In honor of Hawaii International Film Festival’s 35th anniversary, this year HIFF teamed up with Winston Baker, the leading producer of film finance forum around the world, to create the very first Asian Pacific Entertainment Finance Forum. APEFF is HIFF’s very first comprehensive conference that includes panels, keynote speakers, and presentations that all discuss the financial strategy of the film industry today. I was lucky enough to be able to participate in this year’s APEFF through Hawaii Pacific University.
This year The Modern, one of HIFF’s largest sponsors, hosted the APEFF. Going into the conference, my colleague and I were immediately mistaken for high school volunteers right off the bat. After a few confusing moments, Brayden Yoder, one of the coordinators of APEFF, stepped in and led us into the conference room. Throughout the day, Brayden kept checking in on us, and took the time to introduce the HPU students to various speakers and panelists whenever he had a free moment. Despite being so busy, Brayden was extremely thoughtful and attentive to all of the students attending the conference, which we all deeply appreciated.
The first session began promptly at 9:45am and was a panel titled “The New Frontier: Financing and Growth Opportunities for Film, Television, and Beyond”. This first session included speakers Phil Hunt, Co-Managing Director of Bankside Films and Head Gear Films, Roy Lee, Producer of Vertigo Entertainment, Brad Sharp, Managing Director of FTI Consulting, and Nansun Shi, Chariman, Distribution Workshop (HK) Limited and Exectuive Director, Film Workshop Co. Ltd. The discussion mostly revolved around the growth of the film industry in China, and the decline of traditional film around the world due to the fragmentation of new and emerging media. While in the west most funding is going towards web and mobile based platforms, there is a huge growth in the film industry in China in the last fifteen years due to government endorsement of film propaganda in favor of China all around the world.
The motif of the film industry’s collaboration with China in co-producing international films was a prominent topic throughout the day. Panelist also discussed translating films, remaking films, and adapting films for various Asian countries. In addition to the financial discussions, the topics of video games and virtual reality, the current television industry, and media fragmentation were also covered.
I have to say that the highlight of the day for me was listening to keynote speaker Nina Yang Bongiovi, who has produced several films such as Fruitville Station, Dope, and Children of Huang Shi. Nina was charming, articulate, and clearly capable. She discussed some of the ins and outs of what a producer does, shouldn’t do, and some advice for aspiring producers in the businesses. I, along with the rest of the audience, found her presentation to be both enlightening and very encouraging.
The last panel of the day was perhaps one of the most interest to many, which was “Local Challenges and Opportunities: Creating Content in Hawaii”. While it’s obvious that our distance from the other states makes Hawaii a difficult location for most films, Hawaii’s film tax law makes the state an appealing location for large film makers. In addition, there was a lot of a discussion surrounding the strides Hawaii is taking to create an operable ecosystem within the film community. For instance, Karl Fooks, head of the Hawaii Strategic Investment Cooperation, is devoted to provide support and funding for young entrepreneurs in Hawaii, and has built a facility in Honolulu that has a gigabyte system to be able to collaborate on large scale projects with people all around the world. Georja Skinner, one of the orchestrators of APEFF and an avid activist for the growth of Hawaii’s film industry, closed the panel with the statement, “We have a long way to go, but we are building the railroad together”.
The Asian Pacific Entertainment Finance Forum was an overall amazing experience. Watching and listening to all of the prestigious panelist, presenters, and keynote speakers has really opened my eyes to the landscape of the film industry today, and has inspired me to take advantage of the movement of media fragmentation and what that means for young film makers based in Hawaii like myself. While Hawaii filmmakers face many obstacles in terms of traditional film making, new organizations, facilities, and workshops such as the APEFF are making it possible for people just like you and I to learn about and pursue the every changing industry of film.