Five Asian/Pacific Islanders Who Have Collaborated With or Been Influenced by Prince

Doves cried (as well as music fans everywhere) when it was announced that music icon Prince suddenly passed away at age 57 on April 21st. The artist behind hits like “Purple Rain” and “Little Red Corvette” was known and respected for transcending genres and pushing boundaries in music.

Having been in the music industry for nearly four decades, one can imagine the number of lives he has touched, as a collaborator and as an influence. This, of course, extends to the members of our API community as well, which is why I want to take this time to highlight five individuals who have either worked with or were influenced by Prince:

Judith Hill

Singer-songwriter Judith Hill is no stranger to working with music legends. Renowned artists such as Stevie Wonder, Michael Jackson, and Elton John were already on her resume when Prince brought her under his wing. She first came on his radar after he saw an interview of her where she said she’d like to work with him. He co-produced her debut album, Back in Time, which was released last fall. In fact, he can be heard gushing over her on the second track, “Turn Up.” Hill can also be heard on Prince’s album, Hit n Run Phase One, as a featured artist on the first track, “Million $ Show.”

Alexie Agdeppa

Alexie Agdeppa is an incredibly prolific dancer. Apart from being a former contestant for Season 7 of So You Think You Can Dance?, she has also appeared in a number of music videos for artists like Nelly Furtado, the Pussycat Dolls, and of course Prince. She appears in the music video for his song, “7,” where she is one of the little girls dancing alongside the featured dancer Mayte. Aside from working with him, Prince was also an inspiration for Agdeppa when she was growing up, as she expressed in this touching tribute to him on Instagram:

Sonny Lê

Multitudes of tributes came pouring out within days after Prince’s passing, but none is more so touching than this essay from Bay Area media consultant and college instructor Sonny Lê. A refugee from Vietnam, Lê immigrated to the United States, right when MTV was being introduced and Prince and David Bowie were on their rises to stardom. He expressed in his essay how refreshing it was to see these two defy boundaries not only as artists, but also as individuals. To Sonny, this was a refreshing sight for him to see while he was figuring out how things worked in this country and feeling comfortable with being himself.

Bruno Mars

Singer-songwriter Bruno Mars may as well be a legend in the making of contemporary times. He has a wide array of hit songs under his belt, as well as just as many influences behind his unique sound. In an early interview for, Mars named Prince as one of his musical influences, along with Elvis Presley and The Police. Just to hit that point of influence even harder, his catchy collaboration with producer Mark Ronson, “Uptown Funk,” incorporates some of that Minneapolis sound and, as Will Hermes for Rolling Stone believes, “could even teach Prince a trick or two.”

Keisha Castle-Hughes

Fresh off of being nominated for an Academy Award in 2004 for her breakthrough role in Whale Rider, the then 14-year-old actress Keisha Castle-Hughes was cast to play the young protagonist for the music video for Prince’s song, “Cinnamon Girl.” In a behind-the-scenes interview, Castle-Hughes gushes over this opportunity of a lifetime… as well as having to explain to her mom how it doesn’t matter if she’s not of Prince’s generation; she’s still an adamant fan. In the music video, she portrays an Arab American girl who’s being victimized post-9/11, followed by dreaming of being a suicide bomber. Understandably, this was one of Prince’s more controversial music videos.

How has Prince influenced your life? We’d love to hear your stories in the comments below!


Cover Image via Fasol Prod

New Play “Office Hour” Tackles Issues of Mass Violence, and Korean-American Identity that Hits Close to Home

Weighty topics of mass violence and bullying have unfortunately become all too prevalent in present-day American life.  Office Hour, playwright Julia Cho’s latest work which premiered earlier this month at South Coast Repertory, tackles these complicated issues.  The play opens with three English faculty members discussing a troubled college student named Dennis (Raymond Lee). Dennis, a sullen outcast, has alarmed the faculty with his violent and pornographic writing—and ultimately gives rise to a fear of him committing a campus shooting. One teacher named Gina (Sandra Oh), ultimately invites Dennis, to her office hours to see if she can get through to him.

Inspired by the tragic events of the 2007 Virginia Tech shooting, the play dives into very serious issues of mental illness, racism, mass violence, and the immigrant experience, and more importantly, how these themes are deeply intertwined with the fact that both Gina and Dennis are Korean-American. This is clear from the opening scenes, where Genevieve (played by Sola Bamis) and David (Corey Brill) both suggest that Gina should be the one who approaches Dennis, not only because she is his current teacher, but also because of their shared cultural background. Dennis, who wears dark clothes, hoodies, and black, opaque sunglasses, is unmistakably an outsider—but the play eventually reveals that it’s not for the reasons you may think.

