Archive for the 'HIFF' Category


HIFF 2012: Opening Press Conference

Stuff we picked up from this morning’s press conference.

For this year’s Hawaii International Film Festival the Red Band Project is stepping it up and will be attending as a credentialed member of the press. What does that mean exactly? Basically we’ll have better access to the festival than we have in the past. Whereas before we had to worry about screenings filling up, we now have access to the priority lines that go into the theater first. We also have access to a number of special events (aka parties), some of which are by invitation only. Finally, we receive constant updates and additions to the festival as they occur.

With all of this new found access, we will be redoubling efforts to provide you, dear reader, with more coverage of the festival than ever before. Now I know what you might be thinking . . . is that even possible? Well yes it is. This year look for more reviews of films that play in the festival (films that have multiple festival screenings and those that will be released theatrically in Hawaii at a later date), commentary on panels and Q&A’s, and above all . . . interesting stories and perspective that you won’t be able to find anywhere else.

The press conference floor at Rum Fire.

Our festival coverage began today when we attended the press conference that opens the festival. We picked up our credentials and also got to hear from a lot of the individuals that help make the festival possible, new things that are going on, and what we can expect to see this year at HIFF.

Chuck Boller got things started by thanking everyone that came out today and then introduced the panel of speakers: Deputy Director Robert Lambeth talked about the new Creative Labs portion of HIFF, Georja Skinner talked about the genesis of the Creative Labs section and how it will help local storytellers; Peter Shaindlin of Halekulani talked about the importance of supporting HIFF and their sponsorship; Ruth Boland discussed Pacific Islanders in Communications a local organization that supports and develops local programming, and Elizabeth Kawananakoa talked about EuroCinema Hawaii’s festival-within-a-festival programming.

Even Mayor Peter Carlisle was on hand to talk about the award that the city sponsors as well as present a check of $20,000.

The press conference venue at Rum Fire definitely made for some interesting maneuvering as all of us press members jockeyed around trying to take photos and video. You had the whole range of photographers from cell phones, to point and shoots, to SLRs, and of course the “pro” media with tricked out SLRs and the video guys from HNN. The highlight had to have been when this one photographer got in the direct line of sight of one of HNN’s cameramen and he had to verbally call out to her to move.

The view from the very back of the room. Notice how crowded we all are in the very back.

In the center you may spot Terry Hunter and Taizo Braden of HNN and a camera man from KHON along side people shooting with cell phones.

For someone like myself who dissects a lot of stuff involving HIFF and movie/film news in general, the press conference wasn’t all that exciting. However, it was still really informative and interesting to be at and a part of. Our main coverage of the festival will begin tomorrow when we check in on the visiting filmmaker program and take in our first few films of the festival. Hopefully we’ll catch you there!

Press conference speakers (L-R): HIFF Executive Director Chuck Boller, Elizabeth Kawananakoa of EuroCinema Hawaii, Debra Zimmerman speaking at the new Creative Labs, Georja Skinner chief officer of the state’s Creative Industries Division, Peter Shaindlin of Halekulani, Ruth Bolan executive director of Pacific Islanders in Communication, and HIFF Deputy Director Robert Lambeth


HIFF 2012: Must See Preview

Well, it’s that time of year again . . . time for the Hawaii International Film Festival. While we haven’t been as active as we’ve been in the past in the days leading up to the festival, this year we will be busier than ever trying to cover it while it is going on. In fact, with the festival kicking off tonight; we’d be remiss if we didn’t throw out our own two cents on some of the stuff we’d like to see as well as make a few notes on other stuff you might want to check out. So here it is, with the festival unspooling just hours away, I give you the Red Band Project’s HIFF 32 Must See Preview!

#1 Silver Linings Playbook

Trailer // HIFF Page // Official Site

Pat’s parents want is for him to get back on his feet – and to share their family’s obsession with the Philadelphia Eagles football team. When Pat meets Tiffany (Jennifer Lawrence), a mysterious girl with problems of her own, things get complicated. Tiffany offers to help Pat reconnect with his wife, but only if he’ll do something very important for her in return. As their deal plays out, an unexpected bond begins to form between them, and silver linings appear in both of their lives.

Why I Want to See It:
Before all the hype, before it won the audience award at TIFF, and before it debuted in Toronto last month; the trailer for David O. Russell’s Silver Linings Playbook was released early this summer. The trailer showcased Jennifer Lawrence (Katniss from The Hunger Games) and Bradley Cooper (that guy from The Hangover movies) in a dramedy of sorts and it looked to be a pretty fun film. I was definitely feeling what the trailer was selling me about the film, but absolutely sold me on it wasn’t that this film was from the dude that gave us The Fighter or the two big leads . . . it was Chris Tucker. Yes, the dude that played Smokey in Friday and made fun of Jackie Chan in the Rush Hour movies, he’s in this movie. After having a great run in the late 90s the dude just dropped off the Hollywood map–until now. I’m not sure how much of a supporting role he has in this film, but it definitely looks like he has a bit more serious role in Silver Linings; which I think could signal his comeback. The fact that this movie tore it up at Toronto and won the audience award only got me more excited to see it and I can’t wait!

