Program nurtues native filmmakers

Lee leaves Legendary for Hawaii

With a Chinese father and a Scotch-Irish mother, first-generation-Hawaiian-turned-Hollywood film executive Chris Lee knows a thing or two about reaching across the cultural divide.

Now, after stints as president of production at TriStar and Columbia Pictures, as well as more recently president of Legendary Pictures, Lee has returned to Hawaii to help cultivate a native crop of filmmakers, digital animators and computer game designers.

In 2002, Lee spearheaded the founding of the Academy of Creative Media at the U. of Hawaii. The goal, says Lee, “is to get away from being Hollywood-centric” and follow the New Zealand model of supporting projects like “Whale Rider” that explore the richness of local culture: a culture whose native language was “almost completely extinguished” all the way up to the 1970s by the missionary legacy.

“Hawaiians weren’t allowed to speak Hawaiian,” Lee notes. Today, with increasing numbers of students enrolled in all-Hawaiian immersion schools, Lee says the Academy of Creative Media is a strong backer of native-language films and computer games to boot.

Some 300 short films have been produced by students so far, and for the third year, the Hawaii Intl. Film Festival will host an ACM night. (This year six shorts made the cut.) ACM is the fastest-growing program at the U. of H., with 254 students taking classes.

Still, Lee recognizes that in a global economy, no man is an island: He points to New Zealand fostering the likes of Peter Jackson — someone willing to work with Hollywood but on his own terms — as a worthy example to follow.

On the digital animation/gaming front, Lee wants ACM to create a labor pool of homegrown talent, so that when a LucasArts-type concern opens a new studio — as that company did in 2004 in Singapore — Hawaii is a viable option. He hopes locals will have greater opportunities beyond tourism’s “making beds and pouring iced tea.”

More Film

  • Les Arcs Film Festival

    Les Arcs European Film Festival's Industry Village Kicks Off with Strong Roster

    With a Chinese father and a Scotch-Irish mother, first-generation-Hawaiian-turned-Hollywood film executive Chris Lee knows a thing or two about reaching across the cultural divide. Now, after stints as president of production at TriStar and Columbia Pictures, as well as more recently president of Legendary Pictures, Lee has returned to Hawaii to help cultivate a native […]

  • Star Wars: The Last Jedi

    Box Office: 'Star Wars: The Last Jedi' Rockets to $215 Million Opening Weekend

    With a Chinese father and a Scotch-Irish mother, first-generation-Hawaiian-turned-Hollywood film executive Chris Lee knows a thing or two about reaching across the cultural divide. Now, after stints as president of production at TriStar and Columbia Pictures, as well as more recently president of Legendary Pictures, Lee has returned to Hawaii to help cultivate a native […]

  • Disney-Fox Deal Sets Up Scramble for

    Disney-Fox Deal Unleashes Flood of Free-Agent Executives, Talent

    With a Chinese father and a Scotch-Irish mother, first-generation-Hawaiian-turned-Hollywood film executive Chris Lee knows a thing or two about reaching across the cultural divide. Now, after stints as president of production at TriStar and Columbia Pictures, as well as more recently president of Legendary Pictures, Lee has returned to Hawaii to help cultivate a native […]

  • Anita Hill

    Anita Hill Chairs Hollywood Anti-Sexual Harassment Commission Formed by Top Execs

    With a Chinese father and a Scotch-Irish mother, first-generation-Hawaiian-turned-Hollywood film executive Chris Lee knows a thing or two about reaching across the cultural divide. Now, after stints as president of production at TriStar and Columbia Pictures, as well as more recently president of Legendary Pictures, Lee has returned to Hawaii to help cultivate a native […]

  • Warren Beatty

    Arnon Milchan Sues Warren Beatty Over 'Rules Don't Apply' Flop

    With a Chinese father and a Scotch-Irish mother, first-generation-Hawaiian-turned-Hollywood film executive Chris Lee knows a thing or two about reaching across the cultural divide. Now, after stints as president of production at TriStar and Columbia Pictures, as well as more recently president of Legendary Pictures, Lee has returned to Hawaii to help cultivate a native […]

  • Oscar Isaac Addams Family

    Oscar Isaac in Talks to Voice Gomez Addams in Animated 'Addams Family' Movie

    With a Chinese father and a Scotch-Irish mother, first-generation-Hawaiian-turned-Hollywood film executive Chris Lee knows a thing or two about reaching across the cultural divide. Now, after stints as president of production at TriStar and Columbia Pictures, as well as more recently president of Legendary Pictures, Lee has returned to Hawaii to help cultivate a native […]

  • Jennifer Lawrence

    Publicists for Jennifer Lawrence, Daisy Ridley, Amy Adams Form New Firm

    With a Chinese father and a Scotch-Irish mother, first-generation-Hawaiian-turned-Hollywood film executive Chris Lee knows a thing or two about reaching across the cultural divide. Now, after stints as president of production at TriStar and Columbia Pictures, as well as more recently president of Legendary Pictures, Lee has returned to Hawaii to help cultivate a native […]

More From Our Brands

Access exclusive content