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The Honolulu Advertiser
Posted on: Saturday, October 12, 2002

New UH film school may help economy

By Beverly Creamer
Advertiser Education Writer

A strong film school at the University of Hawai'i could potentially triple the size of the state's $100 million film industry and create 4,000 new jobs in the next 5 to 10 years, according to state Film Commissioner Donne Dawson.

Glenn Cannon, left, and Chris Lee, are co-founding directors of the UH Cinematic and Digital Arts Program.

Richard Ambo • The Honolulu Advertiser

Dawson made that prediction yesterday as UH officials launched the new Cinematic and Digital Arts Program —better known as the film school — promising a state-of-the-art program at the forefront of the digital revolution.

UH President Evan Dobelle gave a hopeful forecast that the fledgling school will help make Hawai'i "a mecca" for film and video production.

Last year the state Legislature pledged $1 million for planning, and Dobelle said part of his fund-raising efforts will go toward raising outside money for the new program to augment state money.

Chuck Boller, executive director of the Hawai'i International Film Festival, said the new program will offer dramatic new opportunities to work together with film schools and film companies in Asia, one of the most dynamic areas for film production. No other American film school has ties with Asia.

Hollywood producer Chris Lee, one of the two founding co-directors of the school, spoke of creating a "fusion program" that celebrates the stories of the indigenous people of Hawai'i along with those from both Eastern and Western cultures.

He said the new school has an opportunity to transform Hawai'i from a "tropical back lot" to a "favorite place to shoot outside Hollywood."

Lee is the Hawai'i-born-and-raised former president of production for TriStar Pictures and Columbia Pictures who produced such Academy Award-winners as "Jerry Maguire," "Philadelphia" and "As Good As It Gets." He is the first person of Asian-American ancestry to run a Hollywood studio and is running his own company, Chris Lee productions.

Film school co-director Glenn Cannon, who heads the UH Theatre and Dance Program, said the new program would "reach out to the Pacific Rim with a camera."

Cannon has been a professor of theatre, film and television at UH for 34 years, and has professional credits in television, film, and on and off Broadway. He had recurring roles in both "Hawai'i Five-0" and "Magnum, P.I." and has been in such series as "Hallmark Hall of Fame," "Naked City" and "Studio One."

The film program at UH has been 14 years in the making, said Cannon, who credits Dobelle with taking it this far. The 10 film students enrolled as of this semester are part of the Liberal Studies program, and take courses that already exist in a wide number of colleges and programs.

But by 2004 Dobelle expects the program to be housed in one specific place — although it could be in an existing building either on or off the Manoa campus.

He did not rule out renovating an existing theater, especially one that may be closed down now. Or possibly using the Diamond Head studio.

He cautioned against getting caught up in an "edifice complex" about where the program is going to go, and said that the concentration instead would be on building a strong academic program.

Reach Beverly Creamer at bcreamer@honoluluadvertiser.com or 525-8013.