Applications for 2017 Immersive Programs Being Accepted

Nov. 22, 2016

HONOLULU – The Department of Business, Economic Development and Tourism’s (DBEDT) Creative Industries Division (CID) applauds the eight fellows of its Creative Lab Hawaii Program (CLH Program), who participated in this year’s American Film Market (AFM), which was held at the Loews Santa Monica Beach Hotel from Nov. 2 – 9, 2016.

CLH Writers Immersive fellows had an impressive showing at the AFM Pitch Fest, as two of Hawaii’s 20 CLH program participants were chosen to pitch before industry decision makers.  The CLH Program is an economic development initiative that started in 2012, and is composed of three separate modules:  Immersive Programs, Ideation Workshops, and Public Programs.

“The department’s Creative Lab Hawaii Program is helping to grow our innovation economy,” said DBEDT Director Luis P. Salaveria.  “The state is committed to stimulating our local economy by focusing on sectors where investment and development potential is at the highest level. The eight fellows who participated at AFM represented the talent that Hawaii can offer to the rest of the world, in the best possible light.”

“The CLH Program initiative is marking a new era of economic development,” said Georja Skinner, chief officer, CID, and founder of the CLH Program. “We are grateful for the Hawaii State Legislature’s investment of $200,000, the Governor’s support and the investment of $400,000 by the U.S. Department of Commerce, Economic Development Administration, along with their recognition of the value that Creative Lab Hawaii brings to Hawaii’s entrepreneurs.”

Strategic partners include: the Writers Guild of America, West, the Producers Guild of America, and International Game Developers Association. The program is sponsored by The Modern Honolulu and SpeediShuttle.

The CLH Program is designed to accelerate the growth of Hawaii’s creative entrepreneurs through immersive, hands-on training in Broadband/New Media, Producing, Screenwriting, Interactive Media, Music and Design/Fashion.

“We are thrilled to have provided our fellows with the opportunity to attend the market,” stated Michael Andres Palmieri, executive director of Creative Lab Hawaii. “Fellows pitched their projects to industry decision-makers, attended workshops that increase their understanding of the business, and networked with like-minded creative entrepreneurs.”

The four Writers Immersive fellows and their projects are:

Rich Figel, Writer, Kailua, HI: “I owe a lot to the State of Hawaii and DBEDT, and Creative Lab Hawaii for putting this program together, because I’ve had this option before, I’ve had managers before, but I’ve never taken a meeting in LA, and here I am meeting with high level creative development executives, because of the script I wrote to get into this program.  I wish this program started 10 to 20 years sooner.  If it had, you would already be seeing my movies and TV series, set here in Hawaii, which could represent a significant economic boom for the state.”

Rich Figel is an award-winning writer and former newspaper columnist. He produces the monthly “Career Changers TV” show, which airs on Oceanic Cable’s OC16 channel. He brought to AFM his television pilot titled, “Triggers,” an hour-long drama/comedy about unconventional counselors – who are recovering addicts themselves – at a treatment center in Hawaii that deals with all types of addictions and compulsive behavior. Figel has optioned motion pictures scripts to producers. The pilot is already being shopped to major studios and is getting him meetings in Hollywood. Rich was one of hundreds of submissions selected by AFM to pitch his project in front of 600 creative entrepreneurs and industry decision makers.

Mark Geiger, Writer, Portland, OR: “Creative Lab Hawaii is valuable, because it enabled me to network with people who are also trying to take the next step to success. We are all in it together, we all help each other, and it’s about being part of a group  who are going to support you and your work.”

Mark Geiger, a criminal attorney for the past 30 years and published author of, “The Trinity Effect,” brought to AFM his motion picture, psychological thriller set in Hawaii titled, “Remember.” A female scientist working on the FDA approval of a new drug is driven off the road by unknown assailants. When she awakens, she has no memory of who she is or who may be trying to kill her. Will she be able to put the puzzle pieces together and remember in time to save her own life?

Sara Israel, Writer/Director, Los Angeles, CA: “Participating in the program has reinforced knowing how to network and maximizes relationships.”

Sara Israel is an award winning, Los Angeles-based writer and director for camera and stage. Her short film, “The Happiest Person In America,” won the Special Jury Prize at Religion Today Festival in Trento, Italy. It has also screened at festivals across the United States and has been programmed at a variety of social, cultural, and academic events. Israel’s brought to AFM her motion picture project titled, “Smack In Front of You,” a very dark comedy with original pop songs that calls into question our love of reality cameras, our celebrity obsession, and our expectations of “anointed” young women. Heather Morris (“Glee”) is set to star.

Doris Yeung, Writer/Director, Amsterdam, Netherlands: “Creative Lab Hawaii is a great alternative to LA. This program will bring more filmmakers and production companies to Hawaii.”

Doris Yeung, is a Chinese American writer/director and film curator is based in Beijing, China and Amsterdam, The Netherlands for the last 14 years. She has completed two motion pictures, “Motherland,” and “Taxi Stories.” She brought to AFM her third motion picture titled, “Four Season,”  a psychological drama. Young Lee, a South Korean former violin child prodigy whose emotional life has been shattered by her abusive Tiger Mother, breaks from her mother by taking a job in an orchestra in Amsterdam. Music was once Young’s prison, but will she be able to use it to heal herself and set herself free?

