Creative Media program head hopes to see local talent grow | News, Sports, Jobs

The first 14 students of the University of Hawaii-Maui College Creative Media Academy will graduate in May, as the program aims to expand the pool of local creatives on Maui.

“Our island creatives – they’re so talented, they’re so awesome and they need a place, and now they don’t have to leave the island if they can’t afford it or don’t they don’t want it”, said program coordinator Brian Kohne, a local writer, director and film producer “Kuleana (Maui)” and “To get a job.”

In order to build a thriving and sustainable film industry on Maui, Kohne said last week that there needs to be a focus on infrastructure, workforce development and education — things that come to fruition through at the Creative Media Academy. As program coordinator, Kohne wants to help “to reinforce that a career in the arts is possible and that it can happen here”, he said during a virtual Maui TechOhana meeting, presented by the Maui Economic Development Board, on Wednesday evening.

When the entertainment industry was sidelined during the COVID-19 pandemic in 2019, Kohne had just accepted a position to teach at UH-Maui College and help build the academy, which opened associate degree opportunities in creative media, filmmaking, graphic design, and soon, animation.

It also serves as a pipeline for UH-West Oahu, which opened its new, multimillion-dollar Creative Arts Center last year where students can transfer and continue their education to complete a four-year bachelor of arts degree.

“Throughout the pandemic, I was able to nurture and work on and for this school, so I continued to live with purpose,” said Kohne, also award-winning music producer of Barefoot Natives with Willie K.

During Maui TechOhana’s virtual reunion, Kohne also shared insight into what would make such an industry thrive on the island, the place where he grew up and, at a very young age, was exposed to the field in expansion of theater and performance.

“For some reason in my life, the things I care about somehow happened in an unusual and timely way on an island in the middle of the Pacific,” he said.

In 1969, Kohne’s family moved to Maui, where he attended Wailuku Elementary School and later Baldwin High School, describing himself as “not an excellent student.”

He first walked on a movie set when he was 5 years old. At the time, his mother was an accountant at the former Wailuku Hotel, now Maui Memorial, where he and his brother Bill Kohne played with comedian Charlie Chaplin’s children during their stay at the hotel. .

The brothers grew up around the King Theater and the Iao Theater and had ties to families that owned and operated movie theaters on Maui.

In the 1970s, they participated in Maui Youth Theater’s first production.

Brian and Bill Kohne later joined the Baldwin Drama Guild as teenagers, but Brian stayed on the tech side watching how things were produced while his brother Bill was an actor. Brian made his first movie in high school.

Still, Brian Kohne considered himself an athlete, playing little league baseball and football, then soccer when it became an organized sport on the island in 1977 – the sport took him to college where he studied graphic design and film at San Jose State University. .

During his last year in California, computer and desktop publishing was born.

In the 1980s, the young writer/comedian/filmmaker produced a variety show called “Glad you were able to make it happen” learn how to recruit and motivate a cast of around 400, fundraise, organize and produce around seven episodes.

As the world of networking and television grew, Kohne saw doors open in Hollywood or New York.

In the summer of 1989, however, Kohne left behind a vibrant life of growing career opportunities and competitive football — with no regrets, he said — and returned to Maui to care for his father. who was diagnosed with melanoma and died later that year.

The then 25-year-old supported himself by painting homes on the island after retiring from the fast-moving film industry until a football program quit him. He also traveled the country as a sales and marketing agent for a private manufacturer of football uniforms and spent time teaching art and English as a second language in San Jose.

By his mid-30s, the arts and entertainment scene was calling him again, so he attended Santa Cruz University to learn about burgeoning digital tools, later finding himself coming up with ideas for design to major manufacturers like Apple, Sony and Mitsubishi.

A graduate in art and radio/television/film, Kohne returned to Maui in 2005 from Silicon Valley after excelling as a national sales and marketing manager, corporate video production, sports broadcasting and as a as senior user interface architect for an interactive television company. .

This time, however, he stayed “plant a flag in the ground and be part of the beginning of these industries”, he said.

“It will never exist if people like me who care about the culture, the community, who have deep roots here and learn these skills, don’t come back and put them to work,” he added.

He produced “Kuleana” (later renamed “Maui”) and “Find a Job” primarily hiring Hawaii residents. Only a few had been on a movie set before, so Kohne taught them.

“Today, among the original team of ‘Get a Job’, about 10 of them work exclusively in these industries, so it can happen,” he said. “It’s an example of workforce development – a low-budget project that doesn’t pay, but creates experience and abundance and life-changing experiences. It’s very different to be on a concert in Hollywood and pull a cable.

Financing independent films made in Hawaii or getting them to reach a national audience has always been the biggest challenge, he noted.

Yet state tax incentives, community support, and private donors were essential to the production of the films.

“Ultimately, the private investors in both projects that ended up getting involved did so for the right reasons. … This idea of ​​building an industry one film at a time,” he said. “So did the movies make money? Of course not – these are low-budget independent films. Did we have a good time? Sure. Did that change things? Yeah. Did people learn? Yes, and everyone involved in these films continues to want to be involved and to continue to want to work in these industries.

Going forward, he believes residents and workers must continue to invest in resources to support and grow an industry from within, such as providing educational opportunities, building infrastructure to create work and jobs, or concentrating on elements of filmmaking achievable in Maui, such as post-production or virtual productions.

“The idea that we should wait back and wait for Hollywood to come and plant movies here is crazy,” he said. “We have to start looking at how we can create that kind of infrastructure.”

* Dakota Grossman can be reached at [email protected]

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Ryan H. Bowman