Few Natis fly the flag as high or as far afield for Ngati Porou as broadcasting Nati-preneur, Bailey Mackey (Te Whanau a Karuai).
Having just celebrated the big Four-O, this Nati, from a whanau of kaikuti hipi, has chalked up a couple of decades as the ringer on the board of, what has to be, the toughest shed in the media industry – content production.
Two-years into co-ownership of multi-media company Pango, Bailey has kept his comb sharp with Sidewalk Karaoke, The Game Chef, Angelo’s Outdoor Kitchen, The GC, Marae and Te Matatini festival broadcasts. Aside from the popularity of the shows themselves, Bailey affirms the virtuosity of his show-biz brethren, think Play – Brendon Pongia, Happy Hour – Temuera Morrison and Keisha Castle-Hughes, Brown Eye – Taika Waititi, and nga mea katoa with fellow Nati, Te Hamua Nikora.
Before Pango, Bailey founded Black Inc in association with long-time mentor, reality TV entrepreneur, Julie Christie. Christie famously stated, ‘television is business not art’. Her production enterprise, Eyeworks (now Dutch-owned Eyeworks Touchdown) gave us classics like A Game of Two Halves, Changing Rooms and My House My Castle.
In an age when millennials look to digital video for fresh, well-constructed material, companies like Pango are the new breed of multi-platform networks. Sidewalk Karaoke, Bailey’s latest success, proves he has an instinct for cross-over content.
Like most sweet ideas, Sidewalk Karaoke is much more than the sum of its parts. Though paired down in its format, the show merges the strengths of social media with the broad reach of television. Interest in Sidewalk is intense with its low-fi formula setting off sparks in production houses across the globe. Media pundits have been ardent too – with critics getting pretty worked up about the “big-hearted” show.
Ask Bailey Mackey how he rates himself at karaoke, and he doesn’t know whether he’d win the hundie – but, sure as the sun rises in the east, he’d give it a shot.
“Nobody who is successful genuinely goes about thinking ‘you’re the man’,” he reflects. “But growing up in a whanau of shearers meant I had a real work ethic and knew the sweat it took to get the job done.”
Whanau play a fundamental role in Bailey’s life. He regularly comes home to Gisborne and the Coast to spend time with his immediate and extended whanau. So much so it seems hard to believe he has lived away from the region for nearly two decades, after moving from the Coast where he worked as an announcer on Radio Ngati Porou. Ensuring that he stays connected to “home”– the people and community in which he was nurtured – is a defining quality of Baileys, one that aligns with his down to earth nature and ability to get along with anybody. Bailey’s strong work ethic, determination and relate-ability have all played a major part in helping him rise towards the top levels of the global communications business. A business which at times can be ‘cut throat’, as much as it can be creatively fulfilling and innovative.
A few months ago Bailey took part in the media marketing festival, MIPCOM, where he spent a week in Cannes pressing the flesh with the gurus and deal makers of multimedia. One of the latest initiatives his company has amongst its slate of projects on the go is a new cloud-based technology called Kaha. Kaha is a digital tool-kit for production companies, designed to help keep an overview of a project’s cost projection, scheduling and crew requirements. Kaha also has a particularly Nati flavor, its senior developer being proud Ruatorian, Joseph Heeney. Since the launch of Kaha, Pango has been riding the crest of a wave that is gaining momentum at nano-second speed. “With Kaha, Pango is taking on the big boys – players like industry-standard software, Movie Magic,” says Bailey.
Another whanau connection Bailey has working at Pango, is his significant other, Kiriana Burke (Ngati Kahu), the accountant with a firm hold on the financial reigns of his production company. The couple welcomed their first child into the whanau this year. Bailey, who has four older tamariki, looks forward to a time when the pace of life is less frantic.
“I’ve worked 24/7 for as long as I can remember, so having a future where I get to spend more time with my children has become really important to me.”
Meanwhile, the future is now for Mr Mackey. Only 48 hours after arriving in Auckland from the French Riviera, with no time to adjust to the Pacific time zone, he is in a taxi on the Southwestern motorway, ready to board another flight, this time heading to New York, Chicago and Los Angeles.
Where-ever he is in the world, you can be assured that this “Hati-Nati” is waving the flag for Ngati Porou.
Selected highlights from Bailey Mackey’s broadcasting career
• Radio Ngati Porou: Announcer
• TVNZ: Te Karere reporter
• TV3: Sports reporter
• South Pacific Pictures: Script writer for Shortland Street
• Maori Television: Head of Sport
• Black Inc: Co-owner
• Pango: Co-owner
'Start creating content’
Bailey offers some sage and hard won words of advice for other Ngati Porou considering a career in the digital content world.
What’s your best take away for rangatahi interested in production?
Buy a $40 phone with a camera and start creating content. Volunteer at a radio station or make your own YouTube channel. That’s what Apirana Ngata meant when he said, ‘E tipu, e rea, mo nga ra o tau ao. Ko to ringa ki nga rakau a te Pakeha.’ Use the tools of the modern world, smartphones and social media. You don’t need other people to aggregate your content anymore.
Is being Ngati Porou a strong point?
It’s the Nati-factor that gives you the edge. We are a proud, confident people. Others sometimes see this as arrogance but it’s coming from the right place.
One of the coolest things about Natis has got to be our sense of humour. Attending events on the marae, listening to the korero of the home speakers on the paepae. There are just so many side-splitting moments in the yarns they tell and how they tell it. Humour is a biggie. It’s the most underrated skill in business. It helps set the right tone and breaks through many awkward situations.
What about te reo?
I’d be nowhere without the reo, it’s been everything to me. It’s given me a point of difference, as well as a much deeper understanding of being Ngati Porou.
What’s your take on making mistakes?
Don’t think about failure - though, invariably it does happen. When you put yourself out there, you take that risk. As Maori, we are descendants of Maui - the ultimate disrupter. Maui was daring - he had the ability to challenge the norm and change the status quo.
How can whanau help?
Whanau is massive. My dad was a humble, low-key man who would start work at 5am and knock off at 5pm, then drink hard into the night. The thing was, he never knocked my aspirations. Where I came from, it was okay to dream big.