Star-Bulletin Features

Monday, April 16, 2001

Experts help start
filmmaking program
this summer on Maui

A nonprofit group aims
to establish film and digital
production training in the islands

By Tim Ryan

Hawaii is the only state in the country where no school offers a degree in filmmaking, so a Maui-based nonprofit organization is trying to do the next best thing.

The Hawaii Filmmakers Initiative recently was created to offer film and digital production training using "alliances" already in place with the University of Southern California's School of Cinema-Television, American Film Institute, Maui Writers Foundation and Pacific Islanders in Communications, said HFI's executive director, Georja Skinner, a former Maui County film commissioner.

HFI will begin offering courses and workshops this summer with three monthlong courses at Maui Community College. If the program succeeds, HFI hopes to bring additional courses in beginning digital production, screenwriting, acting and digital cinematography to Oahu and neighbor islands within three years.

The organization's "mission" is to nurture Hawaii's independent filmmakers by providing quality education, marketing and eventually financing opportunities in cinema and digital arts, Skinner said.

Patty Stemmle, HFI's associate director, will oversee operations and Web site development while Skinner heads program development, marketing and the creation of strategic partnerships. Skinner was responsible for orchestrating the deal with the American Film Institute to co-present the screenwriting track and national screenwriting competition for the upcoming Ninth Annual Maui Writers Conference, to be held Labor Day weekend at the Outrigger Wailea Resort.

The success of USC's digital film production summer programs is the catalyst to develop additional "core classes in film production," said Skinner.

"These courses are grounded in the philosophy of cinematic storytelling, not just learning the technical aspects of camera or editing systems," she said. "Writing is at the core of every great production."

"It's time for Hawaii to stand on its own," said Molokai filmmaker Matt Yamashita, whose "Taro Roots" won the Blockbuster Audience Award at the 2000 Hawai'i International Film Festival.

"We need to support education in this area so local kids can see that they have the option to both pursue such careers and remain home in the islands."

The digital production courses taught on Maui by USC cinema faculty are funded largely by Maui County's Office of Economic Development. Students range from working professionals to recent high school graduates.

Registration is being taken for HFI's first three summer courses, scheduled as follows:

>> Beginning Digital Production

Each student will produce two projects and work on a team for the third project, rotating through all the crew positions. Concepts and the creation of ideas, storyboarding, scripting, visual design, composition and lighting are included. The art of storytelling and the visual language of film are taught through lectures, screenings, discussions and demonstrations. Runs July 24 through Aug. 23; tuition: $995 plus $250 lab fee.

>> Producing, Directing and Marketing Your Documentary Film

This course provides students with the ability to create a meaningful and marketable nonfiction film. Students will conceive, research, write, produce and direct one original project. A comprehensive combination of exploration and practical training in the techniques, methods and styles of nonfiction film are emphasized. Students will learn the value of script development, research and planning prior to shooting. How to create a coherent visual style, an effective audio track, understanding the logistics of production and an overview of the marketplace are included. Runs July 23 through Aug. 22; tuition: $995 plus $250 lab fee.

>> Advanced Digital Production

This course for intermediate and advanced students or broadcast media professionals expands on the principals of creating and developing successful independent feature film projects. Using the short film as a basis, students will be given intensive instruction in their key areas of interest -- lighting and cinematography, producing, directing actors, editing, sound design and producing -- while creating a film. Runs July 24 through Aug. 23; tuition: $1,195 plus $275 lab fee.

A fund-raising campaign is under way to help underwrite the costs of program development and operations for the next three to five years, Skinner said.

Interested organizations, companies or individuals can reach Skinner at (808) 268-4341 or, eventually,

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