The Short List: Hotel St.
"The Short List" is a 100 percent locally produced TV anthology series airing on KFVE Mondays at 7:30 p.m. The Short List brings together local actors, directors, writers and crew in Hawaii’s filmmaking community to showcase their talents by creating high-quality short films.
The show’s premise is an anthology series similar to Steven Spielberg’s classic TV series, "Amazing Stories." Each 30-minute episode features a stand alone story which is introduced by the mysterious crack seed shop owner, Mr. K. There are five unique stories by five different directors.
TalkStory Productions asked each of the directors to talk about their work on The Short List and their thoughts on the Hawaii film industry. This is the last in a series of interviews with the directors on the eve of their premiere.
Other interviews in the series:
HOTEL ST. airing April 30 — A Honolulu police officer and his ex-wife work together to solve a missing person case during which they uncover a series of interlocking crimes ranging from petty theft to illegal marijuana research. — Director/Producer: Robert A. Bates — Starring: Patrick Fujioka, Reiko Ho, Jack Galliano, Eric Nemoto — Writers: Robert A. Bates and Jess T. Johnston
An Interview With Director Robert Bates
What made you want to work on THE SHORT LIST? What about this project is different from what you normally do?
I had pitched Jason Lau and John Ching from TalkStory on a feature I had written with Jess Johnston, my partner at Super 8 Cowboys. They liked the idea and invited me to participate in the Short List, suggesting I excerpt from the feature. The story was too complex for a short, so I suggested an epilogue. It seemed like a good opportunity to flex a rather unused set of muscles, since I usually make commercials and documentaries and the occasional TV show.
What was most memorable about working on THE SHORT LIST? Were there any challenges?
The whole thing was a challenge. From the business side, we had a miniscule budget, less than 1/10th of what a network show would have. That means Jess and I couldn’t get the actors we wanted, build sets, or ourselves be paid. We had to shoot very fast with less than all the tools we needed. We had to do all the post production ourselves. Not that it was all bad. What we did have were the best actors we could afford, who worked their asses off, and a crew that was extremely professional and passionate and willing to work at the lowest tier the union has and yet were grateful for the gig and a huge help in every way.
Personally, It was a challenge to write in a format I’ve spent little time in. I learned a lot about storytelling. It made me want to do another.
The most memorable thing? The last day was pure pleasure. The cast and crew hit a nice stride, I was working with my favorite part of the material and with Justine Edwards, an actress who we discovered and are very impressed with as an artist and a person.
Did you have difficulty finding Hawaii talent (in front of/behind the camera) to work on your film?
Crew? No. We have some of the best crew in the world.
Cast? Harder. There are great performers here, and we were lucky to have found the ones we did, but there was always that feeling like, “I wish we could afford (fill in the blank)”. Cast is everything in terms of setting the tone. It is the most important element in making a narrative film, after a good script. When Hawaii filmmakers can afford both Hawaii’s best actors, and the best actors from abroad, we’re going to see some awesome films.
How could Hawaii film community continue to have more projects like this?
I don’t really know. TalkStory spent a lot of money on this with little promise of return. I think that’s a better question for them. From my point of view it means mainstream distribution, Hawaii state tax incentives and studio involvement.
How would you describe the film industry in Hawaii in general?
Hawaii has a unique place in the film industry. Look at all the big shows that come through here. Amazing opportunities for crew and craftspeople.
Most everyone in Hawaii wants a big film industry. It promotes tourism, it provides good paying jobs and it is a relatively clean industry. Shows like Five-O are great, I’m all for ‘em, but no one thinks they’re authentic. We should be putting something as well produced into the mainstream that originates from an authentic Hawaii point of view. Would that be cool, or what?
What could local government do better in supporting local filmmakers?
I think that a program like ACT 221- limited only to Hawaii filmmakers - would be worth exploring. Incentives for investors to work with local producers on projects that are going to be seen around the world. Not every film is going to be a hit. But there will be those that break through, and then we will have the roots of an industry.
About the author: A Honolulu resident since 1984, Robert Bates is the creator and director of The Kitchen Sessions with Charlie Trotter, for which he received the James Beard award, Best National Television Program. Since 1993, Robert has produced and directed commercials and public relations films for clients in North America, and Hawaii. Robert has directed three award-winning documentary films about the history and culture of Hawaii, and is the writer and director of Ingredients (2009), and Ingredients Hawaii (2012). He is the co-producer, co-writer and director of Hotel St.. He swears his next film will be a western.
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