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Samoan artist making waves in Hollywood

Samoan artist making waves in Hollywood

  • 06 Jun 2022
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  • Samoa
Jacob Luamanuvae web

(Picture caption: Samoan creative Jacob Luamanuvae-Su’a) 

If you’re a Marvel fan or have a particular proclivity for the work of Sir Peter Jackson in Lord of The Rings, you might know about the Samoan ties to these franchises.

That tie is of course Samoan creative Jacob Luamanuvae-Su’a, an animation artist who brought to life Gollum in The Lord of the Rings and Thanos in the Marvel blockbuster Avengers.

Jacob spoke with the Ministry about his 20-year career in film and what it was like as an indigenous artist spicing up the Hollywood film scene with his own Samoan flair.

"I am really easy-going and relaxed, I think that’s why it’s easy for me to work in such a demanding industry," Jacob said.

"I think for me, Polynesians are amazing storytellers, we are authentic in our thinking and we are naturally creative anyway… it’s in our DNA."

The self-taught, Wellington-based artist was an animator at Weta Workshop for 20-plus years and has now created his own animation company, Tikipunk Studios.

Jacob says he cannot reveal some of the newest Hollywood film projects that he’s working on currently, but says he is excited about the latest developments in Tikipunk Studios.

His first project is the animated series Song of Sina, a fantasy adventure set two hundred years after Tau o Atua War of the Gods, on the island Planet Hawaiki.

Jacob says the series is currently in negotiations with a major global streaming service.

During the 2020 COVID-19 lockdowns, Jacob slowly started to materialise a life-long dream of creating a company that would diversify the animation genre, with authentic Pasifika-inspired stories.

He fulfilled his vision this year with the creation of Tikipunk Studios, and he says he is now busier than ever.

"During the pandemic, we were obviously forced to work remotely and so the demand for my service was ongoing.

"But, thankfully, the lockdowns allowed me to focus on balancing my time between work and family… I’ve really appreciated that time."

His illustrious animation portfolio includes: Happy Feet, The Lord of the Rings trilogy, Ironman 3, Dawn of the Planet of the Apes, Furious 7, Deadpool, The Jungle Book, Black Panther 2 and a whole raft of other animation films.

Jacob has also helped A-list directors and filmmakers turn their visions into reality, such as: Sir Peter Jackson, Steven Spielberg, Taika Waititi, George Miller and many others.

The icing on the cake was in 2019 when he won an Annie Award for Best Animated Character. The ‘Annies’ are the ‘Oscars’ of the animation world.

However, he does have his eyes set on film’s highest prize.

"It would be awesome to win an Oscar… I want to show my people that you can achieve anything if you are passionate about it and you work hard."

Jacob says he encourages Pacific people to consider a career in the arts and film.

"Despite what many people think about film and art, this is a $300 billion industry, and there will be many opportunities available if you really craft your talent.

"It’s never too late to learn about films, but I would encourage people to hone their skills in a specialised area of film and motion picture.

Jacob is from Invercargill and moved there with his Samoan parents who migrated to Aotearoa in search of new beginnings.

His late parents wanted him to become a doctor or a lawyer, but he chose instead to study psychology.

After dabbling in various tertiary subjects, at various tertiary institutes, he decided "I actually want to do something that is arts-based".