The Reel Story

Hosts Cathy Tanaka and Jason Suapaia

Honolulu’s Art House Theatres may have closed, but there’s a new, more accessible venue for independent film lovers and aspiring filmmakers in the Islands. On April 19, OC 16 will begin a series of 12 half-hour magazine-format programs on Hawaii’s film community called Hawaii’s Reel Stories. It will cover feature films, documentaries, cinematographers, actors, writers, music, animation, film festivals, techs behind the camera and Neighbor Island productions.

It’s the brainchild of Don Brown, former manager of the Restaurant Row 9 Art House Theaters. When he promoted a program that invited local filmmakers to showcase their work in the theaters, “it opened my eyes to how much was going on,” he says. “There’s all this grass roots activity; I was really blown away by how varied the work was.”

Along with co-producer and veteran independent filmmaker Stephanie Castillo, Brown’s goal is to let people in the state know about the exciting work—that often goes unnoticed—coming from its residents.

Each show features a main story, a point-of-view segment from someone in the industry, a short (maybe an interview with a producer about what motivated him to complete the film), a profile of someone in the Islands and a work in progress, such as talking to the writer of the upcoming Sony feature film Kamehameha.

Though Brown and Castillo are well qualified to produce, write, shoot and edit the show, they have invited independent producers to present ideas, then submit completed segments. Hosts Cathy Tanaka and Jason Suapaia will open and close the show, occasionally conduct interviews and connect the parts. “We want to give filmmakers the creativity to show themselves,” says Castillo. “We’ve really given them a lot of latitude. Every show is going to be different. Every segment is going to be an individual signature of its producer.”

Still, this doesn’t mean that Castillo and Brown, the executive producer and an American Film Institute graduate, will merely paste the show together. Both are generating numerous segments. Brown just returned from shooting at the Sundance Film Festival, where several Hawaii-made films attracted plenty of attention. His piece will appear in the first episode.

So far, without any major sponsors, “everyone’s working for love,” says Castillo. But that doesn’t seem to matter. Their passion for the project is huge.

“We wanted to help build an identity for Hawaii’s filmmaking community,” says Castillo. It’s active, vibrant, diverse. It contributes to the state’s economy and culture. “Yet nobody knows about us.”

Castillo also hopes that with the increased statewide exposure—highlighting work and artists on the Neighbor Islands is a priority—and promotions available through Oceanic Cable’s vast reach, people will view the industry as worth supporting. “When we’re seen as collective, it’s a powerful vision,” she said.

And who knows what could come next? In-flight entertainment, cable stations on the Mainland, other cities around the country following suit with their local filmmakers. After all, the entire concept revolves around people in the process of making their dreams come true.