PROFESSIONAL: Ronan Apaapa’s photography incorporates a mix of fast action and quiet, more contemplative shots.

FOR Ronan Apaapa, the recent launch of his business, Focus Film Studios, is proof that living in a small town is no barrier to success.

The 19-year-old photographer and videographer who left school two years ago, and has been working in his family’s business since, says his decision last year to give up his job to focus solely on developing a creative career, is akin to living the dream.

“I’ve known for a long time that this is what I wanted to do,” Ronan says. “I’d developed a whole mindset around how I was going to make it happen.” Conceding that leaving the security of his fulltime job is “scary,” he says the move had to happen, and is “exciting, rewarding, and right”.

The former Trident High School student says his passion for videography grew out of his long interest in photography. “I’ve always loved taking photos.”

As a keen skateboarder, he says much of his early photography was located at the skatepark, “the skaters, the scooters, the bike riders”. But it was when he started videoing the action that things began to escalate.

Starting a You Tube channel in 2017 to feature the videos, he says they quickly gained popularity. “People my age love You Tube, and we’re a small community so everyone here loved them.”

Becoming increasingly passionate about videography, he started making short trips away with a group of like-minded young people from Tauranga, attending events, visiting places, and making short films in return for free accommodation. “So much fun and we all learnt so much.”

Ronan says at that point; he was in no doubt as to what he wanted to do. “I knew I wanted to use videography to capture people’s stories. Little stories, or big. It might just be a group of friends on a weekend away, or it could be something bigger.”

By then, Ronan’s work wasn’t only capturing the attention of local supporters. It was drawing an increasing number of followers nationwide and was catching the eye of companies such as Red Bull, and GoPro, who were expressing interest in collaborating with Ronan, or offering sponsorship.

“I think I have a unique style and like anyone in my situation, it was about finding your audience. I like the slower cinematic type of filming, but I also like energetic and adrenaline rush style video. I think it’s that combination that makes my work distinctive.”

These days, Ronan’s social media focus is Instagram. “I think it gives the most scope for creativity.” But it’s not all about social media.

Now working as a professional videographer and photographer, his work covers weddings and special occasions, family days, festivals and concerts, as well as creating travel vlogs and destination videos. He makes short commercial advertising films, or clips for other purposes, often working in collaboration with companies on film projects, or in a role he says is best described as a “micro influencer”.

Pursuing the dream he had long had, and succeeding, Ronan says he wants to inspire other young people too. “Just because we live in a small town doesn’t mean we can’t aim high. It shouldn’t stop anyone from chasing their dream.”

“I’ve seen how a small-town guy from Whakatane can influence people out there in the world and succeed in achieving their dream. We might come from small beginnings here but that doesn’t mean you shouldn’t reach for the stars.”

By Lorraine Wilson