“I think part of the reason why Dennis is less apprehensive to open up to Gina is because of the shared background,” Lee said, “and I think the sheer fact that Gina mirrors Dennis’s appearance and culture is important to the play.  There needs to be an affinity so people are comfortable going to a place of opening up. Especially if Dennis is a person that has been victimized by people for his appearance.”

Oh echoes these sentiments, and said “There is a deeply introspective and brutally honest look at both characters [Gina’s and Dennis’s] sense of loneliness and self-loathing that comes from a cultural place.  That is definitely held by the character of Dennis, and the effect of being invisible culturally and emotionally is something that speaks to this play.”

Their shared cultural identity, which initially serves as an unspoken icebreaker, clearly develops into something more. Lee, like Dennis, has also experienced bullying because of his appearance and noted that the feelings of alienation he had “…never leave you. Those feelings of alienation, the feeling of being made fun of for having done nothing other than the way you look, the way you’re born?  Those feelings never leave you. Dennis has dealt with that form of isolation his entire life and he didn’t acclimate so well, and it ends up cementing into something very ugly. and he ended up having a lot of aggression towards these people that treated him unfairly. It became a real cyclical spiral, and he spiraled down into a place where he’s borderline suicidal. Yes, we can all relate to these things. But for Dennis, I took it in a much more personal and drastic way.”

Oh, who has experience playing strong, and emotionally complex female characters (such as her decade-long stint as Cristina Yang on Greys Anatomy) also took a very personal approach to Gina. “The style of this play and the subject matter of this play is very different [from some of her other roles]. It’s about gun violence, and mental health, and all these things.  But honestly, I approach each of these [roles] in a similar way with similar seriousness. I want to play a character that can speak to young women and tries not to spend all their lives thinking about boys too much. So that kind of intention is the same within the kind of intention with which I approach Gina in “Office Hour” and in her efforts to reach Dennis.”


Lee, who is also Korean-American, said he relates to Dennis in various ways. For him, understanding Dennis’s character was a full-time job.  Along with reading up on various manifestos and blogs from other proponents of mass shootings, “I had to dig into my own life and think about the times that I’ve been mistreated and bullied. As an actor, you start having to use your imagination and you have to imagine the way you’ve been treated and the way they’ve been treated. Then, you start to let that build inside of you, and you water it like a plant every day at rehearsal. You go home, and you feed it some more. Then it starts to grow, and the next thing you know it starts to have a life of its own. I kind of take it upon myself to have a responsibility to show the audience every night, as truthfully as I possibly can, what these guys were going through right before the incident. It’s a process that involves a lot of searching, and at the end of the day I have to love these guys. I have to love Dennis with every part of me to show the humanity and not just a killer.”

Oh goes on to say that “we [her and Raymond] are both Korean-American. It just is, and it’s shit you don’t have to talk about but I know that’s what ties Ray and I together on stage.  And it ties Gina and Dennis together very strongly too. Gina understands Dennis because she herself is a broken person, and she understands Dennis in ways that I think Genevieve and David, who Sola and Corey play, might not.”

While the relationship between Dennis and Gina is certainly helped by their shared cultural background, Dennis and Gina’s complex feelings are part of a bigger picture within the AAPI community.

Lee discusses this more in depth. “I think in Korea, and along with a lot of Asian cultures, silence is a virtue. You don’t react, you stay patient; you kind of just take it in, and it ends up coming out in really ugly ways. Along with Dennis having his issues of being made fun of and whatnot, there is also the expectation to keep it all in. So that can really hurt a person. And that is a cultural aspect and a cultural effect.”

“The great thing about this play,” Oh says, “is that you could open up fields of the immigrant experience.”  The shared bond between Gina and Ray comes from their shared, immigrant ancestry—which would still exist regardless of their particular ethnicity/race. “But in this production, Gina and Dennis (and the playwright as well) happens to be Korean-American.  It has a very specific flavor that we bring to it, as actors.”


