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Film Raro: putting the Cooks on the film map

FilmRaro adds itself to the list of short film competitions offering prizes, creating a more Island Time alternative to next weekend’s V48 Hours, and giving the eight winning teams a busy week in Rarotonga. Drum Productions has launched Film Raro with much loftier intentions than enticing entries by offering winners a trip to an island paradise.

The nuts and bolts of the challenge are that teams can submit a script for a short (to be shot and edited over eight days in Rarotonga) at the Film Raro website. The winning entries will be announced between October and December, and on 15 March next year, up to 32 people will hit Rarotonga, make eight films, and screen them at the island’s rugby stadium – with the whole island invited to come watch. The challenge is accepting entries from anywhere in the world, with the proviso that the teams speak English and films are English language.

Tempting as it is to be distracted by the prize, the intentions behind the challenge are more interesting.

Drum Productions’ Stan Wolfgramm came up with the idea, not as a filmmaking competition but as an aid programme.

Film Raro’s core objectives are to aid the social and economic development of the people of the Cook Islands, helping them to learn more about telling their own digital stories to be able to preserve heritage, culture, identity and to have a voice in today’s overwhelming audiovisual digital world.

Wolfgramm intends the challenge to be a step towards making the Cooks the best and most film-friendly location for “tropical island” shooting – all backed up by access to NZ’s world-class post-production services.

Wolfgramm looked at the possibility of establishing an indigenous islands’ TV station, putting the idea aside as both too difficult and likely to take a long time to bring to fruition. He also considered a couple of other approaches, such as running traditional filmmaking courses in the islands, before settling on Film Raro.

The eventual participants will be selected not simply on the strength of their scripts, but with a couple of other criteria in mind. One will be ensuring that the eight films produced represent a variety of genres. “We won’t be making eight horrors.”

The quality of the four-person teams is also important, because part of the deal for the winners is to spend some of the week mentoring locals. Wolfgramm has created a lovely opportunity for filmmakers, but always with an eye on a different prize – building capacity within the Cooks.

As it’s essentially an aid or development project, dressed up as a competition, Wolfgramm has been working with government agencies as well as private partners to help put together the cash and in kind deals that will support it.

Wolfgramm, half Cook Islander himself, has a good track record with government agencies. He’s twice been contracted by our Ministry of Foreign Affairs and Trade (MFAT) to provide services when NZ has hosted the Pacific Islands’ Leaders Forum. He’ll also be part of the Rarotonga-hosted Forum in August this year.

Much of Drum’s TV and event work has a PI focus. From 2005-10 it made the 200+ episodes of TV3’s Pacific Beat St, and has run Westfield Style Pasifika for the 17 years of its existence. Drum is currently working with Auckland Museum to create a Style Pasifika exhibit to tour to museums and fashion events internationally.

Next week Wolfgramm will be back in Rarotonga shooting a public service TVC for the government about water security or, more prosaically, keeping pigs out of the lagoon. He’ll also be doing more work to advance FilmRaro while he’s there. Drum will document Film Raro as it progresses, aiming to produce a documentary series from the challenge for TV broadcast.

Drum is in discussions with other companies and agencies about supporting Film Raro, including O3b (named for “the other 3 billion”), which is building a satellite network to deliver fibre-speed internet to the 177 countries of the world which are underserved in their internet infrastructure. The Cook Islands’ government has already signed up to receive O3b’s services.

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