Creative Lab Hawaii – Producers Immersive Fellow, Vilsoni Hereniko, and His Motion-Picture, “Until the Dolphin Flies,” Lands Major Coproduction Deal

Dec. 1, 2016

HONOLULU — Award-winning Hawaii filmmaker Vilsoni (“Vili”) Hereniko is teaming up with Australian producer Trish Lake (“Early Winter”), and New Zealand producer Catherine Fitzgerald (“The Orator”) to coproduce “Until the Dolphin Flies.” Production of the motion picture will begin in early 2018.


Hereniko entered his project, “Until the Dolphin Flies,” to apply for a spot in Creative Lab Hawaii’s (CLH) Producers Immersive Program, which is a track for producers in all genres to develop new content for motion pictures and television. In the program, Hereniko received coaching to learn how to develop, finance, distribute and market his script.  As part of CLH, Hereniko was selected as a fellow to participate in this year’s American Film Market (AFM), which allowed him to network and market his script.

“Until the Dolphin Flies,” is a story about a Marshallese man evicted from his land, who struggles to control his anger until a collision of cultural values over a wounded dolphin opens his shell of fear, and propels him to a new journey of self-discovery and healing. Based on the award-winning novel, “Melal,” by Robert Barclay, this will be Vili’s second feature film. His first, “The Land Has Eyes,” premiered at Sundance, and screened at more than 30 film festivals around the world.

Hawaii-based producer Jeannette Paulson Hereniko (“The Land Has Eyes”), who has been involved with the project since its inception said, “Vili and I are thrilled to partner with two amazing Australian and New Zealand producers, who have a distinguished and successful history of bringing Pacific Island narrative motion pictures to the big screen.” She will share producing duties on the motion picture with Lake and Fitzgerald.

Producer Trish Lake stated, “Until the Dolphin Flies,” is one of the finest stories to emerge from the Pacific about loss and love.” While Catherine Fitzgerald said, “Going to the heart of the Pacific, this contemporary human story will resonate universally.”

Micronesian screenwriter Joseph Grogan, now living in Australia, will share co-writing duties with Vilsoni Hereniko. Hereniko will also direct the project.

Vilsoni Hereniko’s work as a writer/director includes Fiji’s one and only produced motion picture, “The Land has Eyes,” which premiered at Sundance and won several international awards, including: Best Dramatic Feature: Toronto Imagine Native Film and Media Arts Festival (2004), Best Overall Entry: Wairoa Maori Film Festival (2005), Fiji‘s Official Submission for the Academy Awards® consideration for Best Foreign Language Film (2005).

Hereniko’s previous works include:

  • The Han Maneak Su in Rotuman Wedding“ (doc) – 1989 – Writer/Director.
  • Just Dancing“ – (short narrative) –  1997 – Writer/Director.
  • Vaka: The Birth of a Seer“ (doc) – 2011 – Executive Producer/Advisor.
  • Drua: The Wave of Fire“ (doc) – 2012 – Executive Producer/Writer/Co-Director.
  • Moana Rua: The Rising of the Sea“ (doc) – (2015 – Executive Producer/Writer/Director.
  • Mirage“ (short narrative) – 2016 – Producer/Writer/Co-Director.

“Until the Dolphin Flies” has been supported by a $25K grant awarded by the Motion Picture of America, Asia Pacific Film Fund, and the screenplay was initially developed at the Asia Pacific Screen Lab in Brisbane, Australia. Private donors from the Network for the Promotion of Asia Pacific Films/USA underwrote costs associated with research trips to the Marshall Islands for Hereniko and award-winning cinematographer Paul Atkins.

Vilsoni Hereniko expressed his appreciation by saying: “Creative Lab Hawaii, especially the Producers’ Immersive, provided me with a supportive one-year long program that enhanced my knowledge of the American Film Industry. I am humbled by this rare opportunity to tell an important story from the central Pacific as well as contribute to the development of the film industry in Hawaii, Australia, and New Zealand.”

“Congratulations to Vili and Jeannette for highlighting Hawaii’s filmmaking community,” said DBEDT Director Luis P. Salaveria.  “Creative Lab Hawaii is a unique environment for creative collaboration and building new business relationships. Vili is a great example of what can happen when talent meets opportunity.”

“We continue to see high caliber of talent coming from the Creative Lab Hawaii Program,” said Georja Skinner, chief officer, CID, and founder of the CLH Program.  “We look forward expanding this community to see more Hawaii-created content on large, small and mobile screens.”

Creative Lab Hawaii’s Executive Director, Michael Palmieri, said, “Vilsoni Hereniko and ‘Until the Dolphin Flies,’ represents the type of story and media makers that our cutting-edge program is committed to empowering. The story and its production team reflect an international, cross-cultural approach to connecting, collaborating and creating content that echoes not only the mission of our program, but also the diversity of the world in which we live.”

Supporting entrepreneurs in the film and media industry is an important part of building a creative innovation sector that generates job opportunities. DBEDT’s Creative Lab Hawaii program and the HI Growth Initiative’s GVS Transmedia Accelerator ( program provide resources to help Hawaii’s creative entrepreneurs in media achieve success in a commercial marketplace.

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 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]