Public Interest Journalism funded through NZ On Air
Bringing to life comic book superheroes is one thing, but making them look as natural as possible takes a special skill that Samoan-Māori Kennedy Faimanifo has mastered.
Working from his tiny office in South Auckland, Kennedy has been working on some big projects for one of the world’s most renowned special effects companies, Wētā Digital. He is currently working as a facial animator which involves the process to take care of the facial performance.
“We literally just take care of the face. So, when you see those close-ups, you know and you feel emotion or you feel something for that character that’s the job of the facial animator, otherwise it will just look like a mask with no expression.
When I was working on Game of Thrones, I was a layout artist. That was the environment stuff, painting grass, skulls and dead bodies,” adds Kennedy.
Kennedy grins pointing to his Hulk figurines. “I get to work on the Hulk, that’s a childhood thing you know, remembering Hulk as a child, that’s something you get to live as an adult, that’s really cool.”
When he is not working his magic, he’s guiding the next crop of hopeful students through their tertiary studies. In 2021, Kennedy set up ‘Manatoa Productions’. A social enterprise to get more Pasifika people into the industry.
“Manatoa specialises in all these different creative tech disciplines and we supply that as a service. At the heart we want to help Māori and Pacific people get into the industry. How do we do that? We do that by supporting them.
We’re talking about level 5, 6 and 7, that’s your Diploma’s, your Bachelor’s and your Masters levels. If you’re at that level, pursuing this creative tech industry, you’re committed to the cause. Everyone who’s been through this industry knows that it’s not easy.”
With a lot of projects on the go, Kennedy is just grateful to be doing what he loves as well as helping the next generation.
“If I can inspire one person, just one, maybe two, maybe if there are a few of them studying that I can help, actually that’s huge for me. So being Samoan-Māori, that’s my super power but it’s a super power for them to become a better version of themselves.”