#2 The Sessions

Trailer // HIFF Page // Official Site

Based on the poignantly optimistic autobiographical writings of California–based journalist and poet Mark O’Brien, THE SESSIONS tells the story of a man confined to an iron lung who is determined – at age 38 – to lose his virginity. With the help of his therapists and the guidance of his priest, he sets out to make his dream a reality.

Why I Want to See It:
There were two films that generated a ton of buzz at this year’s Sundance Film Festival. One of them was Beasts of the Southern Wild (which I wasn’t all that over the moon for). The other was The Sessions. The premise itself is funny enough, but with a pretty stacked cast (John Hawkes as the lead with Helen Hunt, William H. Macey, and Moon Bloodgood) and being picked up after a heavy bidding war; I’m hoping that where there’s smoke there’s fire. More so than with Beasts. The movie has a comedic drama angle to it so I think it’ll definitely be more accessible to a wider audience. Word is that Hawkes could have another potential Oscar nominated role on his hands with the film. With all of this swirling about, it’s definitely a no brainer for me wanting to check out.

#3 Holy Motors

Trailer // HIFF Page // Official Site

From dawn to dusk, a few hours in the life of Monsieur Oscar, a shadowy character who journeys from one life to the next. He is, in turn, captain of industry, assassin, beggar, monster, family man… He seems to be playing roles, plunging headlong into each part – but where are the cameras? Monsieur Oscar is alone, accompanied only by Céline, the slender blonde woman behind the wheel of the vast engine that transports him through and around Paris. He’s like a conscientious assassin moving from hit to hit. In pursuit of the beautiful gesture, the mysterious driving force, the women and the ghosts of past lives. But where is his true home, his family, his rest?

Why I Want to See It:
I still don’t exactly know what it is about Holy Motors that intrigues me, but there’s enough going on there that I want to see the film to find out what it is. I saw the trailer shortly after the film premiered at the Cannes Film Festival back in May and at the time I wasn’t too impressed. As the film has played the festival circuit it has garnered somewhat mixed reviews; though more of them have been on the favorable side. What sold me on seeing the film is that it won the critic’s award at this year’s Fantastic Fest (the largest genre film festival in the world) just a week ago. With a lot of fanboy journalists/bloggers behind it how can I go wrong?

#4 Rust & Bone

Trailer // HIFF Page // Official Site

Ali, a man of formidable size and strength, gets a job as a bouncer in a nightclub. He comes to the aid of Stephanie (Marion Cotillard) during a nightclub brawl. Aloof and beautiful, Stephanie seems unattainable, but in his frank manner Ali leaves her his phone number anyway. Stephanie trains orca whales at Marineland. When a performance ends in tragedy, a call in the night again brings them together. When Ali sees her next, Stephanie is confined to a wheel chair : she has lost her legs and quite a few illusions. Ali’s direct, unpitying physicality becomes Stephanie’s lifeline, but Ali, too, is transformed by Stephanie’s tough resilience. And Stephanie comes alive again. As their stories intersect and diverge, they navigate a world where strength, beauty, youth and blood are commodities— but where trust, truth, loyalty and love cannot be bought and sold, and courage comes in many forms.

Why I Want to See It:
The film original got on my radar after it got some pretty good buzz coming off of its premiere at Cannes. What got my attention though were the two leads, Marion Cotillard of course most us may know her from The Dark Knight Rises, but also Matthias Schoenaerts; who broke onto the scene in last year’s Oscar nominated film Bullhead. Together these two seem to have some strong chemistry and I’m itching to see how it all plays out. The setup for the film seems tailor made for tragedy and I think it’ll definitely showcase their acting talents.

#5 Hang Loose

Trailer // HIFF Page // Official Site

HANG LOOSE turns on the manic vs. medium cool performances of actors Dante Basco (THE DEBUT, Festival 2000) and Kevin Wu (aka KevJumba), here playing slightly dialed-up versions of themselves. Wu is newly-single Kevin who, having been dumped by his longtime girlfriend the week he graduates from high school, flies out to Hawaii to attend his big sister’s wedding. Upon his arrival into Honolulu, he meets his future brother-in-law Dante (Basco) and his crazy groomsmen Ben (Benjamin Arthur) and Dion (Dion Basco). Clearly out of his element, Kevin lets himself get talked into tagging along for Dante’s bachelor party, a soiree that quickly goes wrong in so many ways

Why I Want to See It:
Hang Loose is directed by Ryan Kawamoto and produced by James Sereno . . . two of the guys behind Kinetic Productions and who’s feature arm (Kinetic Films) made last year’s Paradise Broken (One of the best films that I saw at HIFF last year). After watching Paradise Broken and their anthology series 6B I am sold on anything these guys do and I’m definitely looking forward to their lighter comedic offering in this year’s Hang Loose.

Other Films of Note

This preview wouldn’t be complete without us tossing out a few more recommendations on cool and interesting things that you could possibly check out at this year’s festival. Here are a few things for the high and/or family minded . . .

