Lessons in movie magic

LIHUE — Isaiah Alvarez loves watching an idea come alive on film.

He is taking classes at Kauai Community College, but in 2010, while still a student in high school, Alvarez and a few friends created Above Moon Films, a nonprofit filmmaking group that teaches students how to make movies.

“I co-created it because I wanted a creative outlet and I continued with it after high school because I want to see it through,” Alvarez said. “I love portraying the emotions of different situations and it’s a privilege to be able to do that.”

Above Moon Films has created over 100 videos, about five to 10 minutes in length, said Edwin Sawyer, a director with the organization. About 50 are posted on their website.

“What we do is make films, usually shorts, with the idea of training the kids on how to make a movie,” Sawyer said.

In 2014, Above Moon Films debuted “Still Serving,” an hour-long documentary sharing the stories of local soldiers, at Kauai Community College’s Performing Arts Center.

This year, they’re taking on a full-length feature film titled, “Too Much Life.” The film examines the role social media plays in the lives of teenagers and asks the question: How many followers — instead of friends — do you have?

“We’re going to take this to the Tribeca Film Festival in April,” Sawyer said. “I’ve told everyone, even if we don’t get in, we’ll be part of the festival. We’ll set up the movie in Time Square and stream it there — so we’re going to watch it in New York no matter what.”

Kauai has played a part in many major films over the decades. Sawyer said the goal is to make a movie on the island and involve as many young people as possible.

“Students are contributing to every piece of the entire thing,” he said. “They all specialize in things, just like they do in Hollywood when they make that movie.”

Making a movie is ultimately a learning experience, and part of that process is an upcoming film boot camp.

“The boot camp is where kids are learning to shoot the movie, so they’re using scenes that are similar to the ones in the film,” Sawyer said. “It’s great because it’s basically a trial run.”

The boot camp will be held at Chiefess Kamakahelei Middle School on Oct. 5-9 and is open to Kauai youth, ages 12-17. There is no cost, but it is limited to 30 students.

Deadline to register is Oct. 1 and there is an orientation meeting scheduled for 5 p.m. Sept. 27 also at Chiefess Middle School.

During those five days, kids will get 40 hours of filmmaking instruction.

“Lots of these kids are involved in other things, like football for example,” Sawyer said. “This gives us an opportunity to train at one time.”

It also gives youth the opportunity to find where they would fit in the filmmaking world.

“You don’t have to go to the boot camp to be involved in the movie, but it helps,” Sawyer said. “Right now, the plan is to have a boot camp over the fall, winter and spring breaks.”

In preparation for the boot camp and the feature film, kids involved in Above Moon Films have been writing scripts and working on pre-production for months.

Elizabeth Makizuri, high school junior, joined the group at the suggestion of her friend, Jade Lotz. Both girls are involved in writing the screenplay, as well as editing and directing.

“I originally got into it because of art and I was drawing up the storyboards,” Lotz said. “I brought Elizabeth in because I loved it and I thought she would, too.”

Makizuri said it took one brainstorming session with Above Moon Films to get her hooked.

“Everyone was generating ideas and it was so cool,” Makizuri said. “I’m excited to take the script and create what it was meant to be.”

The goal is to finish the movie’s post-production by Dec. 1, in time for the April 2016 Tribeca Film Festival.

“It’s all about teamwork,” Sawyer said. “As a team we can take this film to the championship. As a team we can make magic.”

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