20 for the Next 20 2015
President, TalkStory Productions
Jason Lau leads TalkStory Productions, yet somehow finds the time to serve on the advisory boards for the Honolulu Theatre for Youth and the Entrepreneurs Foundation of Hawaii, and educate interns from the Academy for Creative Media at UH-Manoa every semester.
“We’re a weird breed of people,” Lau says, speaking of entrepreneurs. “We like to be active. I travel a lot, but I’m never really disconnected.”
Lau hadn’t always specialized in the film industry. After graduating from Punahou School and UCLA, Lau worked in finance for Bank of Hawaii, Dean Witter Reynolds and other prominent companies. It wasn’t until he met Academy Award-winning writer Pamela Wallace, who co-wrote the screenplay for “Witness,” that Lau’s interest in the film industry grew from curious to enthusiastic. While she taught him about films, he taught her about finance, and Talkstory Productions was born. At first, Lau was supposed to be the interim CFO, but he loved it so much that he stayed on as president.
Georja Skinner, chief officer of the Creative Industries Division in DBEDT, describes Lau and TalkStory Productions as essential to building the infrastructure for a local film industry. “You need an entity like TalkStory. Jason and his production company have done quite a lot in Hawaii developing films and projects,” says Skinner.
“The Short List,” a compilation of five local films, was produced with local talent and shot completely in Hawaii. It aired on K5 television and was an official selection of the Hawaii International Film Festival in 2011. TalkStory also works on projects across the globe; currently, it is working on a non-Hawaiian, English-speaking project to be co-produced with China.
Skinner says Lau’s tenacity and focus has driven him to find steady funding for projects. She believes this focus is also how he manages to juggle all of his commitments, including being an acting member of the Producers Guild of America.
Skinner and Lau also worked together at HIFF’s Creative Lab, a year-round project where he workshopped a script with his cohort. “It was nice to see someone as professional and accomplished as Jason also participating and learning to hone his craft as a screenwriter,” she says.
Lau’s goal for TalkStory Productions: to invest in youth and tell good stories. Its interns from the Academy for Creative Media are usually budding writers, who get hands-on experience on how to create and market full screenplays. That aligns with TalkStory’s focus: a local company channeling local investors to produce the best stories possible. “We are story-oriented filmmakers,” Lau says.