Viral hit pays 'homage' to Māngere
The creative force behind a set-in-Māngere web series shares why telling local stories is so vital.
It’s already hit 1.5 million views - and there’s still six episodes to go.
But if you haven’t seen The 9-5ers already, don’t check your TV guide.
The viral hit, set in a fictional Māngere appliance store, is currently only playing on social media, with the support of NZ On Air, TikTok and Screen Australia.
The series is a mockumentary written and directed by proud Māngere local Regan Foa’i who you may also know as the host of Niu FM’s Morning Shack or for his hilarious Just The Norms skits on Instagram.
Foa’i says the success of the 15-part series has shocked him and his producers Liz Laupepa and Danny Aumua from O Tamaiti Ltd.
“All together we’ve reached 15,000 followers and got 1.5 million views all up and we're only about halfway through so it will just keep growing.
“But I don’t have any experience in this field as it was my first time writing and directing in something like this.”
Foa’i, who went to Māngere East Primary and Southern Cross Campus, says securing this opportunity was equally surprising. He first applied to NZ on Air in 2021 but was flatly denied. But come 2022, after re-pitching the project with Aumua’s help, they were accepted into the Every Voice initiative which gives NZ storytellers the funding for the production of innovative TikTok content.
Foa’i says acting was never something he seriously considered after high school and instead he worked his way up in a telecommunication business, becoming a regional manager for a company installing and maintaining power meters all around the North Island. But just before Covid-19 hit, he began creating short comedy skits under the name Just The Norms and once lockdown began, his videos quickly gained a massive following.
“I’ve gone from doing music production and skits on social media to now being on a TV set. I look back and just see how far I’ve come - as I'm seeing the results of putting in the hours - so it’s pretty buzzy.”
The 9-5ers follows the lives of three overly qualified Pacific employees and their newly appointed “egghead” boss, and Foa’i says a big goal of the project was to tell relatable South Auckland stories.
“For me - being born and raised in Māngere - it was all about paying homage to where I’m from,” adding that he’s so passionate about his local community, he even changed his middle named to Roell, which is the street he grew up on.
With the potential of a second series already on the horizon, Foa’i says the ultimate goal is to get the show produced for Netflix. And he hopes others in Māngere can take inspiration from the show’s success.
“A lot in the media look down on where we stay and who we are and it can get quite discouraging - but there’s so much talent that comes out of our streets. When the floods came, we all came together and just supported each other.
“That’s who we are - that’s what we’re really about.”