“Live the dream” is the motto of Film Raro and that is exactly what happened as filmmakers came from across the world from the UK, Los Angeles, Tahiti, Australia, Hawaii, New Zealand, and even Tunisia, to the south Pacific’s Cook Islands to mentor locals and make short films. It’s all part of the Film Raro pacific paradise film challenge a social and economic development project to capacity build Cook Islanders to tell their own digital stories and foster a new industry.
It started just over a year ago with talks to Cook Islands Prime Minister Henry Puna and with his endorsement, the Film Raro project was launched. In its inaugural year it received just under two thousand scripts from filmmakers around the globe, an astounding testament to its unique international appeal.
Next, in association with the Cook Islands Ministry of Education, the first ever-professional filmmaking course kicked off. Six of the best international scripts were chosen as its curriculum and the process of mentoring and pre-production began. International teams selected ranged from recently graduated film students from Sheffield Hallam University UK to Hollywood blockbuster producers the Stone Brothers whose credits include The Conspirator directed by Robert Redford, Gone In 60 Seconds staring Angelina Jolie and Nicholas Cage to name a few.
Media worldwide picked up on the phenomenon with internet, print, radio and television articles published across the pacific, Europe and the United States.
Finally, the culmination of all this preparation exploded in to reality as the selected international film crews landed in the Cook Islands to combine with locals for two weeks of creative filmmaking madness.
Most international teams, expected to be of four members only had now expanded in number with one totalling thirteen. Three scouting parties came early with Hollywood producer Web Stone on the island for two weeks prior to shooting. “Going native” as he put it. Approximately half a million dollars of film and editing equipment rolled in and with it all some of the worlds best filmmaking talent.
Stan Wolfgramm Film Raro’s executive producer says ‘The whole island became a film studio for two weeks. The hospitality of the locals grew ever day as they came to understand that Film Raro was about them and for them. A loving Cook Island spirit mixed with an international passion for filmmaking brought an infectious atmosphere of good will to the island.’
Gifts of food were dropped off, props, vehicles, a helping hand, all came to Film Raro’s operational head quarters where crews met daily to share meals, experiences and provide support for each other.
‘It is a big and complex concept with long-term benefits.’ Says Wolfgramm who gives the analogy of Film Raro being similar to the proverb ‘Give a man a fish and you feed him for a day. Teach him how to fish and you feed him for a life time.’ Film Raro is about developing digital capacity to have a voice in today’s global society, it’s how commerce is done, how we preserve our identity and how we talk to our kids. Economically the Cook Islands has the opportunity as part of the New Zealand realm to contribute and benefit from New Zealand’s $3.2 billion film and television industry as well as boost tourism though media exposure but none of it means anything if the community doesn’t want to support Film Raro.’
Wolfgramm had nothing to fear there. Even with rain on the day of the premier screening locals came in their droves of thousands. ‘We were over flowing with hundreds still waiting to come in. Tomorrow night, same time, very sorry’ was the call that Wolfgramm sent to waiting crowds who did come back the following night to an equally packed national auditorium. Close to five thousand locals attended, that’s almost 50% of the nations population.
Nothing but continuous chatter, laughter, tears and applauds filled the nights screening as locals saw themselves, friends and family, their heritage and their culture on the big screen. Hollywood Producer Web Stone said ‘It was a life changing experience to share in the process of creating cinematic history on an island paradise with so many welcoming and truly loving people. New friendships were forged as six international Cook Islands short films were made.’
The next chapter is still to be written as the films are taken to audiences around the world via film festivals, television, in-flight entertainment, the internet and more.
Our films were made with a spirit of challenge and hope, a true reflection of Film Raro’s motto to ‘live the dream’. We wish to encourage others though the films we have made to do the same and of course to take a trip to the Cook Islands where all dreams do come true’ says Wolfgramm.
Will Film Raro happen again? ‘We hope so. Our intensions are to grow the event annually in to an icon of the film world but I’ve exhausted my resources and have applied to government and tourism authorities for support and now waiting for a reply.’ says Wolfgramm.
Film Raro has bridged a gap between just talk and reality and delivered amazing results with little support.
As Wolfgramm says, ‘It’s a big and complex concept to understand and see the benefits but that wasn’t the case for the thousands who entered from around the world, and the hundreds of filmmakers, schools, kids, friends and families that helped in some way and the thousands that came to the screenings. It was pretty easy for them to see that Film Raro is a worthy project that should be celebrated and supported as they all did.
For more information on Film Raro checkout our website: www.filmraro.com