POIPU — Lights and camera were present, but the action was all cerebral last week at the very first table read of Kauai’s first island- produced, full-length movie.
“This is the most amazing thing that’s happened on Kauai ever, because it’s 100 percent Kauai,” said photographer Mario Perez, who was the official still photographer for the television show “Lost,” and who attended the table reading.
Perez was one of about 30 of Kauai’s creative masterminds that got together for the first table read at Plantation Gardens in Poipu Wednesday evening.
AboveMoon Films, which is currently being rebranded as Kauai Film Academy, is the force behind the movie, known by its working title “Too Much Life.”
Both the non-profit organization and the film got their start in 2010, when director Edwin Sawyer teamed up with some high school kids with the goal of doing something spectacular.
“We want to make a film, and we want to create an industry here on Kauai,” Sawyer said.
Isaiah Alvarez, who helped create the organization when he was a senior in high school, said he is honored to see the dream he helped create take its first step.
“Seven years ago we started this program and now we’re here,” Alvarez said. “It’s amazing.”
Since Kauai Film Academy’s inception, kids in the organization have created over 100 videos, about five to 10 minutes in length, and several longer films such as “What’s not said” and their documentary “Still Serving.”
Kauai Film Academy’s film program averages between 40 and 50 students per semester, generally ages 12-17. The instructors in the film academy are all volunteer mentors and they provide guidance in areas such as graphic design, camera work, music recording and sound mixing.
Throughout all of the short productions, film boot camps and on-the-fly lessons, the one goal of Kauai Film Academy is to make a full-length, feature film with Kauai-sourced people.
“We might have to bring on a few actors from off-island, but we’re using all Kauai people in this film, for everything — even for the food. We’re using Kauai first,” Sawyer said.
Sonya Balmores, Kauai native and actress in the 2011 movie “Soul Surfer,” was part of the table read. She’s encouraged to see new opportunities for kids in the arts on Kauai.
“I didn’t have this when I was growing up here, I had to go to LA (to work in film), and it’s amazing that kids have this opportunity now,” Balmores said.
Kepa Kruse, musician and Kauai native, is slated for a role in the movie. He was at the table read to try on the character. He said he’s looking forward to being in the film.
“This is an opportunity for the young people on Kauai to tell our story, and Kauai has lots of stories to tell,” Kruse said. “Edwin is an amazing forward thinker and this is great for Kauai.”
Kauai Film Academy works with about 20 local Kauai businesses, and Sawyer said the goal is to feature as many of Kauai’s products in the movie as possible.
The organization also works with Alan Tang, chair and chief executive officer of Olomana Loomis, who has been instrumental bringing Kauai’s Creative Technology Center to life.
Sue Kanoho, executive director of the Kauai Visitor’s Bureau, said she fully supports Sawyer’s dream of bringing Kauai people together to make movie magic.
“I hope that the Kauai Creative Technology Center will be the catalyst for Edwin Sawyer’s and others’ efforts to provide our island with professional training and experience in the film industry, generating a new era of film makers from Kauai,” Kanoho said.
Tang said Kauai Film Academy’s vision is exactly the kind of activity the center wants to promote on Kauai.
“We want to see how we can support this, because what they’re doing is exactly what the Creative Technology Center is all about,” Tang said. “I’m just amazed at how far they’ve come and the vision of where it’s going to be. I want to be involved because I want to see them successful.”
Sawyer said while his vision is currently focused on laying the groundwork for the first movie made on Kauai, the dream extends far beyond one flick.
“Once we make this film, others will be inspired to do the same,” Sawyer said. “We can make movies. We’re not just a backdrop for big production companies.”
For more information on Kauai Film Academy, which is currently transitioning from its former name, AboveMoon Films, visit www.abovemoon.org or find them on social media under Above Moon Films.