He’s officially the writer-researcher of TV2’s latest home-grown show ‘Totes Maori’, but Whale Bay local Olly Coddington is lucky enough now to also get a shot at directing – and he’s “stoked”.
“Directing … that’s a step up,” the personable 29-year-old reckoned over a coffee downtown at Raglan Roast, a popular hangout which coincidentally shares the same courtyard as the adjacent Yot Club owned and run by his father Pete.
Olly was home for the weekend, catching up with friends and family after a five-day week at Auckland’s TVNZ studios where he’s working on ‘Totes Maori’ for the rest of the year.
He says he’s grateful his TV2 boss Toi Iti trusts him to not only write the weekly scripts for presenters Alex and Niwa, but also direct them and the field stories that make up the new youth series which kicked off early in July.
Apart from loving the challenge of directing, it “looks good on my CV”, he adds.
It’s been a decade now since the short film which set him on his chosen career path.
Olly had finished school by 2003 and was cruising and surfing in Raglan, he explains, while working at Volcom Lane’s surf shop. “But secretly I wanted to work in TV.”
He struck it lucky that year when local actor Antonio Te Maioha – who played a supporting role as the gladiator Barca in the international television drama ‘Spartacus’ – advertised in the Chronicle for actors.
A young Olly ended up hosting the short film – a video entitled ‘Making Mistakes’, which taught marae protocol as part of the Enviroschools curriculum.
“I really enjoyed it,” says Olly, who as the water boy for Raglan’s senior rugby team had looked up to players like Antonio. “Antonio was really cool and encouraged me to do more (acting).”
Olly then scored the lead role as a pirate in ‘Duffy’s High Sea Adventure’ and spent six months in 2004 touring primary schools. The play was produced for the Books in Homes programme to promote reading.
He was 20 and it was his first paid acting job.
And he even got to revisit Raglan Area School where he’d been educated through to the fifth form, before finishing his last two years at Hamilton Boys High.
Soon after playing Duffy, Olly scored a job as a tape operator at Maori Television in Auckland. Although it was what he calls the low end of production he got to work with reporters, editors and directors.
“I learnt a lot,” he admits.
But he had a secret desire to be in front of the camera.
Antonio “hooked me up again”, says Olly, getting him on the books of Auckland Actors. That led in 2006 to the job as a presenter on TV2’s ‘Mai Time’, a youth series renowned for its use of te reo – in which Olly is fluent thanks to his local schooling in the bilingual unit – and the positive portrayal of Maori culture.
“I couldn’t believe my luck,” says Olly of the job. Everything, career-wise, fell into place for him from there.
‘Mai Time’ led on to ‘I Am TV’, another Maori youth programme with a more interactive approach which Olly also fronted for a couple of years. And both shows gave him just a taste of directing.
But he was missing home and the Yot Club needed a manager so Olly returned recently to Raglan for a few years, commuting to Auckland for freelance television work whenever it came up.
Now he’s landed himself behind the scenes of ‘Totes Maori’ – a show about being “totally” Maori, says Olly who’s part Maori himself, or in a more literal sense about “carrying the Maori youth” of today.
It’s Olly’s job to come up with story ideas, and film people and events of interest to Maori in the 18 to 39 age group for which the programme’s funded. Interviewing Kiwi recording artist Ladi6 was a very recent example of that, and screened on last week’s show along with NZ supermodel Ngahuia Williams.
Olly’s happy, he insists, to step behind the scenes for a while now and to upskill in other directions. The aim of the show from here on in, he adds, is to make it a little more “artsy” and to mimic American pop culture less.
And that, says Olly, means more “Aotearoa roots culture”.
*‘Totes Maori’ screens on Saturdays at 10am on TV2.