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A new smartphone app features island movies

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For many indie directors, the life cycle of their short films is often short indeed: a series of screenings at film festivals — hopefully — and when that’s over, continued exposure through DVD sales and rentals. Hopefully.

Filmmaker Brett Wagner, whose 2008 short "Chief" was a hit at the Sundance Film Festival, knows the drill.

"Obviously, a filmmaker’s favorite way to have his or her work seen is on a big screen, and we got a lot of that with ‘Chief’ screening around the world," said Wagner, who shot the film in Hawaii. "Then that ends, and at that point you want people to see it any way they can."

Wagner has found a way to enlarge his audience, thanks to a new iPad app created in Hawaii to showcase local films and the people who make them.

The app, called Hawaii Filmmakers, allows iPad users to rent one of seven movies made by filmmakers who embraced Hawaiian and Polynesian themes. The app is free at iTunes, but each movie costs $3.99 for unlimited screenings over a 15-day period.

"We’ll see how much attention the app gets, but I do think it is a very viable way to reach new audiences," the 41-year-old Wagner said from California, where he now lives. "If anything, this creates additional opportunities for the film to be seen."

The app was the brainchild of filmmaker Jeannette Hereniko, founder and president of, and Brian Dote, founder of the Manoa app design firm Tapiki.

Hereniko wanted to tap into the 633 Asia and Pacific films her company streams online, she said.

"I think our filmmakers have been able to do some great visual storytelling and immediately open up the windows of Hawaii," said Hereniko, who founded the Hawaii International Film Festival in 1981 and served for several years as its director. "I chose seven outstanding filmmakers who in my opinion have award-winning films that are diverse, that show the complexity and the richness of our community."

The app’s initial offerings are varied: Wagner’s "Chief," the story of a Samoan chief on the run from his past; "Patsy Mink: Ahead of the Minority," from Kimberlee Bassford; "Miss South Pacific: Beauty and the Sea," from Teresa Tico; "Noho Hewa: The Wrongful Occupation of Hawaii," from Anne Keala Kelly; "Strangeland: My Mother’s War Bride Story," from Stephanie Castillo; "Ingredients Hawaii," from Robert Bates; and "Listen to the Forest," from Eddie Kamae.

Dote had worked with Hereniko on previous projects. They started working on the app in April and launched it Sept. 12. If it’s successful they’ll add other films. For now it works only on Apple iPads, but Dote envisions other platforms in the future.

"I was always interested in taking the treasure trove of films she has accumulated and blending that with my expertise in mobile app-making development — to bridge the gap and take her content and allow people to experience it," Dote said.

Wagner says consumers enjoy the freedom of watching content on their mobile devices, when and where they choose. But he’s also relieved that tablets, such as an iPad, offer a larger screen than a smartphone.

"A tiny 3-inch screen might not be the best way to watch ‘Chief’ or any movie," he said. "But now it’s a pretty immersive experience. You put your headphones on, and with a short film you can get swept up by it as if you were in a theater."

AND that’s a wrap …

Mike Gordon is the Star-Advertiser’s film and television writer. Read his "Outtakes Online" blog at Reach him at 529-4803 or email

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