Lee reflects on one specific moment where Dennis and Gina enact an imaginary phone call. “Gina plays Dennis’s mom in a kind of roleplay. This is the scene that cracks open Dennis the most because of the way Gina talks to him—it’s like his mom.  And that authenticity has to do with being Korean.  There is a lot of guilt there that comes from a combination that values men to be silent in the household and also values success.  I believe Julia, she’s brilliant, wrote it specifically to tell a Korean-American story. Especially…just as an Asian man, there’s all these things in the media now that de-masculinizes Asian men all the time.  Look at all these dating apps. Asian men are the least desirable, and that is a direct result of media and a direct result of what’s been said to us growing up.”

“To see a young, Asian male character, who is in university, filled with rage is super important to see.  Because it is a part of who we are, and a part that we need to deal with, and I think it is a part that cannot be ignored” Oh said.

Thoughtfully, Lee mentions something similar.  “We may be the last generation of Korean-Americans to have this specific story.  We all have stories.  I think we’re an amazing group of people and it would be great to be remembered as such: as a really resilient group of people.  So, I just really want to urge the storytellers to step up and do it. and make it a responsibility on your own to do it.”

Beyond the complicated issues that the play sheds light on, Oh finds Gina to be a role extremely fulfilling as an artist and an actor. “Being so present doing this play is constantly reminding me of why I do work, and why I choose to do the work that I do. You don’t always have a choice. and I’m extremely lucky that I do have a choice. I am very conscious of that. and I feel that if work is not as important as this play, and is not as great as a character a Gina, then this is the only kind of work I am interested in doing. There could be a million of those movies that have us in it or don’t have us in it [authors note: Ghost in the Shell, anyone?] and I just can’t follow that.  I’m going to bust my guts out for 250 people then talk to them probably after the show, and then do that hour drive home. I mean, that’s what I do. That has more meaning to me than any of the other bullshit out there.”

“It’s such an incredible experience, they’re so smart. Everyone is so smart.” Lee said. “This is what I cherish the most. being able to do something meaningful, to continue to try to make an impact, and to have Asian voices be heard, goddamnit!”

The relationship between Gina and Dennis (and Oh and Lee) extends to the cast and playwright Julia Cho as well. Both Oh and Lee had nothing but good things to say about their “incredible” cast-members.

“Office Hour” is playing at the South Coast Repertory until this Sunday, May 1st. Be sure to see Cho’s amazing new work, and be sure to stay for the incredible performances by the entire cast. Tickets can be bought here


Images via South Coast Repertory

Indie Filmmaking Adventures with the Cast and Crew of The Last Tour – Kollaboration @ LAAPFF 2016

Kollaboration’s coverage of the 2016 Los Angeles Asian Pacific Film Festival (LAAPFF) organized by Visual Communications continues with an interview with the feature film, The Last Tour. We chat with producer/actor Franz Elizondo Schmelkes, producer/actor Diana Lee Inosanto, director/actor Ryun Yu, and actor Elizabeth Ho about independent filmmaking, using impromptu engineering to solve production problems, and how the director helped create the theater program at MIT.

JUN, A BURNED-OUT GULF WAR VETERAN, is kidnapped from his L.A. neighborhood, flown to North Korea, and pressed into service for one last, secret mission: to watch over a hostage and insure that no harm comes to him while Jun’s employers extract an unspecified confession out of the prisoner. A crisis of conscience, a daring escape, and suddenly, this international prisoner drama literally shifts scenes from a North Korean gulag into… well, somewhere else?!? And what exactly WAS that “confession” that was being extracted, anyway?

Learn more about the film on their Facebook Page

You can still catch screenings at the LAAPFF this week, check out for the schedule and tickets.


Meet the Filmmakers of Pali Road – Kollaboration @ LAAPFF 2016

Welcome to Kollaboration’s coverage of the 2016 Los Angeles Asian Pacific Film Festival (LAAPFF) currently being held across Los Angeles and organized by Visual Communications. For this segment, we interview the filmmakers of Pali Road, a feature-length thriller that’s also the festival’s closing night film. We chat about the making of the film, diversity in entertainment, and their favorite foods in Hawaii. The film is set for a limited theatrical release in several major cities across the nation this week on Thursday April 28, 2016.

PALI ROAD is a mysterious and thrilling journey in search for true love between two different worlds. Lily, a young doctor, wakes up from a car accident and discovers she is living a completely different life. Now married to her boyfriend’s rival, Dr. Mitch Kayne, and a mother to a 5-year- old son, she has an established life she remembers nothing about.

