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A Sense of Wonder and Collaboration: Reel Wāhine of Hawaii Interns Reflect on the Production Process

After weeks of planning and preparing, the interns of Reel Wāhine of Hawai‘i had a chance to work on set to get some hands-on experience and see the potential outcome of this season’s documentary series.

Despite the pandemic and with work mostly being conducted virtually, the team of Reel Wāhine was able to create a safe environment on set with talent and crew socially distancing, wearing masks and practicing sanitation procedures.

“Shooting during COVID went smoothly because Vera was our COVID officer, so I felt safe and still had a lot of fun,” said Christian Cristobal, one of the interns.

“There were times I caught myself not high five and staying farther away from people, but I did wash my hands lot's that day and wiped down equipment when needed.”

Although there were a lot of changes to production because of COVID safety protocols, Inez Anderson, a Reel Wāhine of Hawai‘i intern, said production wasn’t all that different from her pre-pandemic experiences on set.

“To my surprise, being on set during COVID wasn't much different from a regular shoot — other than the masks and temperature checks,” said Inez.

“It helped that we were working in an empty space and with a smaller crew.”

The interns said that working with a small crew actually gave them the opportunity to connect with others on a more personal level and to get hands-on experience in setting up lighting, capturing good audio, setting up the camera, adjusting the settings and other important tasks.

Aleta Hammerich, an intern who worked on set for Joy Chong’s interview, said she played an integral role in some of the design aspects of the shoot.

“I was responsible for the projector that we used during our interview. Behind Joy Chong, the interviewee, I projected some of her past work and some cool stock footage to fit the vibe of the discussion. I was also responsible for the camera that connected to the projector for the majority of the interview,” Aleta said.

“Overall, it was a great learning experience for me to gain a greater understanding of the filmmaking flow and how to set everything up.”

Martha Nicholas, a Reel Wāhine of Hawai‘i intern, also learned valuable skills and lessons from her mentors and others on set.

“I learned how experienced sound operators prepare themselves before the set with Connie, especially if they are new to the device. With Kristle, I learned more about setting up lighting and framing with multiple cameras. Vera also taught me the importance of taking Behind the Scenes photos.”

“She explained that although it is not the main story, it is vital to capture the actions that make the whole production possible. The images collectively should convey a story of their own.”

Karla Noa, who worked on set for Kumu Hina’s interview, said she really took this opportunity to learn the most she could and to actually get to know the people she was working with.

“I asked questions regarding production such as sound, camera technique, scripting, set preparation and more. It was great learning and building connections with professionals in the industry,” Karla said.

Jessie Hearther, who just finished working on set this past week, said this experience was both educating and liberating.

“Female work spaces are so important. It is truly a freeing feeling — being surrounded by different women of various ages, all with their own experiences and stories to be shared. We need to continue to foster these safe communities and cherish the women who are in them,” Jessie said.

A common consensus among all the interns was that they really appreciated being able to get hands-on experience.

“There is only so much you can learn through a textbook or an online class. Although I am notified of techniques and standard procedures, having hands-on experience highlights my strong and weak areas,” Martha said.

“Though there are some obstacles, it’s always taken as a learning experience. Also, film equipment is constantly upgrading, so getting to learn about any type of technology is helpful.”

On the same note, Christian said that being able to work in-person really allowed her to understand how the process of production works.

“Personally, I work best by working in person and hands on, so this experience was the best to learn and observe all of the cinematographers on set. I felt engaged and I learned a lot while being able to help out here and there,” Christian said.

Similarly, Inez said, “I definitely learn better when I'm able to watch people work in-person and have hands-on experience. Working as an intern means that I am given responsibilities that I might not necessarily have experience doing, so I have to learn as I go. I've found that being given a clear goal and deadline helps me learn better.”

From learning from crew members on set as well from the amazing and talented interviewees, the interns said the skills and advice that they have gathered from this experience will continue to help them in their journey as filmmakers.

“My favorite memory on set was really just listening to Joy, who we were interviewing, and watching Shaneika and Rena capture beautiful imagery under Anne's direction — it felt like magic,” said Aleta.

For others, working on set felt like a dream.

“Working on set for the first time in a professional setting made it feel like a dream,” said Christian.

“To be completely honest, I was quite nervous as this was my first time being paid to help create this amazing film. I was so nervous I came 30 minutes early to make sure I was in the right mindset and just in the right place! But, as the shoot began and the nerves washed away I was able to focus and really take in the environment.”

Inez added, “There's always that sense of wonder that comes with collaborating with a team to work towards a common goal, as well as the excitement that comes with getting to see that vision come to life. It's like an adrenaline rush that lasts for however long the shoot is, which is usually hours.”

Despite the nervous excitement and adrenaline, the Reel Wāhine of Hawai‘i interns said they will take what they have learned from this experience and carry it with them as they pursue future film projects.

“It's given me an invaluable learning experience and served as a good reminder that I genuinely love filmmaking and everything that goes into it,” Inez said.

In reflecting on her experience of working on set, Christian said that being given this opportunity really shined a light on her future path.

“I remember telling one of my fellow interns this, but as we were starting to wrap and close up all of the cinematographers’ gear I told them: ‘Even though it's hectic and packing expensive heavy gear is crazy — today I realized this is what I really want to do. It's all worth it.’”

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