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Thursday, June 25, 2009

U.S. HAWAII: Speak Aloha: Let Your Voice be Heard

by Sandy McKee
Hawaii Bureau Chief

There’s something to be said for being in the right place at the right time. Recently, I was sitting in the Kaimuki Public Library here on Oahu when my friend Teddy Wells pulled up a chair to say hello. Teddy is an entrepreneur and an actor (you can catch him in several episodes of “Lost”). Teddy is also a natural and incurable networker. He has a heart of gold and is always looking for ways to help other people.

True to form, Teddy recently launched a social networking site to help actors in Hawaii connect with each other and with resources in the film industry. He invited me to join at I’m not an actor; but, I am working as a screenwriter and producer on a few projects for a new faith-based production company. At some point, God willing, actors will figure into my work, and I think it is a good idea to start networking with them now.

Teddy also told me that he is taking a Producers Class at ‘Ōlelo Community Television, the local public access station, in August 2009 and recommended that I take it, too. We’ll learn all the steps to producing a television show, and will receive certification to use their cameras, editing equipment, and facilities at no cost. I am affiliated with several nonprofit organizations that could benefit from having their messages shown on television. Since free is a good price, I decided to look into signing up for the class. I thanked Teddy for the info, said my good-byes, and promptly forgot all about it.

The idea; however, did not forget about me. The next day I drove to the post office to mail a letter and a white van with contact info for ‘Ōlelo TV emblazoned across it parked right next to me. As we walked in together, I asked the woman driver if she could tell me who to talk with at the TV station about signing up for the August class.

“Me,” she said, and handed me her card: Evern Williams, Media Center Manager for the Pālolo/Kaimuki Community facility. Yikes! Two right place/right time incidents in as many days. That can’t be ignored. And, yet I did. I put the card in my purse and put the task of calling her on the back burner.

In my defense, I had a number of things to do. Some of them were important, too----like preparing for a meeting with the principal of our neighborhood elementary school. I was running behind schedule and was just headed out the door to keep the appointment when I got an email from the principal asking to reschedule. The reason? You guessed it: he and several of his staff were going to the ‘Ōlelo TV station to sign up for the Producers Class.

Technically, that was not a right place/right time incident; but, it was close enough for me. I went down to the station and signed up for the class. While there, I ran into two former colleagues and learned that another good friend was on her way down; but, by this time the coincidences were becoming redundant.

Bottom line: ‘Ōlelo Community Television, one of Hawaii’s best kept secrets, is the new, happening place to be.

In Hawaiian, “’Ōlelo” means “to speak.” At ‘Ōlelo Community Television, the motto is “when our voice thrives, so does our community.” Ms. Williams took me on a tour of the facilities and shared with me that ‘Ōlelo is one of the top public access stations in the U.S. It has six cable channels, as well as six satellite media centers across Oahu. Since its incorporation in 1989, the programming has grown from a few hundred hours a year to over 5,700 hours in 2007.

The services and programming offered by ‘Ōlelo are diverse, ranging from local sports to politics to cultural events to University of Hawaii classes. The program that interests me the most is Easy Access, which provides nonprofit organizations assistance in producing a 30-minute show to reach out to the community to communicate their mission, focus, and needs. ‘Ōlelo provides the tools, equipment, training, facilities, and access to cable channels. This makes it affordable for nonprofits to expand their reach and get their message out.

It should be noted that all programming at ‘Ōlelo must be noncommercial in nature (no selling of products or services). A tear-soaked letter from your accountant stating that your company is a defacto nonprofit organization will not do.

‘Ōlelo prides itself on connecting the members of the public access community (whether producers, cast, crew, supporters, or the viewing public) into a network which facilitates the free exchange of ideas, viewpoints, and which fosters cooperation and community building. One way they accomplish this is by having a periodic Open House called a “Kāhea,” which is the Hawaiian word meaning “to call out.” The community members are invited to the Kāhea where they receive updates from the ‘Ōlelo staff and where they can provide the staff with constructive feedback. It is also an excellent networking opportunity for everyone involved.

The next Kāhea for the Pālolo/Kaimuki facility is tentatively set for July 11, 2009. I plan to attend and will report on it in a future column. For more information about this event and ‘Ōlelo in general, check out their website at:

I encourage anyone who is visiting Hawaii, whether for business or vacation, to attend an ‘Ōlelo Kāhea (or simply drop by one of the media centers). You will definitely be in the right place at the right time.

With aloha,

Sandy C. McKee

For more information, please check out Sandy's TNNW Bio.

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