AUT Bachelor of Māori Development alumna Matilda Poasa was selected from more than 250 applicants to intern at the Sundance Institute in Los Angeles.
”I remember when I was young and other little kids were watching TV cartoons, I would watch Behind the Scenes of how to make films, or the Oscars, and make up my own speech in my head.”
Matilda had initially enrolled in a film and television course at another university, but quit after two years.
“I’m quite a practical learner and thought we were going to be making movies straight away, but the course was quite theory-based,” she said.
She then enrolled in AUT’s Bachelor of Māori Development in 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.
Matilda, of Samoan descent, hopes to give a voice to minorities in mainstream media. Her internship has helped her achieve this.
“I love that the Sundance Institute is dedicated to discovering and developing independent artists. What I enjoy most about working here is that we champion the voices and stories of native and indigenous artists. From the work we do to the people I work with, it’s honestly been the most amazing work experience!”
Matilda applied for this sought-after internship in the final year of her AUT degree.
“Culture is a big part of my identity, and it’s really important that Māori and Pacific voices are heard and our faces seen.”
“I was about to graduate and the AUT Internz International Scholarship Programme was offering this amazing opportunity to not only work for the Sundance Institute but to do that in Los Angeles of all places. I didn’t have anything to lose, so I applied. It’s been the best experience for me.”
At Sundance, she was 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.
Matilda’s role aligned well with her passion for ensuring that indigenous voices are being heard.
“Culture is a big part of my identity, and it’s really important that Māori and Pacific voices are heard and our faces seen. I’d always wanted to work in the film industry, so the Māori Media major was an obvious fit because it allowed me to study film, television and the media, but with a cultural lens. Even though I’m Samoan rather than Māori, it was such a rewarding experience.”
Matilda had many highlights throughout her studies.
“I loved that we weren’t just learning about movies; we were picking up cameras and making our own films, going into the studio to record and edit. That kind of learning really appealed to me, and the friends I made are friends for life.
“The biggest highlight of my time at AUT however, was graduation. That was the culmination of years of not only my own personal sacrifice but that of my family, friends and those who taught me. My success is definitely not mine alone. So many people had invested in my journey, so on graduation day it was so nice to be able to say ‘We did it’.”