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Several University of Hawaiʻi at Mānoa Academy for Creative Media (ACM) students received a rare learning opportunity to visit the production set of CBSNCIS: Hawaiʻi, which filmed an upcoming episode at UH Mānoa on November 4.

The students, ranging from freshmen to seniors, learned location scouting, the film approval process, how many moving parts play into one scene, and they even talked story with Director LeVar Burton, who has starred in many different movies and TV shows, including the PBS series Reading Rainbow for more than 23 years.

people standing outside of a large truck

“I had an incredible experience shadowing the crew of NCIS: Hawaiʻi. This was my first time on a professional set, so now I know what that looks like and how it should be run,” said Brittney Kruzel, a UH Mānoa senior double majoring in digital cinema and business management.

Kruzel said the crew members were welcoming and answered any questions the students had.

“The locations department showed us the interior set that they had created, and we were able to watch a stunt scene filmed outside of the building. We also toured the trucks that carry each of the department’s equipment, and viewed the monitors to see what the scene was going to look like,” Kruzel said.

Key NCIS: Hawaiʻi staff member is UH alumna

person holding a camera on a beach
Shelby Harper scouting for a movie.

It all came back full circle for Shelby Harper. The UH Mānoa ACM alumna is a key assistant location manager for NCIS: Hawaiʻi and is responsible for finding locations where they will film, crafting the agreements for every location and providing everything to make it possible to film at a certain spot. Harper was one of two staff members to guide the current students on their tour of the production set. She also said other ACM alumni work in different aspects of the production, such as the camera department and props.

“It was fun to get to show them that really any skill set you have can be applied to the film industry, whether you’re a mechanic, a graphic designer, a scout, just whatever it is, there’s an avenue for you,” said Harper.

Harper, a native of South Carolina, earned her degree in 2015 and jumped right into working on productions in Hawaiʻi. After graduation, Harper worked in the production office for season 7 of Hawaiʻi Five-0, the locations crew for Jurassic World: Fallen Kingdom and production office for seasons 8–10 of Hawaiʻi Five-0. Harper also worked on the productions of Jumanji: Welcome to the Jungle and Triple Frontier.

“Most of my classmates from ACM are now my co-workers, which is awesome,” Harper said. “The internships that UH was able to get for us was basically the whole reason I was able to transition straight into a job. I had more hands-on experience than a lot of the people that would come in. My first job outside of college was all thanks to my Professor Anne Misawa. She sent over my résumé, along with a couple of other grads, to Hawaiʻi Five-0 and that’s why they picked us.”

For current students, Harper had this advice, “Think about what really makes you happy and what doesn’t feel like a job every day to you, and that there is an avenue for that in the film industry. As far as trying to have hope after you graduate, because that was something that I felt lost like, ‘how am I going to get a job? What should I do?’ There are so many film studios here now and Hawaiʻi is honestly busier than ever film wise, so there’s so many opportunities. Don’t be afraid to just send your résumé to anyone you meet who’s in the film industry.”

This experience is an example of UH Mānoa’s goal of Enhancing Student Success (PDF), one of four goals identified in the 2015–25 Strategic Plan (PDF), updated in December 2020.

—By Marc Arakaki

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