Everyone around her denies that her boyfriend Neil ever existed. As Lily begins to doubt her own sanity, memories of Neil resurface, causing her to encounter unexplainable incidents. While desperately searching for the truth of her past life, she questions her entire existence; but in the end, she discovers the meaning of true love.

PALI ROAD will keep you on the edge of your seat and have you constantly second-guessing what is real.

Shot in Hawaii and starring a world-renowned cast: Jackson Rathbone (TWILIGHT), Sung Kang (FAST & FURIOUS), Henry Ian Cusick (THE 100, LOST) and Chinese superstar Michelle Chen (YOU ARE THE APPLE OF MY EYE).

For more information on the film, check out their website at

You can still catch screenings at the LAAPFF this week, check out for the schedule and tickets.


If Game of Thrones characters were Asian and Pacific Islander

Game of Thrones finally returned to HBO on Sunday, and as an avid fantasy buff, I am ecstatic to see more of Season 6. As an Asian American, however, I find it a little disappointing to see so few Asian faces in the high fantasy genre. Most fantasy shows take place in a medieval setting or borrow from European lore, so it’s very rare to see an Asian knight charging into battle unless it’s a period piece set in Asia. (Let’s face it, Marco Polo is so historically inaccurate that it might as well be considered fantasy.)

Even when a character is written as Asian, Hollywood has a longstanding practice of casting white actors to portray Asian characters (Emma Stone, Aloha) or rewriting the part for racial erasure (Tom Cruise, Edge of Tomorrow). We have yet to see if the casting of Scarlett Johansson in Ghost in the Shell is a form of yellowface or whitewashing; either way, it’s another missed opportunity to see an Asian actor in a leading role.

So, in hopes of proving to Hollywood that there are talented and bankable Asian actors who can take on epic roles, I’ve decided to recast some characters from GoT as Asians. For the purpose of this exercise, GoT cast members who are of Asian descent—Indira Varma, Jessica Henwick, and Jason Momoa—have not been included in this list. Let’s begin!
[tab title=”Daenerys”]
Gemma Chan as Daenerys Targaryen

Photo: Camera Press
Photo: Camera Press

With her striking looks and commanding presence, Gemma Chan is more than capable of portraying the Mother of Dragons. Since last year, the Chinese British actress has garnered highly praises for her nuanced performance as a synth in AMC’s sci-fi drama Humans. You may also recognize Chan from her guest appearances in the hit BBC shows Doctor Who and Sherlock.
[tab title=”Cersei”]
Lucy Liu as Cersei Lannister

Photo: Kill Bill Vol.1
Photo: Kill Bill Vol.1

 It takes an exceptional actress to play a cruel yet vulnerable villain like Cersei Lannister, and as one of the few leading Asian American ladies in film and television, Lucy Liu has the talent to take on the challenge. The New Yorker continues to break gender and racial stereotypes with her portrayal of Joan Watson in CBS’s Elementary and has proved that she can pull off fierce villains like O-Ren Ishii in Kill Bill and Ling Woo in Ally McBeal. With her experience, poise and charisma, Liu has all the makings of a mean queen.
[tab title=”Jaime”]
Daniel Wu as Jaime Lannister

Photo: Vanity Fair
Photo: Vanity Fair

Into the Badlands hero Wu is no novice when it comes to wielding a sword. The California native rose to stardom as an action star in Hong Kong under the mentorship of Jackie Chan. Over the course of his sixty-plus films career, Wu has been featured in martial arts films, romantic comedies, thrillers and art-house films. His wide acting range would be a perfect asset in portraying the morally ambiguous (and handsome) Jaime Lannister.
[tab title=”Joffrey”]

Justin Chon as Joffrey Baratheon

Photo: Soompi
Photo: Soompi

King Joffrey is a cruel, sociopathic and spoiled brat that everyone loves to hate, and Chon knows how to play a petulant man-child, thanks to his experience on comedies like Man Up, 21 & Over and the Ktown Cowboys web series. The Twilight star has also branched out to more dramatic roles, including Andy Lau’s gangster flick Revenge of the Green Dragons and the upcoming action-thriller Like Lambs.
[tab title=”Petyr”]

Naveen Andrews as Petyr Baelish (Littlefinger)

Photo: ABC

Andrews, a British-born actor of Indian descent, first rose to fame in Hollywood after starring as Sayid in the hit 2004 series Lost. Although Andrew’s tenure in ABC’s Once Upon a Time in Wonderland was cut short, his performance as Jafar confirms that he has the charm (and posh accent) to play a suave but ruthless manipulator like Littlefinger.

