Auckland-born Samoan Matilda Poasa reckons that three years as an "honorary Māori" will be good training to help give Native Americans a voice in the Sundance film festival.

Poasa, 27, graduates next week with a Māori development degree specialising in Māori media at the Auckland University of Technology (AUT).

Next month she starts an AUT-sponsored internship in the Native American and indigenous film programme at the Sundance Institute in Los Angeles - one of 28 internships for AUT graduates at North American companies including Facebook, Paramount Studios and New York's Metropolitan Museum of Art.

Poasa, who was raised in a split family in Te Atatū and worked in telemarketing before going to AUT, said she could not believe it when she was picked out of 257 applicants.

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"When they gave me a call, I asked, 'Did you ring the right person?'" she said.

"I didn't actually think I had a chance. To be interviewed by the director of the Native American and indigenous film programme, in a Skype interview, I thought that was pretty good. Then to actually get it!"

Matilda Poasa always wanted to work in film and television. Photo / Greg Bowker
Matilda Poasa always wanted to work in film and television. Photo / Greg Bowker

Poasa has always wanted to work in film and television.

"Other little kids were watching TV cartoons, and I was watching Behind the Scenes of how to make films, or watching the Oscars and in my head making up my own speech," she said.

She enrolled first in a film and television course at Auckland University, but quit after two years.

"I'm quite a practical learner and it was very theory-based. I thought we were going to be making movies straight away," she said.

She then worked with her mum at a Christian preschool in Grey Lynn, then in a telemarketing sales job. Then she enrolled in AUT's Bachelor of Māori Development - Māori Media.

"I initially went into it to do a year so I could get into communications, but I just loved the faculty, and the lecturers were really nurturing, and a lot of the lecturers were experienced in the industry, and I was seen there as a person, I wasn't just another number," she said.

With fellow students, she made a documentary in her first year and a drama this year about the spirit of a taonga returned to its rightful owner.

At Sundance, she will be working in a native programme that helped Thor director Taika Waititi in his early years, and which now lists Waititi as one of its sponsors.

Taika Waititi with Thor: Ragnarok stars Rachel House, Mark Ruffalo, Cate Blanchett, Jeff Goldblum, Chris Hemsworth, Tessa Thompson and Karl Urban. Photo / LA Times
Taika Waititi with Thor: Ragnarok stars Rachel House, Mark Ruffalo, Cate Blanchett, Jeff Goldblum, Chris Hemsworth, Tessa Thompson and Karl Urban. Photo / LA Times

"I just said I wanted to give a voice to minorities, such as Samoans, in mainstream media. They need more brown faces," she said.

"I'd like to bring my world view and learn about theirs. As a Samoan who has just finished a degree and being an 'honorary Māori', a Māori by association, that's another world view that I can bring."

AUT's first intern on the programme, Toiroa Williams, has made Dr Mason Durie's framework for holistic health, Te Whare Tapa Whā, part of the native programme's strategic plan.

AUT development director Ella Monahan said AUT's international Internz programme had grown from nine interns in its first year, 2014, to 28 next year.

"We get them opportunities through Kiwis and AUT alumni living in those areas," she said.

So far all the internships have been in North America, but she said it "could quite easily happen in other regions" if other expatriate Kiwis came forward.