Filmmaker Christen Marquez at the Pacific X-Change Conference

Posted on August 31, 2009

ITVS and Pacific Islanders In Communications recently hosted the Pacific X-change conference, an educational two-day workshop held in Waikiki, Hawaii. Find out what the experience was like for independent documentary filmmaker Christen Marquez who was one of 19 selected to attend.

Every time I return to Hawai‘i, I am grateful to see my Mom, spend time with her, and learn from her. As a Kanaka Maoli (Native Hawaiian) of mixed heritage currently living in California, I truly appreciate any opportunity to learn from all the people I meet here on the islands. This trip was exceptionally exciting because I was one of 19 fortunate documentary producers and directors selected to attend the Pacific X-change conference, which was a collaboration between ITVS and Pacific Islanders In Communications. 

Held in the Prince Kuhio hotel in Waikiki, the workshop consisted of two days of workshops and pitching sessions. At the beginning of the conference ITVS Senior Programming Manager Richard Saiz revealed that he has read an astonishing 8,000 documentary proposals. Wow! I would probably have brain damage. Thankfully, instead of crippling himself, Richard has gained great insight into what goes into a successful treatment. Just one memorable tidbit he shared with us was his holy trinity of doc proposal writing. Which distilled to premise, theme and story. If you can make each of these elements truly compelling Richard swears that you will be successful. Up next was lovely local girl Cheryl Hirasa, who also happens to be a production manager at ITVS. By coincidence, she was in Hawai‘i visiting family and actually gave up some of her vacation to attend the conference. She presented a workshop on producing for public television, which helped explain deliverables and public television distribution.

On the second day independent filmmaker Lisette Marie Flanary (American Aloha, NA KAMALEI: The Men of Hula) gave a case study presentation of her experiences getting funding. She was heartbreakingly honest about the arduous task of getting a documentary funded. Her overall presentation remained positive and she stressed the importance of persistence and being open to criticism––encouraging us to not only be artistic, but also responsible and to think of our films as a small business enterprise. The most difficult and helpful part of the conference for me and the five other presenting filmmakers were the project pitches. 

Each presenter spoke before a panel of six judges including Derek Hoppe and Robert Pennybacker from PBS Hawaii and Leanne Ferrer of Pacific Islanders in Communications. Sometimes the criticism was harsh, but I think each of our projects will be stronger for it. One of the presenting filmmakers Jacob Holcomb, who is currently working on a film about the revitalization of the art of Tongan tattooing, said this of the conference “The Pacific has so many stories, but our access to these kinds of resources is limited because of geography. We all learned a lot not only about putting together winning proposals, but actually became better storytellers. It was great to meet all the other presenters from across the country and outer islands as well. I can't wait to see these projects on national television” Richard and Cheryl, I hope that you will find your way back to Hawai'i soon to provide Pacific Island filmmakers with more encouragement and resources to help us elevate our projects to the strict standards demanded for national television broadcast. From all of us Mahalo nui, me ke aloha pumehana! Many thanks and warm wishes! 

- Christen Marquez Independent documentary filmmaker. 

Learn more about her projects >>

Check out more pictures and stories of other participants from the Pacific X-change workshop on the Paradocs Productions blog >>


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