Denny Harden and Jimmy Webb [pictured cutting Lucas’ hair], said the feedback from The Barber Shop documentary series has been amazing. Photo / Jenny Ling
A legendary hangout where Far North rangatahi can share their stories has become the focus of two documentary series helping young Māori men with their mental health.
The documentary series – called The Barber Shop – centres around Denny Harden’s The Chop Shop in Kerikeri, which has long been known as a safe place for locals to kōrero while getting a haircut.
Each of the six episodes features unscripted conversations between Harden, aka “Chop”, and a different youth as they sit in the barber’s chair and talk about everything from relationships, sexuality, fatherhood, loss, identity, and addiction.
All the men are in their 20s and are from Tai Tokerau.
They are Shareef Williams, Rawiri Webb, Harry Muunu, Xavier Henare, Kīngi Rākete-Tane, and James [Jimmy] Webb who also works as a barber at The Chop Shop.
Producer Jason Taylor (Ngāti Maniapoto/Waikato-Tainui) said The Barber Shop series “offers a glimpse into the worlds of six aspirational young men from Te Tai Tokerau”.
“It’s about providing a safe place for young men to go to. Having that time to reflect is really important, especially now.
“This series is about saying to our young men that it’s ok to go and talk, and share your successes, and be proud of who you are in that.
“Because there really is a pivot now to some incredible young people coming through doing interesting and inspiring things.”
The series is screening on RNZ’s youth platform Tahi throughout October and after that will be available on Tahi’s Facebook page and YouTube channel.
Taylor, who founded Te Tai Tokerau-based production house Tai Huri Films, said he’s happy with how the series has come out.
He credits the production team, who are all locals and include camera operator Adam Jones from Waimate North, production co-ordinator Hemi Ruka from Whangārei, art director Rona Osborne from Waimamaku, sound operator Frank Phipps from Kaikohe and executive producer Rhonda Kite from Taipa.
“It’s been shot beautifully,” Taylor said.
Taylor said he was inspired to make the series last year when RNZ was looking for regional content about rangatahi.
“I was with a friend in town and we were talking about it.
“We walked past the barber shop and thought that might be a good idea.
“It’s a legendary hangout for youth.
“Traditionally barber shops have been places where young people want to play around with their identity, so I thought that would make an interesting series.”
Taylor, who lives in Waipū, reached out to his various networks to look for the six young men, “who needed to be ambitious and comfortable to share their stories”.
“Coming into a barber shop, it’s a familiar place for the majority of them.
“Not all are clients of Denny’s but a couple were.
“Having a film crew in there was going to be another element to add to these young fellas opening up.
“We had to work it in with the haircuts. It wasn’t easy.”
Taylor said he pitched the idea to Harden asking “would you be up for being our barber”?
“He opened up to me and said ‘I’ve been through a journey myself’.
“I knew immediately he was the right guy because of his care of young people – he’s like a big brother.”
Harden, who has long been an advocate for men’s health, said feedback from the first series “has been amazing”.
“Mental health is a subject that’s close to my heart.
“Having someone that cares is half of the reason why they talk to you, and the trust with the barber is part of it.
“I have suffered [with depression] myself so it’s something I wanted to do to help others with.
“The chair is always open for a kōrero if you need it.”
Taylor has now been asked to create another “spinoff series”.
Called Barber Shop Sessions, it will be similar to its predecessor but will focus on young grassroots musicians talking about their songs and the importance of music.
It will also be unscripted and set in Harden’s barber shop.
Filming starts at the end of November and will be finished next April, though there is no release date yet.
Taylor said his main mission was to make it ok for men to open up about their experiences.
“I hope young people see the series and know it’s ok to share your story and talk. “Particularly if you’ve had trauma in your life, find someone you can talk to about that – even if it’s your barber.”
* Taylor is looking for talent for the Barber Shop Sessions. If you’re a young musician who is interested check out The Barber Shop on Facebook and Instagram.