[tab title=”Varys”]
C.S. Lee as Varys

Photo by Ryan McVay

Yes, Lee is bald, but it’s his solid foundation in theatre and lengthy experience as a television actor that makes him a good match for Varys, the royal spymaster. Lee is best known for his portrayal of the forensics analyst Vince Masuka in DEXTER and has been featured in several high-profile shows, including Chuck, True Detective and Fresh Off the Boat.
[tab title=”Arya”]

Krista Marie Yu as Arya Stark

Photo by Shanna Fisher

Yu currently stars as Ken Jeong’s rebellious and quick-witted daughter, Molly, in ABC’s Dr. Ken—a role that could serve as groundwork to play the snarky and independent Arya Stark.
[tab title=”Sandor”]

Dante Basco as Sandor Clegane (The Hound)

Photo by Craig Stubing/Haikus with Hotties

 The Filipino American is already famous for voicing Zuko, a brooding Fire prince with a facial burn scar, so it’s not much of a stretch for him to play The Hound. Basco has also dabbled in sword-fighting thanks to his breakout role as Rufio, the cocky alpha-male leader of the Lost Boys, in Spielberg’s Hook. With his killer scowl, Basco could easily channel The Hound’s cynicism and aggressive warrior spirit.
[tab title=”Sansa”]

Arden Cho as Sansa Stark

Photo: Jackfroot
Photo: Jackfroot

The Teen Wolf star certainly has the beauty to play Sansa Stark with her doe eyes and sweet smile. More importantly, Cho has the ability to project Sansa’s vulnerability, resilience and quiet tenacity since the actress herself was once a target of bullying in her adolescence.

[tab title=”Ramsay”]
Randall Park as Ramsay Bolton

Photo by Richard Shotwell/Invision/AP
Photo by Richard Shotwell/Invision/AP

At first glance, the Fresh Off the Boat star may seem too goofy to play the sadistic bastard (sorry, former bastard). However, Park has already played a real-life villain as Kim Jong-un in Seth Rogen’s satirical comedy The Interview. Ramsay Bolton might be the most despicable villain in GoT, but he is playful enough to crack jokes and quips at the people he’s torturing. Park’s broad smile would work as a great facade to Ramsay’s psychopathic ways.
[tab title=”Theon”]

Teo Yoo as Theon Greyjoy

Photo: Seoul Searching
Photo: Seoul Searching

 Having been classically trained at New York and London, the dashing German-born Korean actor has the craft to transform himself from the narcissistic, philandering Theon to the traumatized and deformed Reek. Yoo’s most recent screen credits include Equals, Bitcoins Heist and the Sundance coming-of-age film Seoul Searching.
[tab title=”Brienne”]

Frankie Adams as Brienne of Tarth


An amateur boxer standing at six feet tall, Frankie Adams not only has the physical stature to play Brienne but also the acting chops. The Samoan Kiwi made her acting debut at age sixteen in New Zealand’s top medical series Shortland Street and recently landed the series regular role of Bobbie Draper, a tough Martian solider, in SyFy’s space opera The Expanse.
[tab title=”Jon”]

John Cho as Jon Snow

Photo: Angry Asian Man
Photo: Angry Asian Man

Sure, the Korean American may not be the right age to play Jon Snow, but you have to admit, “You know nothing, John Cho” has a nice ring to it. Cho, who exudes confidence and leading man quality, would be a great fit as Lord Commander of the Night’s Watch, especially since he’s already played a capable commander in the Star Trek films.

[tab title=”Margaery”]

Jessika Van as Margaery Tyrell

Photo: CBS/Rush Hour

Gorgeous with a mischievous smile and sultry lilt in her voice, Van would make a lovely Margery Tyrell—a young queen whose beauty is only rivaled by her shrewdness. The Taiwanese American actress first broke into Hollywood as Becca, the sly ringleader of an Asian clique, in MTV’s teen comedy Awkward, and later starred as the sensual Grace Park in Benson Lee’s Seoul Searching.
[tab title=”Tommen”]

Ryan Potter as Tommen Baratheon

Photo: Ryan Potter
Photo: Ryan Potter

As a former Nickelodeon star and the voice of Hiro Hamada in Disney’s Big Hero 6, Potter carries a friendly and good-natured demeanor—a vital trait in channeling Tommen Baratheon, the kind-hearted but easily manipulated boy-king of Westeros.
[tab title=”Jorah”]

