I hope this update finds you well. As you might recall, about six weeks ago we were invited to submit our project again to Tribeca Film Institute's interactive grant. Since the time I first launched this project, and then spent 5 weeks in La'ie interviewing and photographing, the project has taken a more clear form and I wanted to highlight a couple of those changes.
1) We decided (for now) to hold off on the 60 minute documentary. We'll be producing a lot more than 60 minutes of documentary content within the interactive experience, but producing both was proving problematic for several reasons. It felt very much like we were trying to create two separate projects, and it was detracting us from moving ahead on either of them. Additionally, feedback from our grant applications revealed that depending on the granting organization's primary interest (interactive OR traditional documentary), one or the other detracted and distracted the reviewers. It was clear that setting out to do both was hindering our fundraising efforts. I haven't found the best way to articulate our internal struggle, because I've been trying to hang on to both, but when we started discussing the option of focusing on the interactive interface and telling that story, it just felt right. The team decided it was best to focus on the interactive site primarily, and producing the best possible content for that medium. At a later date, I may decide it's an appropriate thing to produce, but for now, it's on the back burner.
2) We've honed in on a user interface! The interface is how a visitor to a site experiences the content. Over the last year, this component has caused me a great deal of stress as it's the single most important part (aside from the actual content) of what we're producing. After a lot of debate and discussion with the development team, I had a Eureka! moment about three weeks ago, and I'm really excited about where we're headed. Since Hawaiian culture and storytelling is intimately connected to the land, I always knew great care would be taken to document “place,” both scenic and sacred. But I believe that an online experience like this lends itself well to an “interactive landscape” in ways that other mediums cannot easily achieve.
Maps are an ubiquitous part of the modern internet experience. We use them every day, and we navigate them almost without thinking, and yet the interface which drives that experience is still two-dimensional, and has remained largely unmodified since the internet was introduced to mass audiences in the mid-1990s (MapQuest!). Kupuna Interactive’s primary navigation tool will be map-based. We’d like to leverage the second-nature familiarity of maps, but embed within that experience our content, and indigenous Hawaiian ways of seeing the land and its shifting borders. If you were to ask me what the one innovation was from this project after it was produced, I'd say we rethought what was possible with maps by using one as the primary storytelling device in this expansive project. We’d like to turn the idea of traditional map interaction on its head, moving from a utilitarian exercise of necessity, to an exploratory experience imbued with meaning and significance. An experience with meaning that spans generations, and taps into the community’s near 200-year recorded history. AWESOME! (I really am stoked about this)
3) The university archive has become a main character. We are thrilled at what we will be able to do with our unrestricted access to the university archive. Untold historical treasures are held within the walls of the archive, and yet the university nor the community, has a way for the public to easily access the materials. We will be "mediating the archive" by utilizing a curated selection of items to help enhance and tell a better story.
4) Robert Hall (our technical director) is headed to La'ie! This Thursday, Robert will head to Hawaii to check out the archive and to meet with Dr. Kali Fermantez, one of Kupuna's producers and our main cultural advisor. A first hand look and face to face with our team in La'ie is overdue, and we're excited for this development. I'll be headed over later this summer as well, and will provide more info on that trip in a later update.
5) We were invited to submit Kupuna to the 2014 New Frontier Story Lab, hosted by the Sundance Institute. Last week Robert submitted our application and letter of intent to be considered for a week long, intensive work session in Park City, Utah with the Sundance Film festival institute and their immersive interactive session in October. We were thrilled to be invited to apply, and will keep you posted as that develops. Fingers crossed!
6) We have a new working title! Kupuna Interactive: Looking Forward, to the Past
I was trying to come up with a better title than just Kupuna Interactive, and was inspired after reading Dr. Hokulani Aikau's essay on some of the contemporary struggles that face La'ie and its Hawaiian residents as they grapple with honoring the past. I've also thought a lot about the idea that we walk backwards into the future. We can't see what's ahead, but we can get a good look at what happend in the past. And more importantly, we cannot do this effectively without our elders. La'ie cannot do this without its kupuna. I think the working title is fitting of the project. What do you think?
That sums up the highlights from the last 6 weeks. My next update will include a report from Robert on his trip to La'ie, as well as some updates to how we're progressing with the development of the interface itself. We're also going to be overhauling the content on the current website to reflect the changes in the proposal, as we continue to work toward our next steps of developing the interface, and sourcing funding opportunities to finish the project in a timely manner. Our kickstarter funds were always intended to get the ball rolling, and while the timeline isn't what I was expecting, I'm excited about the attention we're getting and the invitations we've been receiving as we move forward in this rare, and important, storytelling adventure.
I can't thank you enough for your support, and your patience, throughout this process. Please stay tuned! Also, please send positive vibes for our Tribeca grant application and our Sundance opportunity - we need all the chances we can get to let this project shine!
PS: You can download our most recent proposal from dropbox by clicking here.