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POSTED: Tuesday, November 24, 2009

Hawaii is producing young filmmakers who are making an impact on the national scene, thanks to community support and high school and university programs that foster their creative skills. Occasionally, we'll try to catch up with a few of them to learn about their progress.

ANDREW KEREKES

Mililani graduate Andrew Kerekes is a self-taught animator and filmmaker who says he's completed too many shorts to count. But a couple of them are noteworthy and are helping the 22-year-old forge a career in filmmaking and online game development.

“;Leon and the Wolf”; was completed for a contest in Philadelphia. Organizers presented an element or theme—in this case, light—and gave filmmakers 21 days to create a short.

“;I took the contest chill,”; Kerekes explained. “;I was waiting for the story, because that's how important it is.”; That took 10 days, which left him 11 to actually make the film. But his approach worked; the finished product made the rounds on the festival circuit and even won a few awards.

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His other noteworthy project is a flash-animation piece called “;Snow Snow for Lucy,”; which he cut from 45 to 22 minutes when he “;realized the story could be told with less.”; Producer and Academy for Creative Media founder Chris Lee said it “;brings to mind a sort of demented collaboration between Hayao Miyazaki and Tim Burton.”; In December, Kerekes will release it online for the first time, an effort he hopes will inspire, amuse and entertain a wider audience.

He also compose the music for “;Snow Snow for Lucy,”; of which he said, “;there's a message in there that I truly value.”;

Kerekes, whose interest in filmmaking blossomed when he began shooting ministories of his Army men figures at age 6 or 7, can inspire other young filmmakers who might feel stifled by a lack of formal training.

“;The only school I had was doing it,”; he said. “;And learning from my mistakes.”;

BRENT ANBE

An assignment in English class at McKinley High School sparked Brent Anbe's interest in filmmaking. “;I just did what I felt was natural in the process,”; he recalled, and along the way he discovered a genuine skill.

The 30-year-old attended the University of Hawaii before the advent of the Academy for Creative Media but graduated with a degree in visual communications. After college he interned at Pacific Focus (now called 1013 Integrated) and worked with Shooters, a commercial production company. Eventually he landed a job as an administrative assistant at the Hawaii Film Office. He described his role as a “;glorified janitor”; who also ran around distributing water to directors, drudgery that “;created a really good foundation”; for him. It also motivated him to work his way up to a permitting and industry development specialist. But after 5 1/2 years there, he was laid off with most of the staff last week.

Fortunately, he had used his spare time to make “;Ajumma! Are You Krazy?”; The humorous satire about a Korean drama fan's obsession with certain celebrities was well received at the Hawaii International Film Festival, winning the Viewers' Choice Award and Audience Award for best short.

“;That was my first time writing and directing a scripted film,”; said Anbe, who has experience covering live events. He's in the process of submitting it to film festivals targeted at Asian-American audiences where K-drama is popular. “;It's a pretty universal theme. Everyone can relate to a crush.”;

The new shift in his professional life will encourage him to pursue all avenues with “;Ajumma”; as well as begin new creative pursuits. “;Everything happens for a reason,”; he said. “;When one door closes, a window opens.”;

ROBERT OMURA

Academy for Creative Media graduate Robert Omura said that Maui High School's media program ignited his interest in filmmaking. While there, he entered contests and produced small documentaries. “;Production was more my background,”; he said of those early years. But the academy “;opened my eyes to narrative storytelling.”;

The academy also helped him reach beyond Hawaii's shores by allowing him to participate in an international exchange with film students in Shanghai, where he learned that “;communication is probably the hardest part of a production.”;

His first significant writing and directing effort came with “;Dog and Cat,”; a short he shot at Manoa Marketplace for an advanced production class. It also screened at HIFF. “;The Last Delivery”; permitted him to return to his Maui roots, an experience he enjoyed because it presented the opportunity to stay in a familiar environment with plenty of support. He's in the process of submitting it to film festivals.

Currently working as a freelance videographer who recently completed a public service announcement with the Honolulu Police Department, the 23-year-old also assists other people with their productions (often returning favors and pitching in for free). In moving his home base from Maui to Oahu, he aims to continue collaborating with other filmmakers because, as he said, “;learning filmmaking is a practice from day to day.”;

DAVE NEVES

Born and raised in Honolulu, Dane Neves graduated from Mid-Pacific Institute and the Academy for Creative Media's production course at UH. His thesis film, “;The Monkeyboy Fever,”; was the first Hawaii production to win the Viewers' Choice Award at the Hawaii International Film Festival.

“;I'm really into screenwriting for kids' movies,”; he said. It's something he believes has a wider audience appeal.

In that genre, Neves is working on “;The Green Tie Affair,”; a musical short for which he wrote and composed all of the songs. It's about a puppet—voiced by “;American Idol”; runner-up Jordan Segundo—living in a human world. The puppet's green tie gives him a sense of identity, but when people try to emulate his fashion, his sense of self begins to falter. Shooting with a custom-made puppet and human puppeteer has been awkward and twice as time consuming, but the short will be finished in plenty of time to submit to next year's HIFF.

Another project he's especially proud of is “;At Dead's End,”; a horror film he made for a national 48-hour film festival. It won seven awards in the 2008 competition.

Like all young filmmakers, the 23-year-old pursues his passion on his time off from work. But he considers himself fortunate that his day job as a video production teacher and community resource coordinator at Olelo also utilizes his training.

His passion for filmmaking began as a child, when he was drawn to animation. But when he got to Mid-Pac and was able to take advantage of the technical center there, his interest expanded to live action. Now he finds himself “;not really into the technical stuff,”; he said. “;It's really about the storytelling.”;p>

TY SANGA

Ty Sanga attended UH before the advent of the Academy for Creative Media, but that didn't stop him from enrolling in every production class he could find, and assembling an impressive body of work by the age of 28. Though he lives in Los Angeles now, having recently finished his graduate degree in film production at Chapman University, he said “;a lot of my stories are very Hawaii based.”;

The St. Louis graduate's “;Plastic Leis”; was a short that dealt with the commercialization of Hawaii. It screened at the Atlanta Film Festival, and traveled to several other locations with a program associated with National Geographic and Sundance. Another Sanga film, “;Follow the Leader,”; delved into racial tensions and screened at festivals in Los Angeles and New York. In all, he's completed about five shorts. Now working on longer scripts and fostering relationships in the industry, he's trying to move into features. Some day, he hopes to pursue those dreams in the islands. “;Ultimately, that would be the goal, to make movies back in Hawaii,”; he said.

His latest project is “;Stones,”; which screened at HIFF this year, and he hopes will be accepted into the 2010 Sundance Film Festival. Shot on 35 mm film in Hawaii, Sanga indicated that the adaptation of an old Hawaiian legend was his largest undertaking to date.

What attracted him to filmmaking initially was his experience with his first assignment in a production class in college, completed for Olelo. It struck a chord with people, and they let him know.

“;Once you see how much it resonates with people,”; he said, “;you get excited to do that again.”;