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Kaua‘i filmmaker wins five regional Emmy awards

LIHU‘E — Kaua’i born and raised filmmaker Sam Potter won 5 Northern California Area Emmys for his documentary series, and he plans on dedicating his future films to stories about Hawai‘i.

“I’m putting the stories of Hawai‘i out there. I think we have so much to share and so much to be proud of,” said Potter in a recent interview with The Garden Island.

His documentary series “Back to the Wild” dominated all five of its nominated categories during the June 3 regional Emmy award ceremony in San Francisco, with Potter taking home trophies for his role as host, director, director of underwater photography, executive producer and as an editor of the show.

“We were excited about it. Definitely some hard work went into it,” he said.

The awards mark a major filmmaking milestone for Potter, who explained he has been making videos since his senior year of high school and has spent years building his online social media presence under the social media handle @captainpotter.

The 27-year-old Kaua‘i High School alum currently has more than 238,000 followers on Instagram and nearly 110,000 subscribers on YouTube. Potter described coming up with the idea for “Back to the Wild” while he was working for various brands as a travel influencer.

“It was a really good opportunity, but I got burnt out about talking about myself all the time and everything just felt very surface level,” he said of the experience. With “Back to the Wild,” Potter aims to share an in-depth look into different cultures, issues and traditions around the world.

“It’s all about connecting with people who have maintained a connection with their environment, with their space, with their natural world,” said Potter, who traveled to countries, including South Africa and French Polynesia for the show, where he filmed the Emmy-winning episode “The Coral Gardeners.”

That episode documents a group of young people and their efforts to preserve the coral reefs on the island of Mo‘orea. The series is available on Potter’s YouTube channel and also aired on the Hawaii station KFVE.

Traveling to other parts of the world seems to have only reinforced Potter’s commitment to Hawai‘i.

The first episode of the series was shot on Kaua‘i and is also the most popular video on Potter’s channel, having racked up more than one million views.

The episode, titled “Aloha Aina – Indigenous Life in Hawaii,” follows Kaina Makua, the executive director of Kumano I Ke Ala, a Waimea-based nonprofit that provides cultural, land-based education for children and adults in the community.

The episode was released in November 2021, but Makua reflected on his experience working with Potter in a recent interview with The Garden Island.

“Sam is a very talented, young filmmaker. No matter what type of film he does, he’s going to touch the world,” said Makua. “Because he brings that type of energy, that good mana. And that’s something you rarely find,” he added.

Potter is currently working on a piece about hula in Hawai‘i, which will also be the final episode of “Back to the Wild.”

The Koloa native’s next goal is a new series centered entirely on Hawai‘i, and he’s also hoping to be able to put videos out faster. Potter said it takes about three to six months to make one episode of “Back to the Wild.”

Now, he’s aiming for content every other week.

“The series is going to have the same heart, it’s just gonna have a faster pair of legs that can really just produce a lot more content,” he said, expressing gratitude for having grown up on the island and reiterating his commitment to Hawai‘i-focused stories.

“I really want to be a filmmaker of Hawai‘i. I don’t want to be telling stories around the world and it’s like, ‘Oh, I’m from Hawai‘i.’ It’s like no, ‘I’m a storyteller of Hawai‘i,’” said Potter. “I’m telling our stories.”


Emma Grunwald, reporter, can be reached 808-652-0638 or
Source: The Garden Island

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