About ACM

THE IDEA FOR THE ACADEMY FOR CREATIVE MEDIA SYSTEM began in 2002 in response to the long held desire to establish a “film school” at the University of Hawai‘i.  This lead to almost a year of meetings and consultations on all ten campuses throughout the islands with faculty, administrators, students and staff of both the university and local high schools as well as the Governor, Legislature, business community, members of the motion picture and television industry based in Hawai‘i and the public.

What became apparent in these discussions was a larger question:

“How do we make this an opportunity to move Hawai‘i’s economy away from our over reliance on the service industry and keep our talented students in the islands with living wage jobs?”

The result was a proposal to start with a traditional single campus program and grow into a system-wide endeavor designed as a catalyst for developing 21st century jobs in the global creative marketplace right here in Hawai‘i and as a platform for our indigenous stories to be told through cinema, video games, computer animation and transmedia to the broadest possible audience.

In December 2003, the University of Hawai‘i Board of Regents officially approved the Academy for Creative Media (ACM) noting, “the ACM will engage all of the campuses within the University of Hawai‘i system and will work collaboratively across the system, drawing upon programs, faculty, and students system-wide. Because of the challenges associated with building a media school from the ground up in the 21st century, ACM’s initial strategy is to leverage existing resources and faculty assets across the ten-campus University of Hawai‘i system.” (Collaborative Minutes of the Regents’ Committee on Academic Affairs January 15, 2004 Page 3)

ACM system currently is housed under the Office of the Vice President for Research and Innovation.



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ACM System was made possible through the generous support of UH alumni like: Roy and Hilda Takeyama and  Jay Shidler, and local companies such as Servco, ABC Stores, the Ko Olina Foundation, Itoen, the Campbell Family Foundation and even some friends in Hollywood, like Roland Emmerich and Bryan Singer.

Bryan Singer Kicked Off the Opening of UH Manoa's ACM
Bryan Singer Kicked Off the Opening of UH Manoa’s ACM

In addition, the State Legislature and Governor on a bi-partisan basis supported ACM System’s first efforts with positions and programmatic funds to successfully establish UH’s first “film school” at the Mānoa campus. With over 300 graduated majors and 2,000+ short films winning numerous awards, internships on major motion pictures and network television shows, UH Mānoa ACM today has 12 faculty, 80 courses, and 110 student majors in three tracks: Cinematic Production, Animation & Game Design, and Critical Studies. Most importantly, 58% of responding UHM ACM graduates reported that they are working in the field of creative media. 

The Legislature and the Governor’s commitment to ACM System’s original intent was renewed in 2013 via Act 134 which provides additional positions and programmatic funding to enhance existing centers of excellence in creative and digital media at multiple campuses and support new articulation agreements between the campuses for students pursuing baccalaureate degrees by building a hub for creative media education at UH West O‘ahu. In short, it’s the UH System working as a community of schools and programs, with ACM building a collaborative, cost-effective pathway to creative media education for students on every island.

The result, as seen in this infographic, is an articulated highway of learning offering a variety of disciplines and degrees at all levels  of the University of Hawai‘i on every campus. In addition to the original program at UH Mānoa, assets developed through ACM System include:

  • ‘Ulu’ulu: the Henry Ku’ualoha Giugni Moving Image Archive of Hawai‘i at UH West O‘ahu which has over 20,000 hours of original media, both public and on line exhibition space, and the largest temperature, humidity and fire suppression-controlled vault in Hawai‘i;
  • Implemented proprietary CyberCANOE system with UH Mānoa ICS’s Dr. Jason Leigh which connects 4K multi-screens for collaboration between UH Mānoa, UH West O‘ahu, and UH Hilo;
  • Distributed remote sound recording environments allowing students at Honolulu Community College’s Music and Entertainment Learning Experience (MELE) to work with students at Leeward Community College, UH West O‘ahu and UH Mānoa;
  • Two National Science Foundation grants in conjunction with UH Mānoa ICS’s LAVA (Laboratory for Advanced Visualization and Applications) to create immersive environments and 3D virtual reality image capture;
  • Media hardware and software at all ten campuses.
  • Developed UH West O‘ahu Creative Media programs and articulated degree pathways from all of the UH community colleges and UH Maui College.
  • Funded creative media programs at ten middle schools on every island.

By leveraging UH’s existing creative media assets and responsibly building new ones where needed, ACM System recognizes that content production in all its forms — films, television, software, video games, massive multi-players, animation, visual effects, smart phone applications, and social media — offer Hawai‘i our best chance of diversifying our economy.

