One night when Stefan Schaefer was kissing his son, Cyrus, goodnight they accidentally bumped foreheads. This prompted Cyrus to say, “Dad, wouldn’t it be amazing if I had access to your memories?”
Most fathers would marvel at their child’s imagination at such a time, but Stefan took it a step further. Being a filmmaker, he turned the idea into a script. Then he turned it into a movie.
“I Am Because You Are” will have its world premiere Sunday at the Hawaii International Film Festival on Oahu, followed by the festival’s second screening of “Kuleana,” which Stefan produced and co-stars in as the villain, Victor Coyle.
Stefan’s 20-minute film “is basically about a 12-year-old boy who learns that his grandfather has to move to Hale Makua because he has Alzheimer’s,” Stefan told me during a recent phone interview. “The boy is upset by this news, so he creates this contraption to capture the last memories of his grandfather before it’s too late.
“He sneaks into Hale Makua and ‘records’ the memories of his grandfather. Then he goes back home and puts it on himself and has these bursts of memories. His grandfather was a Vietnam vet, so he has bursts of that, then his grandfather coming back to Hawaii.”
The boy’s mother tells him that actually it’s just the boy’s imagination, remembering things his grandfather told him, but the boy sees it differently in the touching story.
Stefan was thinking about the whole process of how memories are shared and processed and how they shape families when he cast the film with his son and daughter, Cyrus Laury-Schaefer and Talei Laury-Schaefer; his wife, Chenta Laury; and Chenta’s uncle Seth Cleveland Jr., who is in fact a Vietnam vet and lives on Oahu. Maui’s Reece Pottorff was director of photography for the four days of filming.
A grant from Pacific Islanders in Communications provided support to finish the project, and ensures that it will show on PBS Hawaii at some point in the future.
“I Am Because You Are” deals with a boy’s transition out of childhood on many levels, and Cyrus was a reluctant collaborator at first. He doesn’t like hearing the story about how he inspired the project, and his first reaction to the script was typically adolescent: “Dad, this sucks.”
Once he saw the first edit, though, his reaction changed, Stefan reports.
“He said, ‘Dad, I want an agent.'”
Speaking of “Kuleana” and HIFF, writer-director Brian Kohne is riding a string of audience awards into the festival on Oahu this weekend where the Maui-made suspense drama will premiere Friday before its repeat showing Sunday.
Stefan and Brian aren’t Maui’s only filmmakers making news these days.
Emmy Award-winner Ken Martinez Burgmaier’s HawaiiONTV crew just filmed the 21st Hula Grill Ukulele Competition, featuring what Ken calls “Maui’s next generation of amazing musicians from 6 to 17 years old.”
That was followed by the Hawaii Food & Wine Festival, where Ken interviewed chefs Roy Yamaguchi and Alan Wong, Chris Speere of the University of Hawaii Maui College, The Maui News’ Carla Tracy, Sista Val of KPOA, Michael Baskin of Paia Inn and producer/restaurateur/documentary film legend/author Shep Gordon. Rock Hendricks on sax and Joel Katz on Hawaiian steel guitar provided the music.
Ken filmed segments for a Jazz Alley TV/HawaiiONTV special in Sydney, Australia, then flew back to Los Angeles’ Dolby Theater to direct and produce a tribute to former President Bill Clinton and trumpet competition for the Thelonious Monk Institute of Jazz. Celebrities taking part included Goldie Hawn, Don Cheadle, Quincy Jones, Billy Dee Williams, Herbie Hancock, Chaka Kahn, Kenny Burrell, Wayne Shorter, TS Monk, Taj Mahal, Diane Reeves, George Benson, Jimmy Heath, Randy Brecker and Arturo Sandoval.
“It was very special and humbling when Goldie Hawn told me this was the “best and most enjoyable” interview she ever had! WOW!” says Ken.
‘Tis the season to be spooky. Not only is today Halloween, it’s also Larry Feinberg’s birthday. Larry, a “Kuleana” cast member, celebrated his 70th birthday a year ago by putting on a one-man show at the Historic Iao Theater. Best wishes for a cake full of candles to Maui’s king of hanging out.
For those who prefer celebrating Halloween from afar, Akaku Maui Community Media will be presenting live coverage from Lahaina town, beginning with the keiki parade at 4:30 p.m.
Today is the one day of the year when you get to pretend that you’re someone you’re not, not out of fear or for protection, but for the sheer fun of it. A golden opportunity, not to be missed!
* Rick Chatenever, award-winning former entertainment and features editor of The Maui News, is a freelance journalist, instructor at UH-Maui College and documentary scriptwriter/producer. Contact him at email@example.com.