Wait…Why Did I Want to Start This Festival Again?


Oh man. What a RIDE this has been so far!

I first decided to create the Hawaii Sketch Comedy Festival because I LOVE sketch comedy. And then I realized the importance of having business skills as a creative entrepreneur. Actors, writers, comedians, film makers and other artistic folks often forget that they too run a business. We get so caught up in our “craft” and completely miss out on great connections and opportunities because of poor business skills.

Since moving back home to Hawaii in 2012, I didn’t know what I was going to do. I kind of just showed up and said, “Well…something will happen, right?” Which is weird because as a professional actor, I totally had my stuff together when pitching myself for jobs. I was on top of my game with sending out mailings, I researched agents, I went to every audition that I could just for experience, I was always in class, I kept my head shots updated…I was ON IT. And that kept me working in New York and Los Angeles for 15 + years. But when I took a break from all that and moved back to the islands…it’s like I totally forgot what it was like to be driven and to be organized. I was just…winging it.

Yes, I know…”winging it” and improvising is what I do and that’s what I wanted to continue you doing. I came back home with one goal: to keep doing improv and sketch comedy. I didn’t know how, but I was gonna keep doing it.

I was SO bummed to hear that the local improv theatre that I had connected with had closed it’s doors before I returned home. I didn’t know about any other improv theaters yet. I had dreams of “saving the day” and getting a new space for the community, but I didn’t have the money, time or experience to open up another theatre. A friend and fellow improviser saw the need for something in our community…so he suggested I start shows.

I was already running improvhi.com as a sort of local “improv hub” and I was starting to think about producing shows, so I went for it. I was lucky to connect with some young innovators in Kaka’ako who let me use their space in trade for the cost of the door. DEAL! It was sometimes such a challenge to get “stage time” in Los Angeles that an offer like that was a dream come true!

That’s when the “Original Jams Improv Show” was born and it was AWESOME! The show featured 3 improv teams in the beginning and then we had an improv jam at the end. Participants would write their name on a piece of paper (we later called them “jam cards”) and would drop it into a hat. We’d randomly mix of the teams and they would play. We even had a “Wheel of Improv” sometimes! The community was thankful for a new space! Thankful for a new show! Thankful for the chance to play and I loved seeing them stoked about it all! I’d heard from some local improvisers that it was the first place they had seen “different companies” play together. I had just moved home, so I wasn’t aware of the history between these companies and it didn’t matter. I was just excited to be a small part of the community! Everyone was enjoying the play time…and that’s all we cared about.

We continued doing OJAMS every other week in Kaka’ako, we started doing free shows during Nightmarket (those were my absolute favorites!), we started doing themed shows (Social Media, Rap) and we started doing sketch comedy shows in Chinatown.

The Scratch Paper Sketch Comedy Show was my little baby. I mean, I loved all my show kids, but Scratch Paper could do no wrong for me. It was a multi media show. We would open up with a comedy video, then a live sketch, then a live musician would play and then another comedy video, then a live sketch, then more live music! It was fun! The community seemed excited once again. A new show to showcase their original work…YAY!

Now, even though Scratch Paper was my little baby boo, it was also a spoiled little brat. By that I mean…IT’S THE MOST STRESSFUL SHOW TO DO. Find writers, choose good sketches, find a musician, find videos, set up the projector, set up the sound, run the sound, print extra scripts, follow the script, write out the show order. AAAAH! And then there was the normal show craziness of promotion…which probably stresses me out the most. There were a lot of things to do for this show. If it weren’t for a handful of writers and actors who were dedicated to making it work…it would never have worked.

I started to get really busy with other things. Things were going really well here in Hawaii. Awesome opportunities started popping up. Which was great and all, but that meant the “passion projects” (i.e: the jobs that you love doing, but don’t pay you) suffered.

I admit that I’m an energetic person and I get excited about a lot of things. That excitement tends to make me rush and want to get things done quickly. Too quickly. No planning, just close your eyes and go for it. I’ve learned (over and over again) that sometimes…that just doesn’t work.

Okay. Back to it. Business skills. Having a plan. A BUSINESS PLAN. Say what? I don’t need no plan..I’m an improviser! Ooooh….gurl! You are WRONG.

My excitement about new projects quickly turns into me feeling overwhelmed because I didn’t think ahead. I’m not supposed to, right? Again, I’m an improviser. Yes, and…you’re wrong again. (side note: I started feeling overwhelmed with writing this blog and started browsing Facebook for about 10 minutes. I’m better now.)

I’m thankful for everything I learned through my friends with “NPJs” aka “Normal People Jobs.” Friend who were non-performers, non-writers, and non-comedians. They really showed me the ropes on what it means to build a brand, target audience, create a look, the media, potential sponsors. The business folks that can help you create the stuff that you love! I’d never been around so many people who weren’t “in the business” till I moved back home. Their work was fascinating to me! They dealt with clients, they hired strong employees, they pitched new ideas, they promoted their businesses, they got it DONE! Then..DING! Hey! That’s what I do too!! I deal with audiences, I put together improv teams, I create new shows and I promote my business…I’M AN ENTREPRENEUR! Cool.

Since I started hanging out more with my “non-performer, business folk” friends, I’ve learned to build wordpress websites, time release on social media, write a press release, write a newsletter, negotiate better and I can even make a spreadsheet! Trust me…it’s way more exciting than it sounds!

I don’t wear a suit, I can barely wear heels anymore and I don’t carry a briefcase…BUT I RUN MY OWN BUSINESS! Yes! We all run our own businesses. We are the business. How awesome is that?

The Hawaii Sketch Comedy Festival is a place for creative entrepreneurs to showcase their work and talents to another audience. A place for them to learn and pick up important tools that will help them take their art to the next level…and make some money! An artist making money is like, “Say what?!”

Our festival not only features original comedy sketches, but will also provide panels and workshops for our entrepreneurs where they can learn to up their creative business game. We hope to empower them to turn their passions into careers!

One panel I wish I sat in on before starting this project? “How to Crowd Fund Like a Champ!” Yes, before I even started this whole thing, I planned this panel.

Again, I got excited to start this campaign. I had faith. I believed! I don’t need to plan. I just need a silly little video and I’m good! I have friends.

I’d be lying if I said that it’s been a breeze. It has actually been one of the most stressful things I’ve ever done. Hands down. Stress that I could have avoided if I had…(say it with me) A PLAN.

But it’s not over yet! I’m going to continue to push, push, push until our campaign is over on January 22nd.

With only 7 days left and more than 50% left to raise…I still believe it can be done.(side note: a contribution just came in…SWEET!)

This is a big project that I just took on, but I don’t regret it at all. I freaking love what I do and if I’m not doing what I love…what’s the point?

Take sometime to check out our Indiegogo campaign: https://igg.me/at/hisketchfest2015/x/5538188

Donate what you can. Seriously…every little bit helps. I’ve now reached out to over 1,000 contacts. All I ask is for a small donation of $5 – $10. That would be rockin’. And if that’s not possible, a share to your network would mean the world to me!

Our festival is being produced by the 501(c)3 non-profit BizGym Foundation, so all donations are a write off too!

Whew. That was a lot. So, what’s my why? Why did I start this festival?

Because I want to continue living a life of doing the things I love to do…and if I can help and empower other people along the way…well, that’s pretty freaking awesome.

Mahalo friend, colleague, connection or stranger for your support.

May we continue to learn, grow and LIVE in the amazing worlds we create for ourselves!

Love love and Aloha…Kimee Balmilero – Dean of Awesomeness at StoryU Arts