Daniel Dae Kim as Jorah Mormont

Photo: 3AD
Photo: 3AD

DDK has a knack for playing noble but flawed characters, including Jin-Soo Kwon in Lost and Chin Ho Kelly in Hawaii Five-0, and is well suited for Jorah Mormont, an exiled knight obsessively loyal to a queen he betrayed. There’s no doubt the Korean American would bring gravitas to the role with his intelligence and eloquence. Just imagine DDK’s bass voice saying “Khaleesi.”
[tab title=”Daario”]

Manish Dayal as Daario Naharis


As Daenerys’ roguish protector and lover, Dayal would make audiences swoon with his smoldering brown eyes and easy-going smile. The handsome Indian American actor starred opposite Helen Mirren in The Hundred-Foot Journey and is best known in television for his recurring role as Raj Kher in CW’s 90210.
[tab title=”Melisandre”]

Maggie Q as Melisandre (Red Priestess)

Photo: CW/Nikita
Photo: CW/Nikita

(Photo: Nikita poster)

 Maggie Q has a reputation for playing sexy, lethal characters with enigmatic pasts. The Nikita starlet has a her natural grace and intensity to deliver a terrifying performance as Melisandre, the Red Priestess.

[tab title=”Oberyn”]

Daniel Henney as Oberyn Martell

Photo: FayesVision/WENN
Photo: FayesVision/WENN

Handsome, athletic, charismatic, and with a great sense of humor to boot—Henney would make one hell of an Oberyn. The Korean American model-turned-actor has a large international following, much like the fan-favorite Dorne prince. After crossing over to Hollywood with X-Men Origins: Wolverine and Big Hero 6, Henney is currently a series regular on CBS’ Criminal Minds: Beyond Borders.
[tab title=”Tyrion”]

Peter Dinklage as Tyrion Lannister

Photo: HBO
Photo: HBO

Dinklage was George R.R. Martin and the GoT showrunners’ first and only choice for the role of Tyrion, and rightfully.  I can’t think of any actor who could equal Dinklage’s performance as the brilliant, sharp-tongued Lannister dwarf. With that said, I think we’re allowed at least one white actor on this list—you know, for the sake of diversity.


Reera Yoo is a former editor of KoreAm Journal and current contributor to (where she was also a past editor). She is a Ravenclaw, writer, filmmaker and K-pop enthusiast. Follow her on twitter @reeraboo
Cover image via South by Southwest

Peter Chung – The Green Room

Kollaboration SF, LA, and Star alum Peter Chung joins us for this edition of the Kollaboration Green Room. Check out his amazing guitar skills as he sings a few of his original songs. Try not to fall too hard in love with this super talented singer-songwriter!

Hear more from Peter Chung on his YouTube

“If You”

Anne Marie Ceralvo Teases the Return of One Vo1ce – Coffee Break with Minji Chang

On this edition of Coffee Break, Minji chats with an important vo1ce  from her formative years, Anne Marie Ceralvo of the Asian American pop group One Vo1ce. They talk about the Bay Area, dream collaborators, and most importantly the upcoming reunion of One Vo1ce!

Producers: Minji Chang & Marvin Yueh
Director: Dennis Chang
Assistant Directors: Eva Hsia & Brianna Kim
Camera Operator: John Enriquez, Shannon Wong, Jimmy Hang


Pacific Islanders in Communications Celebrates 25 Years of Funding and Creating Content

It’s a year-long celebration for the Pacific Islanders in Communications (PIC), celebrating 25 years of supporting, developing, and advancing content for and by the Pacific Islander community. The Honolulu-based media arts non-profit organization celebrates creating TV programming, funding documentaries, and having showcases in various Asian American film festivals.

“Some of our goals are to develop the programming, enhance public recognition and appreciation for Pacific Islander history and culture,” Executive Director Leanne Ferrer explained via Skype interview.

PIC is one of five organizations that make up the National Minority Consortia; the others being the Center for Asian American Media (CAAM), the Latino Public Broadcasting, the National Black Programming Consortium, and Vision Maker Media. Prior to PIC’s founding in 1991, many of its producers worked with CAAM (then called the National Asian American Telecommunications Association). The producers were encouraged to create their own organization specifically for Pacific Islander content and to get the Corporation for Public Broadcasting to fund them. After the producers stated their case at a meeting in Honolulu, PIC then started to become a reality.

