Archive for August, 2011

Reno Hawaii, Egan 5-0 and More

August 31st, 2011
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Egan 5-0 pix

The new Career Changers TV show for September premieres Thurs. night at 8:30 PM on OC16. One of our feature segments is about Egan Inoue's ups and downs as he transitioned from being a world champion in multiple sports to pharmaceutical sales before starting up his fitness biz. He also talks a little about his latest career move: acing on Hawaii Five-O. Cool story.

We also have a fun piece on the man behind the Fresh Catch restaurants in Kaimuki and Kaneohe. Reno Henriques tells how his family's business (Rolloffs Hawaii and his brother's recycling company) led to his first restaurant, and how a customer's suggestion turned into a line of bottled sauces that are now available at Longs -- with plans to start shipping the product to Asia and the Mainland. And yes, his name is related to Reno, Nevada where his dad was doing business back then.

Plus, we have news about college programs for occupations that have great future potential in Hawaii, and more on green jobs. If you miss it Thursday night, no problem -- you can watch or DVR it nearly every day of the week at different times. Click here for our schedule.

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Odds & Ends news: Remember Shauna Goya, who used to do the Odds & Ends blog for the old Advertiser? She's now an account exec at Communications Pacific, and I'm working with her on the Rescue & Restore coalition project to raise awareness about human trafficking issues in Hawaii. BTW, we're looking for a short, easy-to-recall name for the website we're creating as a resource for trafficking victims. Please post suggestions in the comments section below or email them to me at richfigel@gmail.com.

Remington College President Ken Heinemann is moving to Florida and will be president of another Remington campus there. Replacing him at the Honolulu campus later this month will be Louis LaMair, who was Director of Admissions. I really enjoyed working with Ken the past year while producing segments about their various degree programs, and admired his enthusiasm. During that time I got to meet many students and graduates, who spoke highly of him and the education they received at the Downtown college.

We also have a segment about Argosy University's Marriage & Family Therapy program. What's interesting is they recommend that MFT students undergo therapy themselves. Their MFT Chair, Dr. James Siebert, says "therapy is healing" and believes that it helps students understand what clients go through if they experience the process themselves. I'll be writing more about their MFT program when we air Part 2 of that piece next month.

For more info on the show, please go to www.CareerChangers.TV. You can also check out video segments from past and current episodes on the CCTV YouTube Channel. Mahalo for watching!

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Driven to Succeed

August 29th, 2011
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Last week, you may have noticed I didn't post anything... or maybe you didn't, since the newspaper no longer promotes the blogs in its print edition, and the StarAdvertiser.com home page blog box only has room for the ten most recent  posts, which are sometimes three or four consecutive short volleyball/football/political items. The non-staff blogs get squeezed off the home page quickly, so there's not much motivation for other SA bloggers to post stuff that isn't being promoted or read.

However, that's not within my control. So when I write something, I want it to be meaningful and not merely random notes or thoughts. The problem is good essay-style writing takes a lot more time and effort than your basic blog filler. And time has been in short supply since I took over editing duties on my Career Changers TV show. Anyhow, I just finished the new September episode that will begin airing Thursday night on OC16, and think it's pretty good. More on that later in the week.

What I really wanted to comment on are two recent Scientific American articles about lessons from Sherlock Holmes on "seeing" versus observing, and paying attention to what isn't there (or "non-choices" being a choice that we should also think about). For instance, have any of you wondered whether the newspaper's new paywall would affect online content or bloggers and the Star-Advertiser's internet readership? Does the lack of comments or public outcry signal something worse than indifference -- apathy?

We live in curious times. Never before has there been so much emphasis on the need to succeed and finding a competitive edge due to the dicey economic conditions. Yet at the same time, never before have there been so many self-help books/programs about "being in the moment" and finding spiritual contentment instead of focusing on specific material goals. This hit home for me over the weekend while watching two diametrically-opposed movies that embody this existential dilemma.

The films came from two different countries with very different cultures: the U.S. and South Korea. There was the Hollywood high concept movie, LIMITLESS, which is about a loser writer guy who becomes addicted to smart pills that turn him into an opportunistic genius. He is able to make millions in weeks, but the downside is others are willing to kill him to get their hands on the wonder drug -- that is, if the drug doesn't kill him first. Essentially it's the New American Dream: get rich fast by using the financial markets to make money instead of having to actually work for it. And success is the ultimate high.

The next night, my wife and I watched POETRY, a slow-moving, poignant portrayal of a simple Korean grandmother, who works as a maid. She's been forgetting everyday words and is diagnosed as having Alzheimer's. Then she learns that the teenage grandson she is taking care of, is one of six boys who repeatedly had forced sex with a school girl, leading to her suicide. The woman wrestles with the moral dilemma of what to do about the boy, while struggling to write a poem for a class she signed up for on a whim... well, not a whim, but more of a long-delayed need to express herself before dementia robs her of the words she can still remember.