Doris was also selected by AFM to pitch her project to industry decision makers in front of 600 creative entrepreneurs.

The four Producers Immersive fellows and projects are:

Vilsoni Hereniko, Writer/Director/Producer, Honolulu, HI: “Creative Lab Hawaii has been a blessing for me, and has given me mentoring and access to distributors, producers and thousands of people in the film industry. This program is exactly what Hawaii needs at this time.”

Vilsoni Hereniko brought to AFM a dramatic motion picture titled, “Until the Dolphin Flies.” A Marshallese man evicted from his land struggles to control his anger until a collision of cultural values with his American supervisors propels him to a new journey of self-discovery and healing.  Based on the award-winning novel, “Melal,” by Robert Barclay, this will be his second feature film. His first, “The Land Has Eyes,” premiered at Sundance, and screened at more than 30 film festivals around the world. Attachments on his motion picture include cinematographer is Paul Atkins; editor Jonathan Woodford-Robinson, and executive producer is Jeannette Paulson Hereniko.

Denny Hironaga, Writer/Director/Producer, Kailua, HI: “Creative Lab Hawaii has been life-changing for me. I really mean it.  It kind of sounds ridiculous, but I really feel more empowered now.  I know I can make movies, and I think with this program, we can really develop a filmmaking community in Hawaii and make some great films.”

Denny Hironaga is the owner of Hiro Films, a Hawaii-based film production company. He brought to AFM, “Da Beer Can Hat,” a motion picture set in 1970s Hawaii and based on the beloved Darrell H.Y. Lum short story, is the tale of two young best friends seeking a better life and future for themselves amidst turbulent family lives. Previous credits include the motion pictures, “Parts of the Same Circle,” and “Obake Neko.”

Tony Young, Writer/Director/Producer – Honolulu, HI: “Creative Lab is a good avenue to bridge the gap between Hawaii and Hollywood. Some of us have experience and some of us don’t, but we are all here to learn together.”

Tony Young graduated from the University of Hawaii in English and Theater. His one-act play, “Accumulating Scars,” won the Kumu Kahua Playwriting Award in 1998. He wrote and produced two independent short films for Hawaii’s “Jackie Claxton Festival,” titled, “Greener Pastures,” and “The Friendzone Demon.” Young is an alumnus of the 2015 Creative Lab in Screenwriting and co-wrote, “Samurai Cop 2: Deadly Vengeance,” distributed by Cinema Epoch.

Joji Yoshida, Director/Producer – Honolulu, HI: “My experience at AFM has been eye-opening. Creative Lab Hawaii has been the best experience I have had in the film industry.”

Joji Yoshida is a professional actor who has co-starred alongside Matthew McConaughey in “Dallas Buyers Club,” as well as “Pacific Rim” and “Battleship.” He has also produced short films and web series such as “Dusty Falls” and “Almost Paradise.”

Tony and Joji brought to AFM their motion picture titled, “Sacred Hearts Coven,” a supernatural teen black comedy about two Catholic schoolgirls, Tessie and Valerie, who are running for junior class president, and must compete for the attention of bullied student, Kevin. Tessie will do anything it takes to win, including using black magic to manipulate the student body. This film can best be described as cross between “Heathers” and “The Craft.”

More information and photos of the 2016 Creative Lab Hawaii Writers and Producers Immersive finalists are located at:

Creative Lab Hawaii is now accepting applications for 2017:

New cycle of programs for 2017 are as follows:

Writers Immersive (March 13 – March 17, 2017)
Producers Immersive (March 20 – March 24, 2017)

  • Deadline for Writers Immersive and Producers Immersive: December 23, 2016

Web-Series Immersive (June 05 – June 09, 2017)
Animation Immersive (June 12 – June 16, 2017)

  • Deadline for Web-Series Immersive and Animation Immersive: March 31, 2017

For additional information on registration and submission guidelines visit or email [email protected].

About AFM (American Film Market)
As one of the largest motion picture and television markets in the world, AFM brings buyers, producers, financiers, production companies and distributors from 140 countries around the world. More than 10,000 individuals attend, with more than 1,000 projects being exhibited. Workshops covered the latest financial data and formulas, newest distribution channels, and marketing and distribution deals. Founded in 1981, the American Film Market (AFM) is the premiere global marketplace where Hollywood’s decision-makers and trendsetters gather under one roof to close production and distribution deals.

About DBEDT (Department of Business, Economic Development and Tourism)
DBEDT is Hawaii’s resource center for economic and statistical data, business development opportunities, energy and conservation information, and foreign trade advantages. DBEDT’s mission is to achieve a Hawaii economy that embraces innovation and is globally competitive, dynamic and productive, providing opportunities for all Hawaii’s citizens. Through its attached agencies, the department fosters planned community development, creates affordable workforce housing units in high-quality living environments, and promotes innovation sector job growth.

About CID (Creative Industries Division)
CID, a division within DBEDT, is the state’s lead agency dedicated to advocating for and accelerating the growth of Hawaii’s Creative Economy.  Through initiatives, program development, and strategic partnerships, the division and its branches implements activities to expand the business development, global export and investment capacity of Hawaii’s arts, culture, music, film, literary, publishing, digital and new media industries.

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Media Contacts:
Christine Hirasa
Department of Business, Economic Development and Tourism
Phone: (808) 587-9006
Mobile: (808) 286-9017
Email: [email protected]