Himiona Grace - Director, Writer, Photographer

Story by Tony Cutting


Writer, Musician, Father of four and Director of one of New Zealands latest hit movies.

Well. It’s early Friday afternoon, an absolutely stunning Kapiti Coast afternoon consisting of a slight north-westerly breeze with baking hot sun, making it feel like mid-Summer although we are still in the final days of Spring. I am just pulling into Paekakariki heading for a table at the Perching Parrot.

Feeling pretty excited as this is my first interview and article that I will publish in Our People and very happy that one of my very talented cousins from Hongoeka Marae is my subject.

I meet Himiona outside he is looking far too relaxed with a smile that’s too familiar and reminds me immediately of the young kid I grew up with a long time ago. We grab a great corner spot in the Café for the dialog which I know will be entertaining and that the reality is only 10% of what is said will hit print. Two flat whites and we are ready to rock.

The first confession - this is his second trip today to his favourite local hangout, he is pretty chilled out while I organise the photo then we sit down and start to chat.

We are using the new JobCafe format for the discussion - Live, Work & Play…

Live - What does life mean for Himiona?

“Well life for me is based on where and how I was brought up – very lucky to have had the best childhood you could ever imagine. In a place that provided a massive playground of hills, bush and beaches with a tight knit family in a stable up bringing”

He is referring to the Hongoeka Marae whanau as well as his own rather large and insanely talented family.

Himiona immediately praises his Mum (A New Zealand renown Writer) and Dad ( A great teacher and educator both at and after School) for being independent and implanting this quality in all the Grace whanau and giving him the tools to do the same.

“I grew up watching Mum writing and this has positively affected who I am and what I am doing today”

He loves living in Paekakariki with Briar the place where they have successfully raise four kids. Three who are now in their 20’s and a 9 year old, he jokes number four was a mistake but the twinkle in his eye as he mentions his youngest daughter tells the real story.

2nd confession “I’m Broke but I’m Rich” got no money (I suspect this is short term), but rich as he has recreated a rich, stable family life.

So for this talented creative – Director of what will be the next fantastic Kiwi Movie “The Pa Boys” (This is where he reminds me his release date is Feb 2014) life is clearly about his foundation – Family.

A typical day – Up early get some work done before helping organise kids for school. Walk the dog along the Beach, try get some more work done before kids get home. Cook Dinner (Although he quickly confesses he is not the greatest chef but he loves cooking) try finish off some more work then watch a Movie at night with family,

3rd confession - not a big one for TV programmes.

So what about Work?

“Yep work is important, you know I have the greatest respect for the 9-5 job, for some it is the thing that’s gives you choices. Me personally I have always loved the creative industry but started my working life during College with Uncle Alan during school holidays working as a general labourer doing stuff like plumbing, building, shearing – hard work which opened up our minds to the real world."

He spent three years carving our local meeting house, worked on the catamaran that traveled from Mana to South Island (featuring some scary but exciting times in some big Cook Strait swells), Part Time Actor, Writer and finding his way in the kiwi creative industry.

Spent time as a guitarist with a few bands and remembers he was never far away from his Camera.

“Mum and Dad gave me a camera when I was young and it has always been a great part of my life”

“My main job for 14 years was working with the Film Archives which was absolutely awesome, restoring old Movies and looking after our early film heritage. One of the things I got to do was cruise around rural New Zealand showing old Movies to locals.

Movies were from the early 1900’s to 1980’s and people really just loved what we showed them”

“So I guess it all lead up to writing and producing my own Movie which has been 30 years in the making”

“Funny I always knew I would do it”

At this point I reflect on the movie Himiona filmed and directed and roped me into when we were 9-10 year old boys?

“The Runner” - which got rave reviews and loads of laughs on our Marae at the time and was about a young skinny white runner who has a nightmare about getting chased by a big Maori boy (my other Cousin)

– ironically not only did Himiona go on to make a real Movie but I “the Runner” did quite well at college athletics and sport and my chaser the big Maori looking to beat me up went on to join the Mongrel Mob! … Art becomes life? But that is another story.

So what is “The Pa Boys” all about?

The story is about a three piece band that tour the North Island starting in Wellington and moving up the country through the East Coast and up to Northland. They visit small town pubs like Tologa Bay, Te Teko, and great little pubs in Northland and a few others throughout mainland New Zealand on the way. The story revolves around what the band and crew get up to on this tour.

It features drama and conflict in the form of a love triangle using some traditional concepts and stories and set close to present day as they (the Story lines) are still relevant today. He purposely kept technology out of the movie "I think having people texting on cell phones and using ipads would not have made the story interesting I don’t think you will find a cell phone anywhere in this"

So what is Play for you?

“Well for me pretty much what I am doing now every day, they say if you love what you do it is not work and I guess that is play?”

What do you do to relax outside of your normal day?