Potential Oscar Candidates

The word “international” in Hawaii International Film Festival is there for a reason . . . the festival is showcasing some of the best films from around the world. Seven films playing at this year’s festival have been submitted by their respective countries as their entry to potentially become nominated in the Foreign Language Film category . . . aka The Oscars. Though a crowded field to be sure, you might be able to get a jump on your Oscar ballot by checking out these films:

  • A Royal Affair (Denmark)
  • Barbara (Germany)
  • Barfi! (India)
  • Caesar Must Die (Italy)
  • Bwakaw (Phillipines)
  • Beyond the Hills (Romania)
  • Sister (Switzerland)

Studio Ghibli Retrospective

Though I came late to the party on the Hayao Miyazaki bandwagon (the first film that I saw was Princess Mononoke), once I was on board . . . I was on board. The Studio Ghibli Retrospective has been touring the country for the past year and now it makes a stop right here in Hawaii for HIFF. It’s definitely a great opportunity for you to catch up on some of these classics, or if you’re like me, see them for the first time in a theater with other like-minded people. The highlight of the retrospective will definitely be this weekend when HIFF, in conjunction with Our Kaka‘ako, present Spirited Away on Saturday night under the stars at the Kaka‘ako Gateway Park. There’s going to be food trucks, cosplay contest, and should be a lot of fun for the entire family.

Are you going to be checking out HIFF this year? If you are, let us know in the comments and tell us what films you’re interested in seeing.


Titles for HIFF’s 2012 Spring Showcase Announced

Yesterday the Hawaii International Film Festival announced their titles for the 2012 Spring Showcase happening next month. The showcase fits perfectly into April as Hollywood usually scales back its releases in anticipation of the summer season in May–which gives us a fine chance to check out some foreign and indie fare. The Spring Showcase doesn’t run as long or carries the same amount of films as the main festival in the fall so you’ll only have a small window to check out the 33 films that will be playing.

Just from glancing at the schedule there are two films that I’m interested in seeing. The first is Liberal Arts written and directed by Josh Radnor (of How I Met Your Mother fame) and also stars Elizabeth Olsen who broke out onto the scene in last year’s Martha Marcy May Marlene. Getting a standing ovation when it played at this year’s Sundance Film Festival, the film looks at a thirty-something (Radnor) going back to his college and falling for a 19 year old college student (Olsen). I talked about Liberal Arts in my Sundance post and now we’ll get a chance to see it locally.

The second film of the showcase that I’m also interested in checking out is Indie Game: The Movie–a documentary about the makers of independent video games. This film also played at this year’s Sundance, but it wasn’t until I saw this review about the film from the recently wrapped SXSW that got me interested in it. If you’re at all into video games, this film will definitely be worth checking out. Check out the trailer below:

As we get closer to the showcase I’ll post more thoughts on some of the other films that will be playing. Until then I suggest you also check out programming director Anderson Le’s blog post on some of the big films that will be playing in the showcase, most notably Dragon (Wu Xia) a “soon-to-be martial arts classic” starring everyone’s favorite Hong Kong action star Donnie Yen.

The Hawaii International Film Festival 2012 Spring Showcase will be held Friday, April 13 through Thursday, April 19 at the Regal Dole Cannery 18.

Tickets go on sale April 4 (April 2 for members).


HIFF 2011: Hodgepodge & Festival Wrap Up

I know, I know, I’m still writing stuff on HIFF. It’s such a huge film event here in Hawaii that it warrants a lot of coverage by a movie blog based in Hawaii. I promise you though that this will be pretty much the last post on this year’s festival. So please, bear with me as I put down a few more thoughts on the closing days of HIFF 31 in order to try and wrap things up.

Final Entry into the Diary of a HIFF Volunteer

So my last day/s of volunteering didn’t provide as much writing material and hence, this small section is going to close out my experience working as a volunteer at this year’s festival. The one thing I did want to mention again, is that you can end up working with some really cool people as a volunteer.

HIFF volunteers direct festival attendees to the appropriate theater.

On the lone Tuesday night of the festival, I was put into this team of three and we were posted at theater 12. Sadly I can’t remember my teammates names, but it was me, this other guy that I had worked with on Saturday, and this girl. I don’t know how it came up, but it eventually came out that we were all the same age as we were all born in 1980. I mean, I’m sure the odds of something like that happening were way more possible than say me winning the lottery, but at the time I found it pretty striking. With some common ground between us, we started chatting away as we worked.

Of course, the conversation turned towards where we lived and where we were from. Through all of our conversation up until this point I had just assumed that we were all locals. Nothing that anyone had said would have given me reason to think otherwise. However, the other guy in our group told us that he was originally from Houston, Texas. This sparked an amazing conversation on how he came to be in Hawaii and of his travels around the world.

It started off with the usual questions; we asked him what he was doing here in Hawaii, how long he had been here, where he was before he came here. Come to find out that he was watching his friend’s house while he was deployed. Since his friend had a car as well, he even had a car to get around in. How he got here was pretty cool too (figuratively, not literally). Basically his friend called him up towards the end of last year and asked if him if he wanted to live in Hawaii while he was deployed. At the time he was finishing up his stay in Australia and he didn’t really have anything else to do so he took his friend up on his offer.