LIMITLESS is a so-so film. Too much voiceover narration by the protagonist telling us the story. Despite all the snazzy visual effects and pumped up music, in the end, it felt lifeless. Artificial. POETRY is the opposite: the characters don't actually say a lot -- in fact, the protagonist doesn't say anything about what she's really thinking about her grandson and what he did. The movie shows us through her simple heart-breaking actions what she's feeling inside. At the end, she finds the words for her poem, and it speaks volumes about her character and what matters in life. In LIMITLESS, the protagonist's big goal at the end is to win a political office! Oh, yeah, like he's gonna change the world because he's super smart now. Obviously, that movie bears no relation to the real world where intelligence is not an asset in politics.

Lastly, on this theme of seeing versus observing, it reminded me of driving in the car with my wife. The other day, Isabel noticed there was a new shop in Kailua. It had actually been open for awhile. I knew that because she always does the driving, and I'm the passenger.  As the driver, she has to focus on the road ahead and immediate concerns such as oncoming cars, while I have the luxury of time to look out the window and take in the changing landscape. But as a writer, I also try to make it a habit to "observe" my surroundings wherever I am. In a way, I'm like that Korean woman, jotting down notes and details for the poem -- or scripts, in my case, that I want to write.

In my own quest for success as a screenwriter, I've often written with blinders on, focusing on the high concept Hollywood story -- fast-moving page turners like LIMITLESS. But in the process, I may have missed smaller details that would have made my stories more personal and moving. More human. I look around at all the people who are driven to succeed in the corporate or financial world, and wonder if they too are missing the little details that transform mundane moments around us into poetry. The irony -- or paradox? -- is life is all about limits. But what makes us human is the need to push beyond limitations and rules, for better or worse.

Here's the links to the aforementioned Scientific American pieces that got me to thinking about this topic:

Lessons from Sherlock Holmes

Don't Just See, Observe

Last chance to see the August episode of Career Changers TV before the new show premieres on Thursday night! Click here for daily viewing times... or check out video segments on the CCTV YouTube Channel.

Human Trafficking

August 19th, 2011
By



Although the Aloun Farms case has been dismissed, it raised the issue of human trafficking in Hawaii, which has been largely overlooked. In part, that's because victims are working in jobs that are removed from the public eye. Immigrants are lured here (allegedly) to toil in fields, do low-paying service jobs in hotels/restaurants or the garment industry, and forced into prostitution... or are they?

Even the Aloun case divided the Laotian community here. The Alou brothers, who immigrated from Laos, had many friends and supporters that saw them as being a success story -- the epitome of the American Dream. Others believed they were exploiting Thai workers for personal profit. All I know is farming is a tough business, and this particular problem has been going on for decades in the U.S. When I was a rookie reporter way back in 1979, I did a story about migrant workers in rural North Jersey, where I saw the barracks-style housing they lived in. They were mostly Hispanic. The farmers said it came down to simple economics: if Americans want to eat cheap, the farm owners had no choice but to hire the cheapest labor they could find.

Trafficking happens in other lines of work, including the sex trade. Last week, I interviewed three former prostitutes as part of a public awareness project I'm involved with. I'll be producing video segments and Public Service Announcement spots about human trafficking, and resources available to victims -- or for people who know possible victims, and want to help them get out of those situations. It's challenging though because as one of the women told us, some prostitutes are doing it by choice. She admitted that she wasn't totally naive when she was brought to Hawaii on a "vacation trip" by her pimp. When she tried to leave him, he held her over a lanai railing 20-some floors above the ground, then beat her severely.

What's amazing is how resilient these women are. Each had terrible, sickening stories about the fear they lived in. It makes you angry and sad that anyone can be so cruel. It made me ashamed to be a man. Yet another former streetwalker said a lot of johns didn't want sex -- they just wanted to talk to her. That's sad too... there's so many lonely people out there, who want any kind of human connection they can get. Even if they have to pay for it. I honestly don't know what the answer is to dealing with prostitution. But if a woman wants to get out of the business, then the law and society should do all it can to protect her from pimps.

I'll be working with the Pacific Gateway Center, along with four other non-profits and Communications Pacific, which will be handling the print materials part of the public awareness campaign. We're talking to professionals who deal with trafficking victims on a daily basis. But if you know someone who survived such a situation and would like to share their story, please contact me. We will maintain their anonymity if they prefer and can alter their voices/image so no one will recognize them on the videos. Although we have access to videos and photos from the federal agency that is overseeing this project, we believe the most effective stories we can share are from local survivors who can tell what happened in their native language. This will truly be a multi-cultural, multi-ethnic effort we're putting together.

You can email leads to me: richfigel@gmail.com

Or call me at 262-5073. All information will remain confidential. Also, if you have suggestions as to how to best raise awareness about trafficking and resources available to victims,  please feel free to post them in the comments section below.

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For daily viewing times and other useful job-related links, please visit www.CareerChangers.TV. You can also watch video segments from past and current episodes on the CCTV YouTube Channel. Mahalo!

