The Honolulu Star-Bulletin on the Web.

Friday, September 13, 2002

University of Hawaii

UH offers cinematic
degree program

Chris Lee and Glenn Cannon
will help build a film school

By Tim Ryan

Chris Lee, former president of production for Columbia-Tristar studio, and Glenn Cannon, a University of Hawaii professor and local president of the Screen Actors Guild, will head the soon-to-be-announced UH cinematic and digital arts degree program, the first step toward a much-anticipated film school.

The new undergraduate program -- originally called film studies -- began this semester and includes 37 courses from other disciplines under the university's liberal studies curriculum.

The Cinematic and Digital Arts (CDA) curriculum allows UH students to create their own course of studies through a variety of already existing classes to earn an undergraduate degree.

CDA students must take 36 credits to qualify for the bachelor's degree plus other required university courses. The courses for the CDA curriculum include Basic Scene Study; Film/TV Acting; Costume for the Stage; Video Production; Screenplay Writing; Image in Motion Studio; American Show Business; and various film history courses.

Lee, who signed a one-year contract for an undisclosed sum, and Cannon, who has worked at UH for 34 years, will be "co-directors, Cinematic and Digital Arts."

The UH curriculum will have an Asian-Pacific focus, with emphasis on the film's message.

"To me the media is not as important as the message, and that means storytelling," he said. "I want an emphasis on script writing, which is the basis for all good films with a vision."

Lee hopes to develop programs with the Japanese, Korean and Chinese film communities, particularly the Beijing Film Academy. He also wants courses in "interactive programming.

"That's another way to say video games," he said.

"The video game industry is larger today than motion pictures, about $13 billion a year," he noted.

The UH film school should be an "anchor for the production industry in Hawaii," Lee said.

"I don't want us to be an incubator of well-qualified students for jobs on the mainland," he said. "I want kids who graduate here to work in Hawaii."

Cannon and other faculty members have been trying for 15 years to create a film school at UH. Students interested in such a course of study have had to leave Hawaii to attend other universities.

The program will not have most of the necessary equipment for a film school, including a 35 mm movie projector, theater and digital cameras and computers, though there is animation equipment available in the Art Department, Cannon said.

"We are not USC yet," said Cannon, who estimated it will cost $20 million to create a film school -- including hiring production professionals from Hollywood and Asia -- at "a functioning level."

"The creation of a film school that would celebrate Hawaii, Asia, and the Pacific has been a desire of the university for several years," said UH President Evan Dobelle.

Cannon said the fledgling program has only 10 students this semester, no budget to speak of and no equipment.

"The plan was to start in this modest fashion while other issues were worked out regarding curriculum, then be up and running full steam in two to four years," Cannon said.

The program will eventually offer a fine-arts degree.

Hawaii filmmaker Edgy Lee said Hawaii is "very fortunate" to have Chris Lee and Cannon, who have a working knowledge in "how to make a movie, what it takes to get along on a set and behind the scenes, and make things work."

Donne Dawson, the Hawaii Film Office manager, has known Chris Lee for 30 years.

"The state and UH are truly blessed to have someone of his character, commitment, intellect and professionalism working to build our industry," she said.

University of Hawaii

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