Naturally the question of “well what were doing in Australia” came up. This pretty much lead into a whirlwind tour of my teammate’s travels around the world. He told us that he was in Australia for volunteer work and it was through the volunteer service that placed him there that he’d traveled all over. He then told us about his experience volunteering in Ethiopia, what life was like there, and about the Internet cafes they had there. The whole time I was listening I was pretty amazed. He was such a low key guy and he had these interesting stories about where he’d been. He even told us that he was a fugitive in Australia. He got fined for trespassing down there and he was supposed to appear in court. The thing was, his court date was a week or two after his flight to Hawaii. He said they’d probably never let him back into the country for skipping town, but he wasn’t heartbroken about it since he had already seen the country and didn’t really need to go back.

Teammates, volunteers, festival friends, call them what you will. You meet these people possibly one night out of the festival and never see them again till the spring or the following year. Working with a good group of people will make the time just fly by while working with not so great people . . . well, let’s just say that’ll probably make for some fun stories. Whatever the case may be, you’re going to meet interesting people when you volunteer at HIFF.

George Clooney at HIFF

The George Clooney cardboard cutout was a big hit on the final night of the festival.

Going into the festival, I (along with everyone else) knew that Descendants director, Alexander Payne, was going to be here for closing night. It was reported by the Star-Advertiser and other media outlets. Hollywood film, shot in Hawaii, about Hawaii, and the director was going to be here to receive an award and talk about the film . . . yeah, even before the festival started you knew closing night was going to be crazy.

What I wasn’t expecting though, was the rumor mill buzzing about how George Clooney might be coming to the festival as well. I heard people talking about this from opening night! No one really knew for sure if he was coming, but it seemed as if everyone had heard from someone that an effort had been made to bring him out here. Now I’m sure Clooney was reached out to and asked to attend, however from the way people were talking about it, it seemed as if everyone thought he would make an appearance and that it was just this secret that was under wraps.

I knew from the beginning that Clooney wasn’t going to be here. There’s no way something like that could be kept a secret, it would have been reported somewhere. And also, this isn’t Telluride or Comic-Con where stuff is kept secret up until the moment it happens. No, if Clooney was coming, everyone would know.

Fast forward to closing night. I didn’t know it as we walked through the lobby, but George Clooney did show up for this year’s HIFF. He was in the lobby in front of the HIFF sponsor backdrop posing for pictures with guests. Ok, well, it wasn’t the real George Clooney, it was a cardboard cutout of him. It was really fun to see everyone wanting to take their pictures with the cutout and I thought it was a really great way to use the buzz surrounding the rumors of his appearance to engage festival attendees.

So just how did the festival get “Clooney” to show up? Festival director Joshua Nye said he had a brainstorm Friday night about the Clooney cutout and rushed out to get it made in time for the closing night film on Sunday.

Thoughts on The Descendants

And what of the closing night film itself? Call me a homer, but I loved The Descendants. I thought Clooney was great in the lead role of Matt King and I especially liked the relationship that he had with his daughters. Overall I thought the entire ensemble cast did good job, even down to Matt Lilliard who, when I saw his name come up in the opening credits I was like, “Ugh, not the guy from Scooby Doo!” However, I thought he had a great understated performance that didn’t make me think about his previous roles.

During the post film Q&A with director Alexander Payne, he talked a lot about how he wanted to get things right about Hawaii and even went so far as to live here for a few months before shooting began to get a good feel for Hawaii. All of Payne’s hard work definitely shows in the film. The way that our local lifestyle is depicted, from family gatherings, right down to the main character of Matt King–everything felt pretty authentic to me. I personally don’t know anyone like Matt King, but there are people like that here. They may not look local, or they may not act local, but they ARE local. And it was things like that that I appreciated from the film.

Anytime you have a film with George Clooney claiming Hawaiian, I’ll take that movie any day of the week. So yeah, like a lot of other locals, I really enjoyed The Descendants and I’m putting it in my Top 10 films of 2011.

Closing Thought’s on this Year’s Festival

Overall I had a really great experience this year, from both working as a volunteer and as a festival goer. If I had to say, I think I enjoyed more of the festival this year than I did last year. From the perspective of the blog, I definitely covered more than I have in the past. Things were really going good in the beginning when I had five or six days of consecutive posts and for a brief time I thought I could keep that pace. Sadly though reality eventually set in and I decided to choose sleep (and other real world responsibilities) over posting.

As for the final count of films that I saw, I believe the count stands at seven:

  • Paradise Broken
  • 6B
  • Martha Marcy May Marlene
  • Elite Squad: The Enemy Within
  • Knots
  • Bullhead
  • The Descendants

Though I didn’t get to see everything that I wanted to, which would have been physically impossible, I do know which films I want to look out for should they make their way to theaters within the next few month or appear on Netflix.

One takeaway from this year’s festival that will stand out for me is what local filmmakers are doing here in Hawaii. I’ve always been hesitant to check out local productions only because for such a long time there hasn’t been anything all that great. From commercials to the stuff on OC16, there is a lot of locally produced stuff that is really lame, kinda cheesy, or just plain tacky–and it was because of all of this that turned me off from local productions. Paradise Broken changed all that. It made me realize that we do have people who are doing great things in Hawaii. Like anything else, some things are going to be better than others and if you search for it, you will find quality work and storytelling going on here.

