Talk Story: Gary Ellwood

LIHUE — For many years Gary Ellwood, an instructor at Kauai Community College and Emmy-award winning sound technician, and his wife Cheryl Ellwood, a math teacher at Kauai High School, always had an inkling they’d end up on Kauai. His wife’s parents were teachers and counselors on Kauai in the late 1940s.

“So we visited here often, and it became our goal decades ago to move here,” the 57-year-old said.

Teaching is a natural fit for him with 12 years of basketball coaching under his belt and an internship mentoring program for young professionals he ran for 17 years. But his passion for film and sports production was spurred on the first time Ellwood shot a football game on the sidelines.

“The energy, the juice of a live event is so great,” Ellwood said.

With a master’s degree is sports broadcasting, another highlight for Ellwood during his career was as a venue manager at the Olympics in Atlanta.

The Garden Island: Where are you originally from?

Ellwood: I was born in Eastern Canada, raised in upstate New York, and have lived and traveled all over the Mainland. Before moving here, I lived in San Diego for 25 years with my wife Cher, where we raised our family.

TGI: What do you like about living on the island?

Ellwood: What’s not to love about Kauai? I especially enjoy the small town, country attitude here. I grew up small town, so it’s comfortable.

TGI: What are the challenges and what are the opportunities found in living on an island, being the creative type that you are?

Ellwood: I knew before moving here that you can’t expect to show up on Kauai and start doing what you did on the Mainland. Producing and directing large marketing video projects, professional sports broadcasts, national advertising campaigns are not the everyday items out here. I took the time to slow down when I got to Kauai and see what the island had for me to do. I have found a good fit at KCC.

TGI: What do you like about teaching?

Ellwood: After 30 years in the film and video business, I learned a couple things along the way. I like being able to help new storytellers to learn the essential parts of the craft; how to tell a good story, how to create a piece that is interesting to their audience. The technology will always change to something newer and cooler, the styles will always evolve, but the craft of storytelling is ages old. I enjoy teaching the heart of the work. And, KCC has great production toys. Cutting edge and the top of the line gear, so I get to teach tech as well.

TGI: What are the most difficult things to get across or inspire students to do in a film class?

Ellwood: There are three challenges for students. There are a lot of aspects to learn in video production. Planning, writing, camera, sound recording, lighting, directing, editing. While you won’t do all of them once you start working in the business, or even if you are doing a video for your company’s website, you do need to experience them all so that you know which one you want to focus on.

TGI: What is the name of the course you teach?

Ellwood: I teach introduction to digital storytelling and Intermediate Storytelling, both classes in making videos. I also teach screenwriting on occasion.

TGI: What do you think students learn from you?

Ellwood: They learn about the craft of storytelling, its elements and its history, as well as the technology. But they also learn the fun of putting your heart into a project that you can show to others and influence their thinking. It can be a very expressive endeavor.

TGI: What was one of the funniest things one of your film students asked?

Ellwood: I recently had a couple students do a video using puppets as the actors, and they recorded the voices for the puppets later. There were some very funny moments when they were trying to sync the audio with the puppets lips.

TGI: Your favorite movie and why?

Ellwood: It’s a bit old school, but I have always liked, “Silverado.” Great cast, solid script, well put together. It was directed by Lawrence Kasdan and shot by John Bailey

TGI: What did you earn your Emmy for? What years? Do you have the statues in your home and if so where are they kept?

Ellwood: My national Emmy is for the America’s Cup in 1992. It was a team award for technical team remote, and we did some ground breaking work. I also have two regional Emmys and over 25 national TELLY awards for non-broadcast work. Those statues are expensive. And you have to buy yours. So no, I don’t have the hardware. I do kind of wish I had bought the Emmy, though. That would be cool to have.


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