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Hawaii Int'l Film Festival, Part Two: Wisdom from Women Making Movies; Honorees Yue Sai-Kan and Koji Yakusho

Thompson on Hollywood By Sophia Savage | Thompson on Hollywood October 18, 2012 at 4:52PM

Following Part One of our Hawaii International Film Festival coverage, we turn to the fest's China Night gala honoring Yue Sai-Kan, the Women Make Movies panel and Career Achievement Award recipient Koji Yakusho's take on the state of Japanese cinema. It's all below:
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Hawaii
Photo: Sophia Savage

Following Part One of our Hawaii International Film Festival coverage, we turn to the fest's China Night gala honoring Yue Sai-Kan, the Women Make Movies panel and Career Achievement Award recipient Koji Yakusho's take on the state of Japanese cinema. It's all below:

Among HIFF's Creative Labs was Women Make Movies: The Future is Now, which in addition to celebrating Women Make Movies' 40th anniversary, had executive director Debra Zimmerman leading a panel with female filmmakers discussing their work and experiences, and offering advice to fellow women filmmakers.

Here's eight key points:

1. Lisette Marie Flanary's ("One Voice," "American Aloha: Hula Beyond Hawaii") advice to filmmakers, "Be tenacious and passionate." She acknowledges it can take a long time to find confidence as a filmmaker, and stresses you must be in love with your idea and story (and prepared to spend many, many years with it).

2. Debbie Lum, whose film "Seeking Asian Female" is at HIFF, started out as a editor before falling into the doc field. She feels being obsessive compulsive can be a plus as a filmmaker, and believes that the documentary medium suits women well because of the long gestation period and their innate ability to nurture.

Women Make Movies panel at HIFF
Women Makes Movies panel at HIFF

3. Theresa Navarro (who acts and helped produce HIFF's "Daylight Savings" and "Yes, We're Open," and admits "all the films I've been in are about sex or food") advises that its supremely important to understand the relationships in this business, and to recognize that your reputation precedes you.

4. Navarro, as well as the others, hammered home the fact that being a filmmaker today involves fundraising and an outreach plan. Promoting is simply part of the job, and if you're looking to Kickstarter, you better have a game plan.

5. Ruth Bolan, producer and exec director of PIC (Pacific Islanders Communications; they give grants to films by and for Pacific Islander audiences) says her biggest advice to filmmakers is not to be afraid of 'No,' and expect to hear it several times before you hear yes.

6. Boland advises its wise to be collaborative and find the right team, "Work with people who are better than you and scare you" and you'll get better results.

7. Also, notes Boland, while some barriers to entry into the medium have fallen, all the things that make a great movie have stayed the same. Just because more people have access to the tools doesn't mean the quality has improved. Democratization is exciting, but it's collaborative and you need extremely skilled individuals to tell a strong story. Boland says "Standards shouldn't be exclusional, they should be aspirational."

8. Flanary enjoys the prevalence and ease of smaller format cameras, particularly for the documentary formart: "they make for more intimate filmmaking; big cameras freak people out."

Zimmerman admits that the 40th anniversary of Women Make Movies is "a little sad, because not much has changed." She shared some depressing statistics that highlight just how few women are directing documentaries, and far less still in the narrative field. She hopes in ten years they are back celebrating 50 years and have better statistics to report, but in the meantime she is encouraged by Sundance's Keri Putman who is committed to studies that will look at WHY the view for women filmmakers is still so grim. An organization called Women Moving Millions is also looking into extensive research that will dig deeper than the current measuring sticks out there.

Of course women aren't the only ones struggling to get their films made and recognized. And Hollywood trends extend far beyond mainland USA...


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