UH Introduces Co-Founding Directors of New Cinematic and Digital Arts Program

University aiming to develop one-of-a-kind film program with Asian Pacific focus

University of Hawaiʻi
Posted: Oct 11, 2002

The University of Hawaiʻi today announced the beginning steps in a process to establish a curriculum, raise capital, and initiate partnerships and support towards the establishment of a new Cinematic and Digital Arts Program — the first and only film curriculum in the country that will focus primarily on the unique heritage and stories of Hawaiʻi, Asia, and the Pacific. The establishment of a film program, envisioned and long-anticipated throughout the state, will be led by two cinematic visionaries, Hollywood producer Chris Lee and UH Professor of Theatre Glenn Cannon.

"The idea of a motion arts program has long been a vision of the University System. Today is the beginning of a new era — UH, along with the legislature, has initiated the process of bringing that vision to fruition with the guidance and support of two remarkable and accomplished gentlemen, co-directors Chris Lee and Glenn Cannon," said UH President Evan Dobelle. "Chris and Glenn are dedicated to developing this concept from the ground up — they have the knowledge and resourcefulness that will someday lead to a new standard of educational excellence and innovation in the cinematic and digital arts."

The first students began the certificate program this semester (Fall 2002). Current requirements will take advantage of existing resources through the Liberal Studies Program with a curriculum based in two areas. First, candidates will be able to choose from over 100 courses already being offered in film, video, music, animation, television, acting, directing, and scripting. Second, students will have over 400 courses available to them on the culture, history, and languages of Asia and the Pacific. After a strong curriculum has been identified, sufficient funds have been raised, and industry partnerships have been developed the program will be presented to the Board of Regents for approval of a Bachelor of Arts degree in Cinematic and Digital Arts in the Department of Theatre and Dance. The legislature has already approved $1 million in planning funds for a new building to house this and other programs on the UH Mānoa campus. Once space is completed and pending the approval of the Board of Regents, a Bachelor of Fine Arts degree may be offered, which will provide an even stronger hands-on experience and emphasis in production.

"When I graduated from ʻIolani High School I had to go outside my native Hawaiʻi to follow my dreams of working in the film industry. I want to encourage the students of Hawaiʻi, Asia, and the Pacific to consider the creative arts as ways to tell their own stories and explore their imaginations," said Chris Lee, co-founding director of the Cinematic and Digital Arts Program. "The beauty of our state is inspiring, the creative talent of our students is undeniable, and our unique location makes this program poised to be among the most distinctive in the world."

Lee is former president of production for TriStar Pictures and Columbia Pictures. Raised in Hawaiʻi, he is the first minority and Asian American to run a Hollywood studio. During his tenure as an executive, he was responsible for such Academy Award-winning films as "Jerry Maguire," "Philadelphia," and "As Good As It Gets." He was also involved in other hits including "My Best Friend‘s Wedding," "The Mask of Zorro," "Starship Troopers," and "The Patriot." However, Lee is probably best known in Hawaiʻi for his involvement as producer of the groundbreaking computer animated feature "Final Fantasy" for Square Pictures and Columbia Pictures. Based on the popular video game series, a majority of the film was produced here in Hawaiʻi.

Glenn Cannon, a 34-year veteran of teaching, acting, and directing at UH Mānoa, is also a co-founding director. Cannon has spent the last 10 years focusing on developing and teaching courses specifically related to acting for film and television. He is the current president of the Screen Actors Guild, Hawaiʻi branch, and has served as its president for the past 10 years.

"The opportunity for UH students to study film has been a dream of mine for a number of years. The core of our program will be based on cultivating our young students and encouraging them to consider a career in sharing the indigenous stories of their unique culture and people with the camera," said Cannon. "We will also seek to create partnerships with institutions and professional companies throughout the world, and bring in industry experts to offer seminars, workshops, and teach classes within the curriculum."

Cannon brings 50 years of experience as a professional actor in television and film, and Broadway and Off Broadway productions. He has made appearances in numerous series including "Alfred Hitchcock Presents" and "Outer Limits," and in the motion pictures "The Cop Hater" and "Mad Dog Coll." Cannon has also appeared in many television series filmed in Hawaiʻi, including an eight-year role as District Attorney John Manicote in "Hawaiʻi 5-0" and an eight-year role as Dr. Ibold in "Magnum P.I."

"The Cinematic and Digital Arts program will be the perfect partner for the growth and development of Hawaiʻi‘s film industry," said Donne Dawson, state film commissioner. "It is an integral component to our efforts to create jobs and increase production revenue that will contribute to diversifying the state‘s economy."

Dawson manages the state film office and is working with the four county film offices and the new Hawaiʻi Television and Film Development Board to improve Hawaiʻi‘s existing production initiatives, streamline the state and county permitting process, and increase awareness of the importance of Hawaiʻi‘s film industry as a strategic partner in expanding the state‘s economy.