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HAPA Media

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Leah Kreitz and Dana Kreitz

 

What are some challenges that you face running your own production company?

 

LEAH: I think the first answer to that is always going to be money. It’s definitely funding because making a movie is so expensive. There's just a lot of different pieces that go into everything that you see on screen and a lot of really skilled individuals who we prioritize paying, and so getting funding for independent projects is always just a huge hurdle for a production company. We just want to pay people and we want people who are good. I think it's important to respect people's time. 

DANA: We're wrapping up a project that we shot pre-pandemic and it's taken a long time for a variety of reasons to get to where we are.  There are three people producing under the umbrella of HAPA but there's three of us who are all co-producers specifically on this project, and so all three of us have to get together and agree on anything before we make any moves.  So there’s time, but if we had money we could pay everybody to be available to prioritize this as it is. In general, it's just expensive. We've been lucky to get some funding but we've gotten some grants. Shout out: UNLV!

LEAH: Yes, UNLV baby!  UNLV fine arts, go Rebs… 

 

DANA: Um yeah, so it's hard and it's taken a lot of time. We've been working in production for a long time.

Say a creative, an artist, finds your production company, say on the ArtCee platform, and they want to apply to you, what are some things you're looking out for?

LEAH: At this point, we don't necessarily work for the commercial aspect. I think we're always open to kind of growing and changing but for the most part we're still really small. We're still really collaborative. So if someone wanted to work with us, I think they'd probably come to us with a script or an idea. We're always looking for women and people of color... non-binary, trans LGBTQIA+, non-white mixed. Kind of like a lot of underrepresented humans who don't necessarily fit into the checkboxes that are presented to us on these kinds of platforms. I think we're always looking for underrepresented voices who have a point of view and who want to make an impact with their art.

I just realized for the recording since there's two of you, can you start your answers with saying this is Leah or this is Dana?  (Sidenote: They are identical twins)

DANA: Absolutely! Because we sound the same too! It's awesome. We accidentally just had voice lessons back to back with each other. We were working on a duet and our voice teacher has never worked with both of us together. Our voice teacher has never heard us speaking or singing together and he couldn't tell which one of us was singing at which time, and I'm like we don't even sound the same.  

Do you want to add to that answer, Dana? 

DANA: If you're talking about people who are applying to work for us, with us, or hire us to do things it can get a little blurry. Like who's hiring who, because so much of the time it's collaborative. In the way that we make projects, whether they're hiring me or I'm hiring them, are people who want to be responsible storytellers. I think we talk about this a ton. Like how do we not only make an impact with our art, how do we tell stories responsibly? If you're going to tell a “minority” story, how do you do that intentionally and responsibly? 

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Leah: So HAPA media is myself, my husband, Dana, and Chelsea, another collaborator and friend of ours, as four core members of this company. What you said is just such a pillar of what we create. I think we all stand by that. That's why we collaborate in the way that we do and that's the kind of art that we do as a company. We all want to impact in the same kind of way and so collaborating and having a team to make things we really like, we get to open up some doors and have conversations around what responsible storytelling looks like from a lot of different angles.

 

So this is more for our readers to get a sense of who you are individually and as a team. What do you feel is your purpose, how it contributes to you as a person as well in HAPA media? I find people with purpose are very driven and you two seem very driven to me. Where is that coming from?

LEAH: I love how you framed that. I decided I wanted to be an actor when I was six and I've been figuring it out since then. I think my drive and my purpose, what I want to put out in the world and what I want to contribute to really is arts and entertainment specific. Because that's where I see impact. That's where I see access. I'm in line to see Shakespeare right now and it's free theater, if you can afford to line up at five in the morning and wait all day. Theater was born out of being for the people and we now have these houses that none of us can afford to get into to see a show.

LEAH: One of the things I love is on-camera work. I've fallen in love with the work and with the machine that's making movies, but I also think that there's more room for impact.  And I think that personally as an individual storyteller and also through HAPA. I want to create opportunities for people to open their minds a little. I want to create opportunities for people to maybe challenge their world views, to question preconceived notions or assumptions about people in the world and themselves. You know, humanizing something that they didn't necessarily find human before, I think that that's incredible and I think that power is in our work all of the time. 

DANA: I was going to add on to something that you just said and then I got sidetracked when he was thinking about you running around spreading joy like a beautiful little wood nymph because she does she just runs around, smiles, hugs, and throws glitter at the world. I think HAPA was sort of born out of some of that. 

DANA: I think connection and communicating is what I'm interested in. How do we do that through storytelling? That's really impacted the way that we tell stories and as an actor it's so often they just mirror each other. Then the way that I have started producing stories, it's all the same thing. It's all different parts of the way that I interact with the world, like how do we communicate what is impactful, and how do I make sure that you hear this line that I'm saying right now is of importance.

I get a sense, Dana, that joy is like a huge part of your purpose. 

DANA: And it took a long time to find that. I don't think that if you asked me five years ago that would have been my answer. I think that came out of a lot of exploration.

We talk about access, we talk about connection, we talk about joy and calling your sister a wood nymph.

LEAH: It doesn't hurt that I'm sitting in front of a tree right now.

Our vision for ArtCee is to make it international. You mentioned “global majority” and want to incorporate universal stories that you want to tell. 

LEAH: Hearing new words for things like “minority”, I've started to reframe saying “minority representation”. I'm not a minority, not in New York City and not in the world. I think challenging the language that we use around certain things can have a huge impact even just shaping something from minority to global majority. That actually is kind of the crux of what I see is important. How can we present things in a way that has an opportunity to challenge people, people's language and people's ideas? How can we change what that looks like on our very accessible screens?

DANA: I think HAPA specifically was born out of not seeing stories for mixed people. Leah and I, personally, are half-Filipino and half-white, and the number of times I've been told you're not Filipino enough or you're not white enough, you're not Asian enough, I think was born out of this gap of people who aren't seeing themselves. I'd like to see a story of, for, and by people who don't neatly fit into a box. 

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Leah, do you have anything else to add to that?

LEAH: If someone wanted to work with us who had something that they wanted to share with the world that came out of something that was not an American story, *expletive* yeah! But it's not something that I know or something that we’ve dipped our toes into. 

DANA: I think the shared human experience is across all borders, across all lines. (Laughing) We just pick up each other's lines, so much, that's how we create literally all of the time. But I was gonna say like universal human experience is a thing but when you're existing in a different country, when you're telling a story through different cultural lenses and to a different audience, the impact is different. So when we're talking about let's challenge the norms, let's challenge whatever exists, or let's be inclusive if nothing exists, we're doing it all through a very American western lens. We're trying to impact and affect our very American western audiences.

Interviewed by: Rachel Gomez, rachel@artcee.co 

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