KCC receives digital upgrade

LIHUE – Bonnie Hailer of Kapaa wants to be a filmmaker. In October, she’ll be using new gear acquired by Kauai Community College to shoot her documentary for a fall semester digital media class.

The paniolo and bison living on the North Shore of Kauai will be the topic of her project.

After taking a brief break from her studies to give birth to twin girls, Hailer returned to school to find a surprising amount of equipment available in the digital media arts department.

“There are way more toys to play with now,” she said.

Satchel Hamilton, another KCC student, will be shooting a documentary on the Kauai Hindu Monastery as part of his documentary film-making class. The 24-year-old’s enthusiasm is jazzed up now that the college is offering courses that enable him to create projects using more than $100,000 in state-of-the-art equipment, including digital cameras, lenses and printers.

Funding was made available through state initiatives and private donors.

“I’ve always loved art. I’ve been drawing since I could hold a pencil, probably at four or five,” Hamilton said. “I would love to get a job as an art director or freelance graphic artist.”

Both Hailer and Hamilton will soon be eligible for the UH system’s “two plus two offering” — an academic pathway that encourages a two-year degree from one of the four Hawaii community colleges en route to an additional two years toward a bachelor’s degree in digital media from UH West Oahu.

KCC Chancellor Helen Cox sees the additional equipment as a necessary component to increase student enthusiasm.

“There are students attending here that would not have necessarily come if it weren’t for these classes,” Cox said. “It’s similar to the Hawaiian Studies program. The classes hook them and keep them here.”

Matthew Fulmer, digital media arts instructor at KCC, had new gear on his bucket list from the time he arrived at KCC three years ago and saw what they were using.

“My jaw hit the floor. We needed this so there wouldn’t be a huge gulf between the program,” Fulmer said. “When I came here, the equipment was a little long in the tooth.”

He was accustomed to working at schools where students were winning national awards. Other students of his were creating games that were marketed for sale.

“Now we’re on par with any great program you would find on the Mainland,” Fulmer said.

Instead of only having a cell phone camera to shoot images with, KCC photography students can learn with professional equipment that is loaned to them, including four Canon T3I’s.

“I wish I had a camera that nice,” Fulmer said with a laugh.

He is preparing an expanded curriculum to improve and certify courses for an Associate of Science degree to further strengthen the educational value of the digital media arts program.

Cox believes in the crossover value of digital media in a variety of fields. There are 15 students with a declared major in Digital Graphic Design.

“No matter what job you end up in, you’re ahead of the game if you have a handle on skills learned in the program,” Cox said.

That’s why Hailer keeps her nose to the grindstone. She studies late at night after her twins are put to bed and early in the morning before they awake. It’s not an easy schedule, but one she knows will pay off in her pursuit of becoming a film editor. She needs to complete one more semester to receive her KCC certificate of completion in digital media.

“I want to stay in Kauai,” Hailer said. “My family is here. If I’m good enough, I’ll get the work.”

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Lisa Ann Capozzi, a features and education reporter can be reached at lcapozzi@thegardenisland.com

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