Filmmaker shares insights with journalism class

Lauren Kawana shows off the website for the film Mind/Game – Itzel Contreras Mendez
Lauren Kawana shows off the website for the film Mind/Game – Itzel Contreras Mendez

Like many young people, Lauren Kawana didn’t specifically know what she wanted to be when she grew up. Instead her thoughts were always: “What are the possibilities? What’s out there?”

She focused on things that she enjoyed like traveling, cultural exploration and writing, and waited to see what would come of them. In the end, they brought her to journalism.

The 31-year-old Hawai‘i native, who now lives in Berkeley, California, was in town last month to screen the documentary Mind/Game at the Honolulu African American Film Festival. But she stopped by WCC’s Journalism 250: Media Writing class to share her journey through journalism with students, showing that an adventurous spirit, open mind and perseverance are just as important qualities for success as having a fixed plan.

After graduating from Bates College with a bachelorʻs degree in English in 2006, Kawana worked as an intern on WCC instructor Kimberlee Bassfordʻs documentary about the late Hawai‘i Congresswoman Patsy Mink. She was then a freelance writer and later associate editor and managing editor for local magazine Pacific Edge. And then she went back to graduate school to earn her masterʻs of journalism from the University of California Berkeley, where she made her first documentary film about a kumu hula in Oakland.

Along the way, she had her struggles. She didnʻt get into Berkeley her first time trying. And some questioned the value of pursuing a masterʻs degree at all.

But she remained steadfast.

“Sometimes for better or worse, you are just stubborn about doing things,” Kawana said.

For the past two years, she has been working in documentary in the San Francisco Bay Area. Most recently, she was the associate producer of Mind/Game, about WNBA basketball player Chamique Holdsclaw and her struggle against mental illness.

Kawana felt a connection to Holdsclawʻs story because she personally struggled with depression as well. She hopes the film will make people more accepting and aware of mental illnesses.

Students in the class appreciated her genuineness and candor in sharing her story.

“It was refreshing to see how your life doesnʻt need to be planned out,” said Ka‘ainoa Fernandez. “Sometimes opportunities will come to you.”

“It was inspiring to see a woman from Hawai‘i succeed in highly competitive fields as journalism and filmmaking,” said Grace Mathew.

by Itzel Contreras Mendez, Ka ‘Ohana Staff Reporter