black Grace, as they take their own unique dance to the prestigious Jacobs Pillow, in the U.S.A. Choreographer and dancer Neil Ieremia talks about his transition from Cannons Creek to the world theatre.
Television New Zealand
English language
90 mins


Documentary (A Tawera Production)
Journey of Discovery, a sensitive and humorous insight into the Solomon whanau (Temuka and the Chatham Islands). One familys journey to understand their tribal roots and role. Commissioned as part of the Whanau Development Research Strategy by Te Puni Kokiri.
Te Puni Kokiri
English language
64 mins


Feature documentary (A Tawera / Sportsbrand Production)
A profile on N.Zs most internationally successful golfers, Phillip Tataurangi and U.S Open Champ 2005, Michael Campbell. An insight into what drives two young Maori men to be top in their field, and in the world.
Television New Zealand
English language
46 mins


Profile / Documentary (A Tawera / Black Pearl Production)
A profile on the former President of the Auckland Maori Students Union and activist group Nga Tamatoa, Syd Jackson put the Treaty of Waitangi onto the political agenda. This documentary explores the impact that his unswerving commitment has had on Syd, his family and the society he sought to transform.
Television New Zealand
English language
25 mins


Profile / Documentary (A Tawera / Black Pearl Production)
Introducing singer Moana Maniapoto, a visit back to her tribal marae and her inner city Auckland apartment. Filmed on a Bolex by DOP Stuart Page. Premiered at WOMEX Seville (Spain), 2003.
Black Pearl Productions
English language
10.14 mins


DVD Video (A Tawera / Black Pearl Production)
Filming, editing, producing and collating 'My Home', 'Our Music' , 'European Tour' and a selection of music videos. Designing menus and sub-titling into 5 languages. Edited by Stuart Page, distributed by Pirate records.
Pirate Records / SONY
English / French / Italian / German / Maori
150 mins


Documentary / Educational Resource (A Tawera Production)
Investigating the origins and impact of smoking on Maori, and strategies for reduction. Exploring the political, social, cultural and economic factors about tobacco uptake.
Premiered at the National Auahi Kore Conference, Wellington, 2003.
Te Hotu Manawa Maori
English language
60 mins


Feature documentary series x 4 (A Tawera / Black Pearl Production)
Nga Morehu which profiled the lives of four Maori elders within each of its 59 minute programmes, winning Best Maori Programme at the AFTAs, (the New Zealand Awards for Television). These programmes gave an insight into a world of spirits and ghosts, the struggle of being Maori in an era when it was not valued, when assimilation and racism was the norm. Each profile touched on the value, belief systems, the customs, ritual, arranged marriages, and the importance of tradition. ‘Nga Morehu’ (The Survivors) was launched internationally at the Dournanez Maori Film Festival in Brittany (2001). It also screened at the Skabmogovat Film Festival in Finland.
Television New Zealand
Maori language, with English sub-titles
59 mins each


Profile documentary (A Tawera / Black Pearl Production)
In 2002, a more in-depth documentary profile on Master Carver Paki Harrison (one of the original interviewees in Nga Morehu also picked up honours, for Best Maori Language Programme of the Year. This documentary looked at the background of this master carver, how he became involved in the art-form and his lifetime. It also examines each specific chisel used by the carver, its use and the origins of the pattern it makes.
Television New Zealand
Maori language, with English sub-titles
59 mins


Short Film (Tawera / General & Independent Productions)
Tawera Productions co-produced its first drama for the N.Z Film Commission. Te Po Uriuri is a short film based on a Shakespearian sonnet translated into Maori and set in a pre-European context. Toby wrote, directed and co-produced the film which had its international debut at the Munich Film Festival. Moana co-produced the soundtrack with local music producer Simon Holloway. DOP, Waka Attwell.
N.Z Film Commission
Maori language, with English sub-titles
13 mins


TVC series (Tawera Productions)
Tawera Productions produced a high profile landmark T.V.C campaign ‘It’s about Whanau’, to promote quitting among Maori smokers. One in every two adult Maori smoke while Maori women have the highest lung cancer rate in the world. This series of 12 30-second television commercials was the first campaign of its kind produced by and for Maori.
Quit Group
English language
30 secs each


Documentary (A Tawera / Seannachie Production)
An insight to the Waipereira Whanau Trust and its work to raise the esteem of Maori in West Auckland through educational, health and employment programmes.
Television New Zealand
English language
46 mins


Radio documentary series (A Tawera Production)
A series on traditional Maori healing and the use of native plants and remedies. Interviews with Tawhao Tioke, Tuhoe kaumatua
Iwi Radio Network
Maori language only


Radio documentary series (A Tawera Production)
A series on traditional Maori instruments, their origins, use and spiritual as well as cultural significance. Based on interviews with Richard Nunns and Hirini Melbourne.
Iwi Radio Network
Maori language only


Documentary (A Tawera / Seannachie Production)
A look at Maori inmates inside N.Z jails, their daily grind and reflections on how they got there.
TV 3
English language
45 mins