So I think that’s going to do it for this year’s Hawaii International Film Festival. Definitely some good times. If you enjoyed the festival this year or if you have anything to add, go ahead and hit me up in the comments.


Catch up with other closing thoughts from this year’s Hawaii International Film Festival from other local bloggers:


HIFF 2011: Michael Giacchino Q&A

It took us almost a week to fully recover from this year’s HIFF. Though the festival’s over, we’re finally able to look back and blog about a few more things that we saw and did at this year’s fest. We thank you for coming back and checking in with us as we close out our coverage of HIFF 31.

While you may not have heard of Michael Giacchino, I can definitely bet that you’ve seen some of the films he’s worked on: Mission Impossible III, The Incredibles, Star Trek, and UP (which he won an Academy Award for). Though he might not be as well known as fellow composer John Williams when it comes to film scores (Star Wars, Indiana Jones, Superman, Harry Potter), Giacchino is definitely on his way to becoming a household name.

As part of the Hawaii International Film Festival’s Sound x Vision section, Giacchino was invited to the festival to ‘talk shop’ at two different panels–both discussing music as it relates to cinema. For the panel that is being covered in this post, Giacchino was on hand after a screening of one of the most recent films that he’s worked on, this summer’s Super 8 directed by JJ Abrams.

Though the video quality might not be the best, from the four videos that we shot you can definitely get a feel for the kind of person Giacchino is as well as his personality. He’s definitely very passionate about his work and seemed very down to Earth both during and outside of the Q&A. He even stayed well after the Super 8 Q&A was over to sign autographs and take pictures with each and every fan.

If you’re interested by his work, I hope you take the time to watch each video. Each of the videos is less than seven minutes long and I’ve also provided a rough breakdown of what is discussed in each one.

Part I
How Giacchino got into making movies . . .
How he got into music and transitioned from making movies to making music . . .
On his experience at the performing arts school Juilliard in New York City . . .

Part II
How he developed his orchestral background . . .
On his early days as a composer . . .
On meeting Steven Spielberg for the first time . . .

Part III (continuation of Part II)
On what he took away with from working with JJ Abrams & Brad Bird . . .
On working on Pixar’s UP . . .

Part IV
On composing for Super 8 . . .


HIFF 2011: Interview With Traci Toguchi

Traci Toguchi with Ralph Macchio (aka Daniel-son) from The Karate Kid Part II.

In this special to The Red Band Project, Guest Manager Valentino Valdez sits down for an interview with local ‘renaissance chick’ (and actress) Traci Toguchi.

When the Hawaii International Film Festival (HIFF) announced they were bringing The Karate Kid Part II back to the big screen for the 25th anniversary (as part of HIFF), I was stoked. It’s such a cult hit, especially here in Hawaii, and I have fond memories of watching it with my family in the back of our shag-carpeted Chevy Malibu station wagon at Kam Drive-In, as well as re-enacting every scene with my sister and nephew. I was compelled to seek out the only person I knew, personally, that was in the movie–-local ‘renaissance chick’, Traci Toguchi—to get some behind the scenes scoops. Her role in the film (she’s credited as ‘Girl Ringing Bell’) was not only a turning point in the movie (Sato sees the light!), but a turning point in her career. I sat down and talked with Traci (and by “sat down and talked”, I mean, emailed her questions and waited for her to reply) about her experiences on The Karate Kid Part II, as well as catch up on her other projects.

Was The Karate Kid Part II your first film? Was it your first “Hollywood” job?

Yes, it was. It’s how I got my SAG (Screen Actors Guild) card. 🙂 (My first acting job was a Japanese commercial for Mitsubishi of Japan when I was 8.)

What was it like working on such a popular movie? Can you describe some personal experiences you had with the stars of the film?

It was a dream come true. My sister and I kept Karate Kid posters of Ralph Macchio on our bedroom walls, so everything – from the audition process (standing and crying, hitting an imaginary bell in a room at the Ilikai Hotel), to the callbacks (on set with many other kids – all needing to climb the tower and cry), to the filming process (did some of my own stunts and had a stunt woman!) , to the premiere in Hollywood (my mom and I got to attend!) – was surreal.

From Day One, Ralph was so kind, thoughtful and professional. We shot that bell tower scene a zillion times (not only in Hawaii in Kahalu’u, but also in Los Angeles in a movie studio parking lot). That required much rehearsal and getting wet, cold, and muddy. After every take, everyone would rush to Ralph, but he’d tell everyone to help me first, and let me to go first to take a hot shower (and clean off for the next take). He made sure I had hot cocoa. I’ll forever be grateful for his kindness.

One of Traci's scenes from The Karate Kid Part II.

When my part was extended, and my mother and I went to LA to continue filming. We were in the Shuri Castle set as the shot was being set up, when the line was created for me, and Pat was enlisted to help me pronounce the line, “If not for you, I not be here” with the appropriate accent. He was funny, professional, focused… I recall seeing him many years later at a Perry and Price morning radio show appearance after I sang. He was shocked to hear me sing for the first time. He made some one liner joke like he did when he played “Al” in Happy Days that made me crack up. He was and still is classic.