Why? Broadband connects us to the global economy in ways that ships and planes cannot. Generating creative intellectual property only requires realizing the natural talent of our students; it doesnʻt require importation of raw materials and the physical shipping of the finished product, vast tracks of land or resources that threaten our environment, or relocation to the mainland in success.

But ACM System is also founded on the proposition that creative media skills cut across all disciplines and are essential tools for employment in virtually any field today. Whether you’re looking for a job in an office, a hotel, a restaurant, or teaching, any potential firm would prefer someone who can be the in-house YouTube producer, build a smart phone app for the business, create an animation to demonstrate a product or simply be able to tell a story visually through social media.

ACM System also embraces the Do It Yourself/Employ Yourself model that stresses entrepreneurship, building your own brand, and utilizing free, global platforms to market your IP to the world. Beyond that, ACM System is dedicated to fostering UH’s emerging strengths in Computational Media – the nexus of science with art and storytelling – bringing together students and faculty in Creative Media, Computer Science, and Engineering to lead Hawaii’s growing Innovation and Maker Economy.

So whether it’s Digital Photography, Cinematic Arts, Music Entrepreneurship, Video Game Design, Character Animation, or Web Interface Design, we welcome you to explore this web environment to find out where your creative path might take you. The “gold system” logo indicates system-wide initiatives, and each UH campus is represented by the designated color scheme of that particular campus and program. Be sure to contact specific campuses and program advisors directly for the most up to date information.

Mahalo and e komo mai!



Chris Lee ACM System Director
Chris Lee ACM System Director
Chris Lee with Waianae High School Searider Productions' Founder Candy Suiso and students
Chris Lee with Waianae High School Searider Productions’ Founder Candy Suiso and students

CHRIS LEE is the Founder and Director of the Academy for Creative Media System at University of Hawai‘i. Mr. Lee has guided the ACM System since 2002, designing the concept of a system-wide initiative and raising both public and private capitol to establish new programs where needed and enhance existing creative media resources at all ten campuses of UH. He is very grateful to the many faculty, administrators, students, alumni, legislators, governors, community members and friends for their support and hard work in making this dream a reality. In particular, great inspiration was drawn from the pioneering work of Candy Suiso at Waianae High School and their award-winning Searider Productions.

Mr. Lee was previously President of Production for both TriStar Pictures and Columbia Pictures where he oversaw such Academy Award-winning films as Jerry Maguire, Philadelphia, and As Good As It Gets. He also worked on numerous other hits such as My Best Friend’s Wedding, Legends of the Fall, The Fisher King, The Mask of Zorro, Starship Troopers, Godzilla, and The Patriot.

As a motion picture producer, Mr. Lee Executive Produced Bryan Singer’s Superman Returns and Valkyrie. 

Golden Globes with Tom Cruise, Cameron Crowe, George Clooney
Golden Globes with Tom Cruise, Cameron Crowe, George Clooney

He also produced SWAT, Final Fantasy: The Spirits Within, One Foot Off the Ground, White Frog, and How to Win at Checkers (Every Time).

Mr. Lee also executive produced the documentary State of Aloha, the animated television series Heavy Gear and, with director Joseph Kahn, produced music videos for artists including Janet Jackson, The Backstreet Boys, Faith Hill, Elton John and Destiny’s Child.

Chris Lee and Tom Cruise on Valkyrie Set
Chris Lee and Tom Cruise on Valkyrie Set

The first Asian-American and minority to be named President of Production at a Hollywood studio, Mr. Lee is a frequent speaker at various events involving the globalization of popular culture and economic development, a Founding Partner of Legendary Pictures, a Founder of the Coalition of Asian Pacifics in Entertainment (CAPE) and a Founding Board Member of Hawaii European Cinema. He has served as a Jury Member for numerous international film festivals, including Hong Kong, Korea’s Pucheon Network of Asian Fantastic Films, Singapore’s All Asian Film, Tribeca’s All Access Program, the San Francisco International Asian American Film Festival and the Hawaii International Film Festival.

Mr. Lee graduated from ‘Iolani High School and Yale University with a degree in Political Science. His started in entertainment with ABC’s Good Morning America and then worked with director Wayne Wang as the Assistant Director and Apprentice Editor for the film Dim Sum: A Little Bit of Heart.  

Chris Lee, ACM system Director
Office of the Vice President for Research & Innovation, University of Hawai‘i
2800 Woodlawn Drive, Suite 165, Honolulu, HI 96822
p: (808) 956-4578 // F: (808) 988-1811
email: cpl@hawaii.edu