Young filmmaker determined to make mark in industry
She may have only recently graduated, but Makenna “Kenna” Fojas already knows that she wants to connect with people through film. Her interest in moving pictures started back in high school in Mission Viejo, California, where she first took film production classes.
Back then, she was still unsure on what aspect of the filmmaking process to focus her attention on. What she was certain of was that she enjoyed the logistical preparations prior to a shoot, as well as the frenetic energy generated on film sets.
After graduating from high school, she enrolled in a course in psychology at the University of Washington, but realized after one day that she missed film too much. Kenna joined the school’s film club and tried her hand at doing production design, writing and directing short films.
She enrolled in a second course, cinema and media studies, and began to learn more earnestly about filmmaking. For “Hapa,” a short film about a mixed girl’s first day of middle school, Kenna as the producer was responsible for hiring the crew, coordinating the shoot and raising over $7,000 to cover the expenses.
She said “Hapa” is about a Japanese-American girl and her Filipino-African American friend as they tackle “the ambiguous signals that [emerge] about their race and their looks which leave them with a sense of confusion.” All of this happens on the first day of school.
Kenna, who is Filipino but grew up in the US, can relate to the characters’ confusion, but seems determined to learn more about her heritage.
A couple of months ago, she flew back to the Philippines and is staying with her grandmother. She’s lived through Manila traffic, had the chance to travel to several local destinations with relatives and is looking forward to experiencing an authentic Filipino Christmas complete with extended family.
Before she traveled to the Philippines, however, Kenna finished “Peach Fuzz,” a short film she wrote and directed based on “The Geography of Girlhood,” a collection of poetry by Kirsten “Kiwi” Smith.
Kenna got to meet her idol Kiwi—the screenwriter of “10 Things I Hate About You” (Julia Stiles, Heath Ledger) and “Legally Blonde” (Reese Witherspoon)—who eventually gave Kenna the go signal to adapt her poetry that reads like a verse novel into a short film.
Determined to tell stories
“‘Peach Fuzz’ is a coming-of-age story about two sisters that I identified with even if I don’t have an older sister,” Kenna said.
She cast two Filipino girls after fielding “hundreds of requests” to be included in the film that is in the middle of postproduction and should be finished by the first quarter of next year.
She may have several short films under her belt, but Kenna said her goal is to one day direct a full-length feature.
“Short films are accessible; it takes a lot of money to do a feature film. Short films are like an appetizer and it’s how filmmakers usually start. They’re underrated and underappreciated, but they are a way to make art,” she said.
One of the most memorable moments of the entire “Peach Fuzz” experience for Kenna was when she witnessed the actress she cast to play the younger sister call the other actress “ate”—a term of respect accorded older sisters.
“Being half white and half Filipino made me a bit insecure growing up in the US, but I realized that I have as much right as the next person to talk about my identity,” she said.
In the few months that she has been in the Philippines, Kenna has discovered that Filipinos live in “food-centered communities with a strong emphasis on family.”
She has also had the chance to make new friends after she dropped by one of the weekend markets in Makati City.
“I saw two girls who were laughing and talking and they looked so at ease with one another; I missed my friends back in the US. When they noticed me looking at them, I mustered the courage to say hi and introduce myself—we’re friends now,” she said with a smile.
Even with her lofty dreams to eventually direct a feature film, Kenna is still a young woman finding her way in the world, determined to tell stories and connect with people. INQ