Although this was Tamlyn’s first film too, she was incredibly relaxed, professional, fun, and encouraging. It excites me to see how much she continues to brightly lead the way for Asian American actresses, as she is beautiful, kind, professional, and talented. Nobu McCarthy and Danny were also incredibly warm, kind, helpful, professional, and supportive, as were Yuji and Joey and Mark, though I think they needed to stay in their bad boy characters. 😉

Being able to have been directed by Rocky director John Avildsen continues to be one the biggest honors of my life. He took a chance on me, and gave me the opportunity to do more in the film than what was originally scripted (a featured extra part). He was incredibly helpful, warm, and as you can see from his work, brilliant.

The qualities I mentioned in the handful above were recurring and consistent on the set. I was fortunate to have worked as an extra many days to see some aspects of the movie making business at a young age. Even the extras shared a bond, because of the spirit of the cast and crew, but also because of the spirit and nature of Hawaii people.

What other local actors were in the movie besides you and Danny Kamekona?

Interesting question. Quickly Googled. Looked through the IMDB list, but uncertain if any of the others were from Hawaii (perhaps some of the G.I.’s?). 

Unfortunately, many large principal roles for big productions – both film and TV – are typically not cast in Hawaii, which means Hawaii actors don’t have the opportunity to audition for the larger roles. In LA, actors can stay “fit” by auditioning for big productions – depending on the time of the year – every week, if not every day. When large productions like Hawaii Five-0 stay for a bit, they provide Hawaii actors the opportunity to work on their craft. We are immensely grateful when this happens.

Were all your scenes filmed in Hawaii?

No. Additional “bell tower” scenes, as well as the bon dance scene were shot in Burbank (Los Angeles, California). I missed my elementary school “graduation,” but had my own tutor. (Sweet, huh? 😉

You and Tamlyn Tomita were also in Picture Bride. Was that a coincidence or did the Karate Kid connection have something to do with that?

Total coincidence. 🙂 Also around that time, we had come to share another thing in common — winning a pageant. Tamilyn was a Nisei Week Queen before starring in The Karate Kid Part II.

Please tell me about your role in Bait [a short film featured as part of ‘The Short List’ at HIFF].

I played “Rhonda,” the daughter of the characters played by the great Hawaii actors Dann Seki and Blossom Lam-Hoffman. It was such an honor to be amongst this small cast (other actors included Pomai Brown of 50 First Dates and veteran singer Marlene Sai).

The producers Jason Lau, and John Ching (who was also the director of Bait) were awesome to work with, including producer Angela Laprete, who is Production Supervisor for Hawaii Five-0. 

In fact, many that worked on that crew work on Five-0, so it was seamless, and such an enjoyable experience for me. 

After the premiere at HIFF the other night, I was surprised to learn my classmate (same Kaiser High grad!) wrote the screenplay. I had seen his name on the title page, but thought the name could be very common. Grant Ching came up to me (hadn’t seen him since graduation many moons ago), and told me he was happy I was in his film! Small world. 🙂

Please tell me about your upcoming Hawaii Five-0 guest spot. What was the experience like on the set?

My character is Mrs. Lasko. My husband (played by Kevin Yamada, who’s also from Hawaii, but also resides in New York City) and I are victims of a home invasion. Our scene is with McGarrett (Alex O’Loughlin) and Lori (Lauren German). The director was the talented Larry Teng.

Larry was professional, articulate, and helpful. Alex and Lauren were so easy to work with. They were also professional, funny, kind, and as you can see on the show, very talented. 

Like Bait, I knew many of the crew from other local (film, TV, commercial) productions, so it was like being at home.

The entire experience from Day One much like The Karate Kid II (and Bait, come to think of it), was incredible. The people were professional, kind, and bright individuals who work well as a team. 

I feel so blessed to be a part of it.

Any other film or TV projects in the works?

Nothing I can mention now. Regardless, I’m always studying and applying different acting techniques and learning as much as I can (I also teach these techniques to kids, which helps me a lot too).

You’ve also had success on Broadway. Would you do Broadway again if given the opportunity? What roles would you love to tackle?

My dream role would be playing Fantine in Les Miserables (which is not currently running, though is my favorite story/Broadway musical). I used to practice a song she sings – “I Dreamed a Dream” when I had the musical on cassette tape as a kid. 🙂 Singing it still resonates in my gut. Les Miz was part of the Cameron Mackintosh family of iconic musicals with Miss Saigon and the Phantom of the Opera. We got to see and support each other while on the road.Would love the opportunity to perform on Broadway in Manhattan. Being in the national (Broadway) tour was awesome, but since New York is my second home, it would be incredibly awesome.Heard rumors about a Broadway musical of Disney’s Enchanted (or maybe it was in one of my dreams, lol). It’s one of my all-time favorite musical films. Would love to play Giselle (Amy Adams’ character), as I tend to be gullible like her. 😉

Supergator! Tell us how you got involved with this project and any interesting experiences you had on the set. Were you scared of the Supergator? And what happened to that guy you were tending to at the end? The girl never came back with that first aid kit!