“Camping and Swimming at the Beach pretty much my favourite things either visiting our family land on the East Coast and camping on the beach or visiting Briars family and doing the same in Northland”

“I have about 3-4 other movies to finish writing and I would love to write stories about our old people and not just Maori but all New Zealander's and tell their stories”

My summary - Himiona Grace (Beach Bum, Family Man, Writer, Director)

No struggled through adversity-broken home story here.

He is the real product of a supportive nurturing close knit family that have given him the gift of courage to be who he wants to be and achieve what he wants to achieve. And now he is repeating the cycle. 

Checkout this article on Marae TV about our very own Himiona Grace and his Pa Boys Movie.

Tola Newbury - Actor

Story by Himiona Grace


Ko Hiwi-o-te-Wera me Kiha nga pae maunga.

Ko Haurepo ko Wainui nga koawa.

Ko Te Umuroa te marae.

Ko Te-Poho-o-Parahaki te tipuna whare.

Ko Mihi-ki-te-Kapua te wharekai.

Ko Ngati Manunui te hapu.

Ko Paraki te tipuna.

Tae noa

Ko Ngāi Tūhoe

It would be an injustice to describe Tola Newbery just as an actor. He is so much more than that. In The Pā Boys, his most recent film he plays ‘Cityboy’ a young drummer with dreams of making it big. The role showcased Tola’s talent as an actor, singer and musician. But he is also a performance artist and is known to set up in the streets of Auckland, Wellington, or where ever he happens to be ‘to play on ideas’, tell stories through dance or movement and waiata (song).

“I always knew it’s what I wanted to do. Growing up my parents said I loved entertaining, singing, telling jokes and doing comedy. It’s as far back as I can remember. I was always on stage from primary school right through to college.”

Tola grew up in Lyttelton “a cool little port town, which was quite generous in terms of art. It was a small community then and really inspirational”. 

Creativity is on both sides of his family. His father is an inventor and his Mum a singer/performer so it’s very much “in the blood.” And when it comes to Tola’s original art performances they definitely can be described as ‘inventive’. 

“When I create a piece I don’t even write a script. I do a physical score, work it out through movement and rhythm and song. It’s always about the kaupapa and creating. But if other people come in [to help with the show] you have to write something down, so I grab a bit of cardboard,” he laughs.

It wasn’t just his parents who supported him in pursuing a career in the arts. 

“I had a great drama teacher at college, she encouraged me to do New Zealand drama for NCEA. And it was at college that I saw a poster advertising for students to join Toi Whakaari (The NZ Drama School) in Wellington. I had a gap year and did a few different jobs and shows, starting with Crash Bash Tour, and productions for The Court Theatre in Christchurch. I just wanted to see if the acting buzz was really what I wanted to do.” 

It was a big decision to move to Wellington after being accepted into Toi Whakaari. “It was an experience. You learned techniques and the psychology of theatre.

It was intense, I had a 6 month old baby and we were young parents. We had a house by the drama school but it was long hours and days, starting at 7.30 in the morning with warm ups and sometimes we weren’t out of there til 10. Especially intense when you’re doing a show that would run for up to four weeks plus everything else you’re doing at the time, the family, study, playing in a band, just trying to have a social life.”

Since graduation Tola has played many varying roles in theatre, television and film. And in each role he seems to actually take on another persona, to the point that you sometimes wonder if this is an actor playing a role or is this the real character who has been put on stage. 

A review of the 2013 production Hui had this to say, "...But it is Tola Newbery who is the revelation here. His portrayal of George, who is intellectually disabled, is something really special - sincere, touching, respectful.”

And there’s not much chance of him being typecast either. He does play young Maori male roles because that what he is. But each character he plays is different from the others and he can easily move in to more mainstream roles like Rev Athol Segwick from The Pohutukawa Tree and Oberon from a Midsummer Nights Dream.

So how does acting in theatre compare to television or film? “Theatre is very physical, you have to be on your game night after night after night. And a play could take a long time to write. For instance ‘Hīkoi’ written and directed by Nancy Brunning took her years to write it. But we only performed it for two weeks (with the possibility of more shows). Film is different, it keeps and can be watched forever”. Theatre acting is also big, you make your characters larger than life because you’re on stage and have to project out to the audience to connect with them. In film it’s the opposite, you pull everything internally because the camera is close and reads everything you do or think. Every expression.

“[There are] good people in the arts, heaps of actors, coming out of drama school too, we’re all competing for the same roles but everyone is close”. Inevitably, with such competition there is only so much theatre and screen work to go around.

“As I refine what I want to do, my performances, art, acting I have a lot of jobs in between, like plastering and working in schools and communities. Anything goes, sometimes you just need money to fund your art”. 

Inspiration for his performance pieces come from the usual influences, whanau, surroundings, politics, what’s happening at the time. “Sometimes it’s pictures that come into my head.” 

But for Tola a big driving force to perform and create comes from within. “I just want to do better”.