Wednesday, July 27, 2011

Telling Stories and Growing Industries

Ty Sanga in orange on the set of "Stones." - Photo from Honolulu Weekly online
The panelists in today’s informational briefing on creative industries in Hawaii shared one underlying position: for the creative industry sector to be successful and sustainable in Hawaii, we must mentor, train and educate our youth, but that can’t be done if “the arts” are not included as required core education at local schools.

Ramsay Taum, of Pacific Islanders in Communications, said it best. He noted that the STEM (Science, Technology, Engineering and Math) Program should have been the STEAM (Science, Technology, Engineering, Arts, and Math) Program.

Beth Kammerer, director of Kahuku High School’s award-winning choir “Vocal Motion,” added that kids need enrichment programs. Our students absorb information in their math and science classes all day, she said, and in their music, film and art classes, they get to let things out, their feelings, their knowledge, and their stories.

Taum explained how Pacific Island cultures would tell their stories through song and dance, but today stories are and can be told through contemporary tools. We need to assist islanders to tell our cultural stories the way we tell our stories, he said, ultimately changing past interpretations of Hawaiian culture in the creative media industries.

An exciting addition to the discussion was Ty Sanga, a local boy from Kalihi and graduate of Saint Louis School whose short film “Stones,” which was filmed in Hawaii and adapted from a Hawaiian legend, was selected to be shown at the 2011 Sundance Film Festival. The film was completed in 2008 as part of his thesis project at a mainland university. Sanga recounted to lawmakers how he had to persuade university advisers to allow him and his crew to film on location in Hawaii. They told me that I could just film it in California, I didn’t need to go all the way to Hawaii, he said. He wanted to film a story about Hawaii in Hawaii.

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Hawaii’s creative industries has grown 10 percent since 2002, and today has a total workforce of 44,000 employees, said panelist Georgia Skinner, head of the Creative Industries Division at the State Department of Business, Economic Development & Tourism. She said since the division’s establishment in 2003 there has been 10 feature films, four television series, and several national commercials shot in Hawaii. The companies provide internships to local students and contribute in various ways to the communities in which they are filming. Hawaii Five-O takes on five interns per season.

Skinner also talked about the need for more integration of digital arts into the classroom, using digital media in biology and math courses at elementary, intermediate and high school levels to engage students in both the arts and sciences. She noted that given the economy and lack of funding for classroom courses, DBEDT is working on connecting creative industry communities and creating strategic public and private partnerships. DBEDT will be taking a survey of Hawaii creative industry sectors to see what they need. Results of that survey should be out by the end of the year, before the start of the 2012 Legislative Session.

This was the first of several meetings held by the House Committee on Culture and the Arts. The next one is tentatively scheduled for September 7, 2011. The committee is lead by Representative Jessica Wooley.

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