I knew it was going to be a good day because as I was walking my dog at 7:00 in the morning, I could see the Koʻolau Mountains. It wasn’t plagued by the vog as it had been the past few days. With my trip to Los Angeles for the CAPE New Writers Awards still fresh in my mind, I was excited to attend this year’s press conference for the 32nd annual Hawaiʻi International Film Festival. I had the good fortune of meeting Chuck Boller, who has been the Executive Director of HIFF for more than a decade. He is rather noticeable, you can spot him by his trademark mustache coupled with a grand beard. I was rather early to the press conference, so I introduced myself to Georja Skinner, one of the panelists and another representative of Hawaiʻi at the CAPE New Writers Awards, along with Chuck and Walea Constantinau.
Although it wasn’t a packed house, there were a lot of HPU students (probably 30-40%) and the rest were both sponsors and media consortium. Chuck was the main speaker of the day, and you could tell it wasn’t his first rodeo.
Chuck then introduced Robert Lambeth, who is the Deputy Director and talked about the launch of HIFF Creative Lab. Throughout the festival there will be workshops and summits that are free to the public. I think this is absolutely fantastic, especially for students on a tight budget. I would suggest bringing cards to these events to any students reading this. Business and calling cards are the currency in the networking process.
What was really great was the support from non-profit organizations such as Pacific Islanders in Communications (PIC), in which Ruth Bolan has served as Executive Director since April 1, 2005. Her attitude towards her organization was that “everyone deserves a voice.” I look forward to the films her organization has presented; you can find them in the Pacific Showcase. Another non-profit organization, Women Make Movies, led by Executive Director Debra Zimmerman has supported women filmmakers since 1983. I look forward to the film Rust and Bone, which stars Marion Cotillard. Anyway, Debra is going to be moderating one of the creative labs HIFF is putting on regarding the utilization of tools such as social media strategies to increase the female filmmaking voice. She is also going to talk about the different programs that can help women filmmakers get their projects distributed or assisted through the organization’s production assistance program. Women Make Movies celebrates its 40th anniversary this year.
At the far end of the Chuck, on Ruth’s right, was Princess Elizabeth “Liz” Kawānanakoa, in which she represented the EuroCinema Hawaiʻi. In addition to recommending some films that EuroCinema is presenting this year, she also talked about the wonderful things that happen at HIFF, a place where networking and businesses gather and meet with film lovers and filmmakers.
With the economic turmoil that has been affecting the nation since 2009, it was nice to see some funding from the state go to the arts. I was extremely surprised that Peter Carlisle was there, and also that he gave a $20,000 dollar check for HIFF. A surly photographer on the right of me mumbled the words “cheapest. mayor.” But it was really a great act even during this voting season that focus is still being put on the arts and storytelling.
My experience couldn’t have been complete without hearing from Georja Skinner, the Chief Officer of the State of Hawaiʻi’s Creative Industries Division (CID) in the Department of Economic Development and Tourism (DBEDT). She talked heavily on Hawaiʻi being a global presence, and how the state is a “petri dish” for storytellers. She also gave everyone present a recommendation to the Digital Summit creative lab by HIFF, where the discussion is going to touch on more broadband in order to empower local artists.
The only male panelist, Peter Shaindlin, represented the Halekulani Hotel and Corporation. He discussed how HIFF is consistent with and even goes beyond the corporation’s brand. My favorite quote of the day came from Peter, where he too talked about global presence and the quality of life. In regards to the quality of life, Peter said that it “goes hand in hand with arts and culture.”
Overall, I had a blast at HIFF, and the food by RumFire at the Sheraton Waikiki was top notch. As a graduate of Culinary Arts, there is a certain pedigree that must be consistent with HIFF, and the cooks, wait staff, and bartenders delivered.
I look forward to networking with more people who share my passion for cinema as well as watching the films. Stay tuned!