It is amazing how art inspires art, in particular when you attend a film festival, take in each artist’s perspective, and you see what works and why it works. The experience awakens something inside of you that can help you further define your own art. This was an invaluable part of my experience at The Big Island Film Festival this past Memorial Day weekend. Whether I was watching a short film or feature length film, I could see the heart of each artist was out in the open, ready to be absorbed by those who were open to receiving the message behind the art. One of the incredibly talented filmmakers I met while there was Korrina Sehringer. Her feature length film, Shouting Secrets received The Audience Feature Choice Award. The film revolves around a gathering of an Indian family due to the illness of their mother. The Audience Short Choice Award went to the short film Hi Honey by Peter A.M. Henderson and Kelly Winsa; it’s a comedy that centers around a woman turning 40 who reflects on a romantic life of waiting and asking permission for what she needs. Both films were my favorites of the festival. It was inspiring seeing the films and the filmmakers gathered there to celebrate their accomplishments with one another.
Last year I was invited to attend this year’s festival and do a workshop called, “Writing The TV Spec and Pilot Script.” My journey took on an added twist when I contacted Leo Sears, the festival’s organizer, four days before my arrival. Leo told me that the celebrity honoree had dropped out due to last-minute family matters. In an effort to help Leo, I immediately told him to go to my website, look at the list of my Storywise Podcast Interviews, choose any of the writer/producers on the list and that I would see what I could do to get them there. Leo wrote me an email with DING, DING, DING in the subject line. In it, he said that the choice was right in front of him. He wanted me to step in to replace the celebrity honoree. This would mean that I would be honored at a reception and get first class treatment at the hotel reserved for the celebrity spot. I told Leo that I would love the opportunity and that I appreciated his invitation.
The idea of being the celebrity at a festival — while I was there to celebrate the accomplishment of others — brought a mix of emotions for me. I was replacing the handsome David James Elliott, so I knew there would be those who might be disappointed by his absence. My mom suggested that I open with the line, “I know that you’re all disappointed that he is not here, so am I.” Fortunately, I was welcomed with such open arms by Leo and his wife and co-organizer Jan, that I never had to do this. I arrived at the Fairmont Orchid Hotel and was taken to the “Gold” floor, where the concierge greeted me. Breakfast, cookies in the afternoon, and snacks in the early evening were all a part of this magnificent experience. The room was gorgeous and had a breathtaking view of the ocean. But not only was I there for the festival and to teach the workshop — I was there to write several chapters of my next book so the surroundings could not have been more ideal. Waking up to the ocean is a gift to any creative endeavor.
The morning after I arrived, I taught my class to a wide range of storytellers hungry to learn about TV. This made my heart very happy. As part of my seminar experience, I like to ask the group to take part in an exercise called “Log line for your Life.” The stories that came out in this group about what inspired their art really touched my heart. It made me remember once again why I love doing what I do. There is no greater experience than hearing stories from other artists about what inspired their art.
Every night of the film festival there were events that brought together filmmakers and film goers to celebrate one another and applaud the accomplishments that got them there. On the first night, the festival hosted a “Meet the Mayor” cocktail party. It was quite an experience. There were several other events including the reception for me plus another for fellow honoree and actress Eloise Mumford (The River). I attended all the events, because I knew I wanted to truly soak up the experience so that it could influence my own art and the writing of my book. My daily routine consisted of waking up at 4:00 a.m. and writing for three hours. Then, I’d take a two-mile walk on the beach and meditate. Then, I’d come back to have breakfast and write before I’d go to watch all the films. From a creative perspective, it was a dream situation to find inspiration.
I was honored to be interviewed by a couple of media outlets while at the festival including Dick Hershberger, who published a wonderful piece in the West Hawaii newspaper headlined, “Film Fest Honors Former TV Exec, Well-Known Story Consultant.” Another highlight was being interviewed by Damon Tucker, a popular blogger on the island. Going into this festival experience, I knew that I wanted to inspire all storytellers I came in contact with to draw from within and learn exactly what their truth is. I also wanted to share some stories and learning experiences I came away with from working with an iconic mentor, Aaron Spelling. It was such a beautiful and memorable experience.
To sum it all up, art inspires art. While at the festival, I watched over 25 films (some feature length but mostly short films). I also mingled with filmmakers and continued to discover what inspired their art. I’m happy to say that I wrote 17,000 words of my next book. Furthermore, I absorbed other artists’ message, I expressed my views, shared stories, I fine-tuned my message, and created my own art by listening to the heart of each artist.