Criticism cut me deep, says GC's creator

By Yvonne Tahana

The GC is based on the lives of young Maori on the Gold Coast. Photo / Supplied
The GC is based on the lives of young Maori on the Gold Coast. Photo / Supplied

The man behind The GC, Bailey Mackey, says criticism about the show hit him deeply - but don't expect him to be making any changes to his style.

Gold Coast-shot, the reality show is about good-looking young Maori making money, partying and chasing their dreams. It was a hit last year for TV3 even as the publicly funded show caught flak for under-delivering on cultural content.

Last week, funding agency Te Mangai Paho took the unusual step of front-footing why it was spending $419,384 plus GST on the second series of the show.

There are still grumbles about why a reo funder would back it given its limited use of Maori language. Answer: huge ratings, plus 92,000 young Maori, a hard-to-capture group, watched the first series.

None of The GC crew were obese, committing crimes or unemployed - an unfamiliar starting point for some to tell the Mozzie diaspora yarn, Mackey says.

When the heat came, the producer (who is a guy's guy but describes himself as a perfectionist) said for him it was in no way like water off a duck's back.

"It was hard, because at the end of the day, it's a creative process and quite often you bare your soul in that process.

"So to go through that type of storm is taxing emotionally and personally. But if you're in the business of trying to challenge norms and provoke debate then you know you've got to be up for that type of response."

His showreel, a mix of high- and lowbrow projects proves he's more than a jock. People are entitled not to like his stuff but he's going to keep telling contemporary Maori stories the way he wants to, he says.

"I think [all of his shows] represent who I am personally, but I think it represents Maori more. We're lovers of the arts, we're lovers of sports, we're lovers of music. I want to help New Zealand better understand Maori - the world that I grew up in and the world now."

Broadcaster Julian Wilcox started on the same day at Te Karere with Mackey. In his early 20s then, Mackey had hitched up from Rangitukia on the East Coast for a job interview, he said.

"He turned up with these two filled rolls which he was munching; he actually asked Tini [Molyneux] to buy him lunch.

"He was in shorts and Jandals and he had a bag of clothes. I think he got changed outside TVNZ on Hobson St before the interview. Everyone used to say, so what's your long-term plan? He'd say 'I want to produce' and everyone used to laugh at him." But Wilcox says Mackey is a success because he understands what's relevant.

When the Herald met the 36-year-old, Jandals were still his choice of footwear, but few would be laughing now.

For the past few years he has been building a reputation for producing award-winning Maori shows which also have broad appeal. Comparisons have been drawn between Mackey and heavy-hitter Julie Christie, a mentor and business partner of his.

Mackey has now left for a TV conference in France. Just like Nate from The GC, one of the show's biggest dreamers, Mackey still has stars in his eyes. He wants to produce an international hit. "I find them inspiring. Basically you're around people who make Survivor, Downton Abbey. It takes 24 hours to fly back and I can hardly sleep because I'm always excited about what I've seen.

"I'm not big enough to get a meeting with those guys, but you never know - one day, maybe."

Mackey's showreel

* One Land - a rare te reo reality show broadcast in prime time on TVNZ.
* Best Constructed Reality Series 2010
* CODE - Best Sports Programme 2007
* Atamira - series brought playwrights such as Briar Grace Smith, Albert Belz, Hone Kouka and others' work to televisions screens.
* Aotearoa Social Club - late night comedy/panel show
* The GC
* Saving Gen Y
* With Strings Attached - Opshop and Tiki Taane perform with NZ Symphony Orchestra members. Both the band and musician's backstories are told.
* In production
* The Life and Times of Temuera Morrison
* The GC - second series

Also ...

* Ngati Porou radio host
* Te Karere, TV3 reporter
* Shortland Street script editor
* Head of Sport Maori Television
* Set up Black Inc Media
* Composed new haka Ko Wai Ra in 2010 for Kiwis.

- NZ Herald

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