PANELISTS: The Future of Kānaka Maoli Filmmaking: Where do we go from here?
Donne Dawson is Hawai‘i’s State Film Commissioner. She has spent more than 12 years building Hawaii’s film industry, which during her tenure has generated nearly $4 billion for the state’s economy. The Hawai‘i Film Office is responsible for facilitating all film and television production throughout the Hawaiian Islands. Dawson’s office administers the consolidated statewide permitting system and the Act 88/89 refundable production tax credit, Hawaii’s first comprehensive film, television and digital media tax credit. Prior to directing the Hawai‘i Film Office, Dawson worked as a journalist, producer and communications professional dedicated primarily to the promotion of film, the environment, native Hawaiian issues, and community building. Dawson is native Hawaiian, born and raised in Nu‘uanu Valley. She is on the board for Pacific Islanders in Communications, the Sex Abuse Treatment Center of Kapi‘olani Medical Center, the Hawaiian Native Corporation, and is an active member of the Protect Kaho‘olawe ‘Ohana.
Justyn Ah Chong
Born and raised on the island of Oʻahu, Justyn Ah Chong is a Native Hawaiian filmmaker seeking to tell unique and culturally rooted stories. Justyn graduated from the University of Southern California’s School of Cinematic Arts in 2011 with a B.A. in Film Production and a Minor in Business. Upon graduating, he returned home to Hawaiʻi where he began working as a full-time videographer and editor at ʻŌiwi TV – Hawaiʻi’s first and only indigenous television broadcasting network. There he had the opportunity to craft his skills behind the camera and in the edit bay on numerous mini-documentary projects, news pieces, commercial work and non-profit videos. Through ʻŌiwi TV he’s been blessed to travel the world, sailing with and documenting the Hōkūleʻa’s Worldwide Voyage and has collaborated on several PBS national documentaries, including the Nā Loea series, and Lets Play Music! Slack Key with Cyril Pahinui and Friends. Aside from his work at ʻŌiwi TV, Justyn has been working on his first narrative feature-length film, WICHITA, with colleagues from USC. His short film DOWN ON THE SIDEWALK IN WAIKIKI won the 2nd place MADE IN HAWAI‘I Award at HIFF39.
Leanne Kaʻiulani Ferrer is the Executive Director of Pacific Islanders in Communications (PIC). She is an award-winning filmmaker and has over 30 years of experience in the film and television industry. Leanne has been with PIC for 10 years, where she is responsible for the overall health of the organization while building networks and strategic partnerships. Leanne was recently a Fellow for the Chief Executive Program of the National Arts Strategies and a Juror for Festival International du Film documentaire Océanien (FIFO) in Tahiti. She is the Board President for Hawai‘i Woman in Filmmaking and on the Good Pitch Local – Hawai’i Steering Committee.
Christopher is a visionary Hawaiian filmmaker and a Sundance Institute Native Lab fellow. As founder of 4th World Film, he wrote KARAOKE KINGS, a feature film in development. He also directed LĀHAINĀ NOON, a narrative short that premiered at HIFF 2014. Christopher also directed a pseudo-documentary for the Smithsonian Institute’s Asian Pacific American “A Day in the Life” project. In 2015, his HIFF trailer MOMENTS won 4 PELE awards from the American Advertising Awards. He is currently in post-production on his first narrative feature directorial effort WAIKIKI.
Ciara Lacy’s interest lies in crafting films that use strong characters and investigative journalism to challenge the creative and political status quo. She has created content for film and television, managed independent features, as well as coordinated product placement and clearances for various platforms. Her work has shown at festivals around the world as well as broadcast on networks including Netflix, PBS, ABC, and Al Jazeera. In the digital space, she has created content for notable outlets like the Guardian and the Atlantic Online.
Ciara is honored to be the inaugural Sundance Institute Merata Mita Fellow as well as part of the inaugural class of NATIVe Fellows at the European Film Market. She has also benefited from fellowships with the Sundance Institute and Time Warner Foundation, Firelight Media’s Documentary Lab, the Sundance Institute’s NativeLab,Tribeca All Access, the Princess Grace Foundation, the Native Arts and Cultures Foundation, and the Independent Film Project (IFP). Her first documentary feature, OUT OF STATE (2017), world premiered at the Los Angeles Film Festival and won the MADE IN HAWAI‘I Award at HIFF37.
Ciara holds a BA in Psychology from Yale University and has given talks at academic institutions across the U.S. She continues to work on documentary content for broadcast and digital while also expanding her intimate style of filmmaking into the branded content and commercial spaces.
Raised in the quiet valley of Kahaluʻu on Oʻahu, Native Hawaiian filmmaker Erin Lau fell in love with filmmaking in middle school, while videotaping concerts and public access TV commercials for her father’s Hawaiian music non-profit. After completing her Bachelors at the Academy for Creative Media at the University of Hawaiʻi, Erin worked as a videographer and editor for a Hawaiian grass-roots news and documentary company, ʻŌiwi TV. She later moved to Los Angeles after receiving a full-ride merit scholarship from Chapman University, where she completed her MFA in Directing. During her education, she was selected as a Sundance Native Lab fellow for her most recent film, THE MOON AND THE NIGHT. After the film was shortlisted for the 2018 student BAFTAs, Erin signed with the United Talent Agency (UTA) and LINK Entertainment.