Hahaha! Actually, this was a great project for me, as I didn’t have to audition. One of the producers contacted me (or my agent, can’t recall which came first), and said I didn’t have to audition with the credits I already had.

 Flew and got to spend the night in Kauai after the filming, so it was über sweet.

Thankfully, I didn’t need to “interact” with the gator, as others did. I felt bad for those that needed to act like they were being attacked by something that was digitally created post-filming. Was the gator scary in the film? (I’m asking, lol.) It looked scary from what I saw on the online promotional material. 🙂 A highlight was getting to shoot a rifle between scenes, which was quite an experience.

I never got to see the film (though people including my mom and aunt kept telling me they’ve seen it), so I didn’t know that about the girl not coming back with the first-aid kit!! That’s hysterical.

There seems to be a bit of a cult following for the film though it is not highly thought of in regards to the overall quality of the production. Perhaps it’s due to all those SyFy airings, I’m not certain. 🙂 I recently received an autograph request stating how I made the movie better when I appeared. I’m sure he wrote that to the rest of the cast too though! 😉

Most of the autograph requests I (still) receive come from LOST fans. Besides Five-0, LOST was one of the best TV filming experiences I’ve had. Although it seemed to be a brief exchange with Dr. Shepard (Matthew Fox), the filming process was rare for a TV show in my experience, because this process was like shooting a film where telling the story took precedence. Blocking was consciously considered and rehearsed so it made sense in the story. By the time we filmed, it was second nature. I feel the success of that show (besides the incredible talent and imaginative storylines) were due to the efforts made to tell the story. After having auditioned for 4 seasons without any callbacks, to have been a part of LOST history (not to mention Lostpedia 😉 continues to be a blessing, as the program continues to air throughout the world.

BTW, my Hawaii Five-0 episode – 2.6 “Ka Hakaka Maikai” airs October 24, 2011. <fingers crossed>

Reposted with permission from ValenTumblr.

Tamlyn Tomita, Valentino Valdez, and Traci Toguchi at the HIFF screening of The Karate Kid Part II .

Graphic artist, movie geek, and awesome dad are probably the best ways to describe Guest Manager Valentino Valdez. You can find more of Tino’s work over at and follow his exploits on Twitter @valdezign


HIFF 2011: Diary of a Volunteer-Oct 13 & 15

What kinds of stuff can you expect as a HIFF volunteer? People, all kinds of people.

So I was a little hesitant to bring this feature back, mainly because I did this last year and didn’t want to just rehash stuff I had already written. However, when you work enough events there’s something you begin to realize, you can put on the same event again and again, and always have a different experience each time. I should have known there’d be new stuff to talk about from HIFF 31.

A Great First Night
I really had a blast working the opening night of the festival. It was mainly because I got assigned to an awesome team. The other guy in our group was really outgoing and it definitely made for lively conversation while we worked. It just so happened that my team member also made friends with another woman who was with a different team, but during our downtime she sat with us and we all talked story about who we were, why we were all there, what we wanted to see, and of course, about other volunteers (more on that to come). It was somewhat funny that I was the veteran of the group since it was the first time for all of them working the festival, myself only having started just last year. In any case, the night seemed to fly by and I have to admit, I was a little sad to loose my team as I had no idea if I would be working with any of them for the rest of the festival. We all said goodbye and made our separate ways home.

Team 18 on opening night of HIFF 31.

Why Volunteers Should Work the First Night of HIFF
This is something that I only sort of realized this time around: it’s actually a good idea to work the opening night of the festival. I know everyone’s schedule is different, but if you can help it, you’ll definitely get a lot out of it, especially if you’re a first timer.

One of the biggest reasons why you want to work the opening night of HIFF . . . you get your volunteer shirt in the size you want it in. As the festival goes on, there’ll be those who won’t get a shirt in their size or worse yet . . . they won’t get a shirt at all. All that can be avoided by working the first night to ensure that you get one.

Another good reason to work the opening night . . . it’s the only night of the entire festival with the least amount of films playing. It’s the perfect way to “ease into” volunteering at the festival. With the exception of the opening night film (The Front Line) I don’t think any of the other films that played that night were sold out. With only one big film of the night playing, it kind of makes the workload easier to handle. Also, another reason things are sort of calm, the opening night gala tends to draw people (sponsors, directors, actors, talent, and other important people) away from the opening night. Less big wigs = less to worry about.

When Volunteers Go Rogue
I talked about this last year, but sadly it’s always going to be a recurring theme when you have free labor–you always have people that just don’t know how to follow the rules. Sadly, I wasn’t expecting to encounter someone like this so soon.

So to set tone, in our orientation earlier in the week, everyone was told a number of different things about being a volunteer. For time saving purposes I’ll cut to the chase–volunteers aren’t supposed to watch movies while working a shift. Fast forward to opening night. I’m working with my team and we were on a break, sitting around just talking story when we heard this older woman walking down the hall waving her ticket in the air. The funny thing was, she was a volunteer. I had seen her working earlier with a team and she had her volunteer shirt on, but now she was wearing another shirt over that, one that buttoned down the front.

