It’s a busy morning at the Miche-Rosales farm located at Lalamilo farm lots, and the Hawaii Preparatory Academy digital documentary class is trying to get silence on “the set.” As trucks roll by and a tractor lumbers slowly down the road, the students wait for their cue to film.
This particular class is hosting the Feb. 13 episode of PBS Hawaii’s Hiki No, which will show viewers what the area of North Hawaii is all about. The nation’s first statewide student news network, Hiki No, which means “can do” in Hawaiian, began airing weekly newscasts in the fall of 2011. HPA was one of the original schools participating in the program, and now in season 5, more than 80 Hawaii schools contribute stories to Hiki No.
Alexis Stoebner, a senior at HPA is a boarder from Oahu. She said that being in the documentary class is a good way to learn about the island she now lives on.
“We’ve been talking about the history of places here, like Puako, Mauna Kea, Parker Ranch and the World War II monument,” said Stoebner. She said she enjoyed going onsite to learn about the different locations.
As the host for the Lalamilo segment picks her way through the lettuce rows to read her part, the other students stand by, ready for action. Several are holding light reflectors, two students hold the cue cards against the wind, and one student mans the camera. Ari Bernstein, class instructor, calls out the commands while teaching the crew how to create a good shot.
Kellen Gillins, part of the crew, said they must communicate frequently, whether about where to move reflectors or to get as close as possible to the host without showing up in the camera frame. There are numerous amounts of takes before the right one is filmed.
“Sometimes, right before lunch, Mr. Bernstein says we need to shoot again,” Gillins said with a laugh.
The Hiki No programming has encouraged the young people of Hawaii, who are growing up in the digital age, to think creatively and proactively. Students must sometimes re-submit their work up to five times before it is accepted by PBS, preparing them to succeed in the real-life future.
“I’m thinking of pursuing (documentaries) in college,” said Michael Spetich, a senior who recently helped with a story on junior lifeguards. “I like being able to go out in the field to get experience, and now I can learn to show my own stories.”
Bernstein said he builds confidence in his students by giving everyone a role to play within the crew.
“The kids know what their kuleana is,” Bernstein said. “We start with a lot of note taking, script, writing and editing. We hold a series of workshops where everyone has a chance to do a job. Then we go into the field for a trial run.”
This school year marks the fifth year HPA has participated in the Hiki No project. Students have documented diverse subjects; the annual pumpkin patch event and former Hokule’a voyager Kainoa Lee, created tours of the Energy lab and HPA campus, and have reported on current events. Many of their videos are available on youtube.com under Hawaii Preparatory Academy.
On another sunny day, the students stand at the edge of coral and rock at Paniau in Puako. This is their second go at shooting in this location, as the first time they filmed, it was windy with gray water in the background. As Spetich confidently looks into the camera to speak his lines, surfers ride waves in the background. Its a go.
Bernstein said learning to document stories by video is a good skill for students to learn. Some of the students who worked on the Hiki No project while at HPA, he said, have gone on to get jobs in Hollywood.
“They have taken it out into the real world,” said Bernstein. “That has been a great part of it.”
Hiki No airs 7:30 p.m. on Thursdays. HPA’s segment about Waimea and surrounds will also air at 7:30 p.m. on Feb. 13 and can be viewed at http://www.pbshawaii.org/hikino/.