New Horizons: Innovating Connections with Aloha

By Brandon Kubo | November 17, 2020

No one enjoys being let go from their full-time job. COVID-19 has devastated Hawai‘i’s economic stability, forcing many working individuals to become displaced. Now more than ever, people realize that Hawai’i cannot rely solely on tourism to sustain its economy. Fortunately, there have been ongoing efforts to help strengthen local businesses and non-tourism industries. It’s a long road ahead, but the future is looking bright.

Career Empowerment With ACI
My name is Brandon Kubo, and I was hired to work with the Hawai’i International Film Festival (HIFF) team through Aloha Connects Innovation (ACI). Hawai’i suffered tremendously during COVID-19. I myself lost my job as a hotel employee at the beginning of the COVID pandemic. I searched for a job unrelated to tourism, but most employers required specific amounts of experience which I did not have. I felt lost not knowing where to start.

Developing New Skills at HIFF
Fortunately, a friend introduced me to the ACI program. The program is spearheaded by the Economic Development Alliance of Hawai‘i (EDAH), which is funded through the CARES Act, and is meant to help displaced individuals develop skills in new industries. With administrative help from ALTRES, participants are hired by selected host companies and mentored in their desired field. Each participant will acquire a new set of skills to transition them into new industries by the end of the program.

I became creatively driven in my early twenties. I’ve especially taken a liking to digital marketing and social media. I have been applying everything I’ve learned into my side gigs (music and streaming) since graduating with a marketing degree. However, these are not sustainable sources of income. Due to my lack of “official” experience, I have been consistently rejected by various employers. I just needed one person to give me a chance to showcase my skills.

Not Panic, But Pivot
The 40th Hawai‘i International Film Festival presented by Halekulani, which is happening right now and ends on November 29th, has also pivoted during the pandemic and is screening films primarily online via their new streaming service with select in-person screenings at pop-up drive-in events and limited screenings at Consolidated Theaters. What is exciting is that the streaming service is available nationwide for most films, so it increases the screening footprint for the festival, especially in promoting Asia-Pacific Rim cinema and locally-produced films! So if someone is interested in new films by Kānaka Maoli filmmakers, they can watch them online at HIFF’s streaming portal, no matter where they are on Oahu, statewide or anywhere in the contiguous United States. I find that very empowering and opens up new opportunities for local filmmakers!

With this new opportunity opening up during the pandemic, HIFF needed to create new positions for social media marketing and media assets creation to be all done remotely. HIFF’s Marketing and Outreach Associate position was the perfect opportunity. Working in a creative industry like film provided the experience I was searching for. The application process was seamless, and I was assigned multiple projects rather quickly. I was finally relieved to have direction after months of uncertainty and anxiety. It was definitely a step forward in the right direction. With HIFF’s message this year of “bringing Hawai‘i to you,” is a strong slogan and theme to build a social media strategy around and it has been very exciting and fulfilling.

The Right Foot Forward
I started on November 1st, and have since been busy working on different projects. It’s crazy to see how much knowledge and experience I have gained in such a short period. It has been great to jump into the fray with HIFF as they are also pivoting into this new normal. Thanks to the ACI program, this experience has been truly amazing, I am learning so much, and it has been a lot of fun. I’m excited to see what’s in store for the remainder of the program!

About HIFF
As the vanguard forum of international cinematic achievement in the Asia-Pacific region, Hawai‘i International Film Festival (HIFF) endeavors to recognize new and emerging talent, promote career development and original collaborations through innovative education programs, and facilitate dynamic cultural exchange through the cinema arts.

About ACI
Now more than ever, Hawai‘i needs to address the major economic downturn, massive unemployment, and high rate of business failures resulting from the ongoing suffering created by the COVID-19 pandemic and the collapse of the State’s tourism economy. The Aloha Connects Innovation (ACI) is a new initiative led by the Economic Development Alliance of Hawaii (EDAH) to nurture and grow knowledge-based work opportunities in Hawai‘i and fuel our emerging industries and innovation sectors. Originally envisioned by Omar Sultan of Sultan Ventures, the program is designed to help convert the loss of jobs due to COVID-19 into a potential new career opportunity for our residents.

About OEDB
Oahu Economic Development Board (OEDB) is a non-profit organization, funded primarily by the private sector, contracts and the Asset Management of New Markets Tax Credit. The organization’s efforts support a healthy economy on Oahu by being a leading agent in the growth, retention and recruitment of businesses that support appropriate jobs for the people of Hawai‘i.