After shadowing Emmy Award-winning TV directors Gail Mancuso and Rob Corn, she shifted her attention from short films to episodic content. This led her to participate in Powderkeg’s Break The Room writers’ room for the Quibi show “Last Resort.” Most recently, she was shortlisted for the 2020 HBO Directors program. By day, Erin works as a Senior Producer-Director for digital media company, Jubilee Media, creating content for their 5+ million subscribers. She has directed videos for the channel that have garnered millions of views, as well as created sponsored content for brands including SK-II, Kiwi Botanicals, and Always. By night, she is developing projects inspired by her family, heritage, and the socio-economic issues that plague Pacific Islander communities.
Mynette Louie is an Emmy-nominated, multiple Spirit Award-winning producer. Her credits include Heidi Ewing’s I CARRY YOU WITH ME (Sundance 2020, Winner of NEXT Innovator and Audience Awards, Sony Pictures Classics); Carlo Mirabella-Davis’ SWALLOW (Tribeca 2019, IFC Films, 22 festival awards); Jennifer Fox’s THE TALE (Sundance 2018, HBO, Emmy/Golden Globe/Spirit Award nominee); Aaron Katz’s GEMINI (SXSW 2017, NEON/Sony); Martha Stephens’ & Aaron Katz’s LAND HO! (Sundance 2014, Sony Classics, Spirit Award winner); COLD COMES THE NIGHT (2014, Sony/Goldwyn); Tze Chun’s CHILDREN OF INVENTION (Sundance 2009) and Andrew Bujalski’s MUTUAL APPRECIATION (SXSW 2006). She is in post-production on Emmanuel Osei-Kuffour’s sci-fi feature BLACK BOX from Amazon and Blumhouse, and Josef Kubota Wladyka’s CATCH THE FAIR ONE from her company The Population.
Mynette is on the Board of Directors for Film Independent and serves as an advisor to the Sundance Institute, SXSW, Tribeca and IFP. She was named by Business Insider as one of “12 Movie Producers at the Top of Their Game to Watch in 2020 and Beyond,” by Ted Hope as one of “21 Brave Thinkers of Truly Free Film,” and by Indiewire as one of “100 Filmmakers to Follow on Twitter.” Mynette won the Piaget Producers Award at the 2013 Film Independent Spirit Awards and is a member of the diversity committee in the Producers branch of the Academy of Motion Picture Arts and Sciences.
Previously, she served as the president of Gamechanger Films, which financed ten acclaimed women-directed features including Karyn Kusama’s THE INVITATION (SXSW 2015, Drafthouse/Netflix), Sarah Adina Smith’s BUSTER’S MAL HEART (Toronto 2016, Well Go/Netflix), So Yong Kim’s Lovesong (Sundance 2016, Strand), Christina Choe’s NANCY (Sundance 2018, Goldwyn, Spirit Award nominee), and Natalia Garagiola’s 2017 Venice Critics’ Week winner HUNTING SEASON (Netflix). A native New Yorker with ties to Hawai‘i, Mynette graduated Phi Beta Kappa from Harvard, where she studied Chinese literature and film.
‘Āina Paikai is from Waiau, on the island of O‘ahu. He is a Native Hawaiian filmmaker determined to tell the stories of his homeland. He received his bachelor’s degree from the University of Hawai’i at Manoa’s Academy for Creative Media under the tutelage of pioneer filmmaker, Merata Mita. ‘Aina has spent the past 10 years, the entirety of his professional career, as a shooter/producer/editor for ‘OiwiTV, learning from accomplished filmmaker and businessman, Na’alehu Anthony. As part of ‘OiwiTV, he has been fortunate enough to experience traveling the world, most recently as a crewmember and documentarian aboard Hokule’a during the Malama Honua Worldwide Voyage. He has recently retired from ‘OiwiTV to spend more time with his budding family, wife Annemarie and two young children, as well as focus on pursuing his passion of narrative filmmaking in Hawai’i. He is currently in post-production on HAWAIIAN SOUL based on the life of Hawaiian activist George Helm.
Born and raised on the Hawaiian island of O’ahu, he studied film production at Chapman University in California as well as ethnic studies at the University of Hawai‘i. He is director of the Emmy Award-winning television documentary series “Family Ingredients,” which ran for two seasons and aired nationally on PBS. His short film STONES premiered at the Sundance Film Festival. His feature-length documentary Visions in the DARK: THE LIFE OF PINKY THOMPSON screened at the Hawaii International Film Festival and the Los Angeles Asian Pacific Film Festival. HA‘E HAWAI‘I, a short film that he directed won the Audience Award at HIFF39. He is currently developing the feature film project AFTER MELE.