“It’s a great story because without the help of our Asian counterpart, I don’t think the producers here would have thought about it,” said Ferrer. “So it’s really great to be a part of that tapestry that gives a voice to minorities.”

The funding and support from PIC has been crucial for a number of Pacific Islander content creators – including Ferrer herself, who received funding from them as a filmmaker for two short films back in the early 2000s. She later joined the organization in 2009 as the program manager, before becoming the executive director in 2014.

PIC has grown overtime, thanks in part by partnerships, screenings, and helping out partners whenever possible. They’ve grown so much that they’re now producing various series for TV.

They’re just about to start the fifth season of Pacific Heartbeat; PIC’s first national series, created by Ferrer, where various documentaries that have been made possible by the organization are screened.

“I love Pacific Heartbeat,” she said. “I’m happy I’m able to package that in one place for people just to see the breadth of Pacific Islander stories.”

PIC also produced a second series with Rock Salt Media called Family Ingredients; an eight-part series hosted by chef Ed Kenney that celebrates and explores the world of food and how it plays a role in family history. It begins airing on PBS in July, and will be the first series to screen outside the Asian Pacific American Heritage Month window.

Ferrer named two recent films PIC helped make happen that have been particularly resonating with audiences: Dean Hamer and Joe Wilson’s Kumu Hina and Tony Vainuku and Erik Cohn’s In Football We Trust. She believes that its responses are a succession of PIC’s goal to tell a universal story.

“When we’re funding it or when producers are making it, it’s always in the back of your mind as, ‘Is the general audience going to get it or are we just making to this small section of Hawaii? Are we going to be preaching to the choir?'” she elaborated. “That’s good storytelling when you can give it to a broad audience and get that reaction.”

In a time now where diversity is in demand for heightened quality and quantity, Ferrer believes that the Pacific Islander community should be included in the conversation more.

“I personally don’t think there’s enough [representation] and I think there could be a lot more,” she explained. “In mainstream media, it seems like we get recognized being in football and maybe with beautiful scenic shots of where we live, [but] it still can get better.”

While she acknowledges public figures like Dwayne “The Rock” Johnson for bringing a face to Pacific Islanders as a part of the American tapestry, she hopes to see more exposure, minus the stereotypes.

Ferrer also believes that working together with the Asian American community can help in the long run. She sees the common ground with both communities through cultural similarities and finds them to be a good mesh. However, she doesn’t want to see the two communities being lumped together into one group.

“There are a lot of organizations that serve both Asians and Pacific Islanders, but Pacific Islanders are usually underrepresented,” she stated. “It’s not to say anything bad about those organizations; it’s that you have your hands full with the Asian population.”

For PIC’s 25th anniversary, many events are planned, including the anniversary reception in September and the Hawaii Media Makers Conference in November. There have also been one-minute vignettes posted on their social media, acknowledging 25 people, films, and other organizations that have helped PIC become what it is now.

In the future, Ferrer hopes for more partnerships to form, funding to be raised, training given to Pacific Islander producers to tell the community’s stories, and for PIC to become a go-to source for Pacific Islander content.

In the mainstream media, she hopes for the Pacific Islander community to be integrated more into the American tapestry and have their contributions recognized.

“I want more Pacific Islander content creators,” she said. “I want there to be more content aggregators. I want more people interested in Pacific Islander media and what Pacific Islanders have to say and give to the world.”


For more information on PIC and what it has planned next, be sure to check out their website as well as their Facebook, Twitter and YouTube.

AJ Rafael – The Green Room

AJ Rafael steps into the Green Room to play a few songs for us, including a medley of his favorite Disney tunes and a very special live collab with beatboxer (and fellow Kollaboration Alum) TrackIX!

Want more AJ? Check out his Coffee Break interview with us.

Hear more from AJ Rafael at

“We Could Happen”
AJ’s Disney Medley
“Just Friends” ft. TrackIX (Musiq Soulchild Cover)

Samantha Futerman Talks Twinsters and Surfing – Coffee Break with Minji Chang

Samantha Futerman visits us for a Coffee Break to chat about her new project, the Kindred Foundation for Adoption, as well as what life’s been like since finding her twin sister. Sam also shares about how she got into acting and her newfound surfing hobby.

Find out more about “Twinsters” at and Kindred Foundation at

Producers: Minji Chang & Marvin Yueh
Director: John Enriquez
Camera Operators: Brianna Kim & Derek Miranda