Well when we saw her this time, she had her outer shirt buttoned up like she was off duty or something. Who did she think she was, Superman or something? Was her buttoned up shirt her civilian clothing? Did she think that by opening that up to expose her volunteer shirt would put her “on duty?” Whatever the case was, she was basically trying to hide the fact that she was a volunteer.

As she walked by us she was loudly pronouncing that we shouldn’t worry because she bought tickets to see a movie and that she had spent $8 on those tickets. On her entire march towards her theater, she kept making it known to the rest of us that she had paid for her tickets. Everyone in my group just looked at each other and kind of just laughed at her.

Obviously she had signed up to volunteer tonight, but I guess was confronted about seeing a movie on shift, hence she bought a ticket to the film she wanted to see–as if this was a way to get around this. We all just kind of had to shake our heads at this woman. Why sign up to work a shift at all if you’re going to go see one of the films–just don’t work. It’s as simple as that in my opinion. What I think happened was, this woman is a longtime volunteer and from what I’ve noticed, they are the ones that have trouble complying with the newer rule about not watching films while on shift. Hence her justification about buying a ticket (as if that made everything ok).

Why the Volunteer Shirt is So Important

A closer view of the nice and blue HIFF 31 volunteer shirt.

I signed up for the afternoon shift on Saturday and reported for duty wearing the volunteer shirt. When I got to my assigned theater, I noticed that I was kind of the only one that had the volunteer shirt on. There were other volunteers there, but they were wearing only regular clothes. What I noticed started happening was that I was fielding a number of questions from patrons while those volunteers wearing plain clothes were getting passed by. It was actually pretty funny to see as people would just blow past other volunteers and come straight to me for questions.

The reason for this was because I was the only one at that time that had a volunteer shirt on. People knew to come to me because I was there to help out. This year’s shirts are blue and they definitely help you to stand out from the crowd (a nice colored shirt tends to do that). Sure there were other volunteers there wearing volunteer badges, people still came to me because I was more easily identifiable. I also think I got a lot of questions because people are trained to seek help from someone in uniform as opposed to someone wearing plain clothes. I mean think about it, if you were out on the street and you saw a mailman, fireman, or policeman, wouldn’t you be more inclined to ask them for assistance rather that other people that just happened to be on the street?

So, like I said, the volunteer shirt is definitely key. And since it’s so key, wearing it is a big responsibility–people expect you to have answers. Even if you don’t have the answer, you need to figure out how to get them to someone who has the answer. Probably the biggest thing is to just consult the back of the volunteer badge and look at the schedule. Everything’s pretty much there; when things are playing, what theater they’re in. Knowing that alone will definitely help out.

Also, since the shirt is important, you definitely need to find a way to wash it when necessary. You may be able to get away with wearing the shirt a night or two without washing it, but at some point you will have to, so just recognize that early on. This isn’t baseball, you don’t just keep wearing the same shirt because you’re on a hot streak. Best thing to do if you need your shirt the next day, throw it in the wash with some other clothes (doesn’t have to be a lot) and put it on the fastest wash cycle. Then when it’s done, just throw everything in the dryer before you go to bed. Though it might be a little wrinkled in the morning, at least that’ll be better than wearing it stink the next day.

Other Stuff From Saturday

Short Staffed–When I checked in on Saturday I was about 5-10 minutes late. I looked for my name on the sign in sheet and I realized that more than half of the volunteers that were supposed to work today haven’t showed up yet–not a good sign. Sure enough as the afternoon progressed the effects of volunteer no shows could be seen–captains and other staff members had to pick up the slack. Those of us that were there were asked if we could work an extra shift to help out. One guy said he could while myself and another guy said we couldn’t. I had already purchased tickets to see Elite Squad (my most anticipated film of the festival) and so there was no way I was going to miss seeing that. If I didn’t have tickets, I definitely would have stayed to help out. Sadly I couldn’t.

When Volunteers Go Rogue II–So that lady I talked about in the first part of this post was there again on Saturday, and she was up to her old tricks. I didn’t realize she was “working” since halfway through the shift I saw her coming out of a film. Of course she had her shirt buttoned up again. I wondered to myself if she had paid for her ticket again or if she just went rogue and snuck in. In any case, a few minutes later I see her talking to HIFF executive director Chuck Boller. It looked like she was complaining to him, about what I can’t be sure. The only thing I overheard her say was something like, “we shouldn’t have to stand for that.” Whatever it was, I just had to shake my head at her again.

I really dislike people like that. For one thing, if you have any problems talk to the people that are in charge of us, not the top guy of the whole festival. Cutting to the top of the chain of command to complain about something is just weaksauce. Now on the other hand, she might have actually known Chuck (though I highly doubt it). However, if this was the case, why does she need to volunteer if she knows him? She’d be a ‘priority line’ type of member if she really did know him, which would also mean she wouldn’t have to volunteer to see a film anyway. In any case, Chuck listened to what she had to say, kind of said something like he’d look into it, and then went on to the next thing he needed to be at.

All in all, it was a pretty good first couple of days of the festival. As we head into the middle stretch of the festival I hope to see previous teammates and festival friends from last year. Oh yeah, and a few more films too!

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