Chinatown Stories

August 12th, 2011
By



Andy

One thing I can say about producing my TV show: I meet interesting people, whose passions run the gamut from the sublime to some very strange stuff -- and I get to film them doing what they love. Take last Friday, for example. I arranged for my cameraman, Stanford Chang, to meet me in Chinatown where designer Andy South was setting up a silent auction fundraiser for the Pacific Gateway Center.

We had done a segment on the PGC culinary incubator kitchen in Kalihi earlier this year (here's the video link). At the time, I knew the center had started out originally as an organization to help immigrants and refugees in Hawaii. The director, Dr. Tin Myaing Thein, was quite modest about the work they had been doing over the years. What I didn't know was the center had assisted Andy South's family when they first came to Hawaii as Laotian refugees after the Vietnam War, and that his mother became a caseworker for PGC. Which explains how they were able to get Andy to lend his considerable talents and star power to the event. We'll be doing a future segment on the center and Andy's mom.

EricWhile we were in Chinatown that evening, I also set up a shoot with Professor Pandemonium -- Eric West -- who has an artist's loft on Maunakea Street, right around the corner from the Pacific Gateway Center. I had seen his photo and an item about his First Friday side show act in the Star-Advertiser weekend section and thought that might be a cool story for Career Changers TV. I mean, how (and why) does someone decide they want to hammer nails up their nose or set off mouse traps on their tongue? Those are just two of the "feats" as he calls them, that he performed on camera for us. On Weds., we went back to shoot the interview and he did something you have to see to believe. That segment will air in September or we might save it for the Halloween Special in October.

Strange dichotomy, huh? One moment we're filming a famous designer who makes his living stitching fabric with needles... and a few minutes later, we're shooting footage of a relatively unknown performer/artist who does janitorial work by day and at night lies on a bed of nails or has people break cinder blocks on his head with a sledge hammer. You gotta love Chinatown!

There's some interesting stories too on the current show, which you can catch daily on OC16. For daily viewing times, please visit www.CareerChangers.TV. You can also watch videos from past and current episodes on the CCTV YouTube Channel.

New Show Premiers Tonight

August 4th, 2011
By



There are a bunch of old Hollywood jokes about actors/writers/wannabes that end with the punch line: "But what I really want to do, is direct!" Not me. Never wanted to be the one calling the shots and making every little decision on the set. I just wanted to write. When we first began the Career Changers TV show, I would arrange most of the shoots and interview the subjects while my original partner did all the filming and editing. Because he was much more experienced at this than me, I tended to defer to him on where to position the subject, how to frame the shots, etc.

And that became a problem. He was expecting me to direct since I was the one who was lining up the stories and knew what the tone or theme should be. It wasn't until he moved on that I began to take control of the shoots and edit sessions. In the process, I had to develop new skills. I had to "see" the completed segment in my head before we started filming, so I could tell the camera person what kind of shots I needed and what sort of look I wanted for that piece.

Last month I got word that the videographer I had been working with was offered a full-time job. I wound up "auditioning" five experienced camera people, and talked to a couple of others. The results were mixed. Some I really enjoyed working with. Others didn't show much personality or the ability to connect with our subjects, which is important to me -- it's tough to get people to loosen up on camera and be natural. Good videographers have that gift. The best also know instinctively what to shoot for b-roll (background shots during voice-overs) and will try to get different angles without being instructed to do it.

In one case though, the videographer shot himself in the foot right before I was about to give him a paid assignment. Two weeks after he first contacted me to say he really wanted a chance to prove he could do the job, he sat down with me and said he hadn't seen my show yet. Huh? Why should I hire him, when he hadn't even bothered to check out our website or the program itself? And this guy actually teaches video production on the college level. You'd think he would have done his homework before meeting with me.

DSCF0004Anyhow, you can see the end product in the new August show, which starts airing tonight on OC16 at 8:30 PM. The opening segment about 3D printing was shot and edited by Bao Nguyen, who did a very good job on the piece. Unfortunately for me, he's a full-time teacher and is returning to school duties so his availability is limited. The second segment about Camille's on Wheels was done by Stanford Chang, a veteran videographer. His experience shows -- it's a good piece that tells the story of how Camille Komine transitioned from the movie industry into the food truck biz.

The third videographer I was very impressed with was Erin SuJan Coolidge, who has acted in local theater productions (local commercials too) and worked for a top wedding video business. She did the Egan Inoue piece that will air in September. While filming his fitness class, Erin even got on her stomach to film the participants when they were doing crunches and push-ups. I love it when camera people aren't afraid to get down and dirty to capture the moment.

Erin was the most fun to work with. But the day of the Egan Inoue shoot, she told me her husband -- a teacher and actor himself -- had been offered a better teaching job on the Mainland, and they were moving that same weekend. Bummer. She lived in Kailua too, which would have been convenient since I often have to meet with the videographer to edit segments and exchange Quicktime Movie files back and forth.

In any event, I think the new show came out well. Hope you'll tune in and check it out!

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For daily viewing times, please visit www.CareerChangers.TV. You can also watch video segments from past and current episodes on the CCTV YouTube Channel. Got story ideas or suggestions? Drop me an email: richfigel@gmail.com