Meet The Team
Filmmaker Mentor & Social Media
Aleta started with Hawaiʻi Women in Filmmaking in 2016 and later became a filmmaking mentor in 2020. As a film mentor, she taught young filmmakers to make films on subjects such as environmental justice working towards a resilient Hawaii, mental wellness, and racial justice. She was also involved in filming and editing two episodes of their series, “Reel Wāhine of Hawai‘i,” a series that redresses gender inequity in the film industry by documenting the real-life stories of Hawai'i women filmmakers. Aleta’s screenplay, “A Hairy Situation,” won the Fall 2020 Abernethy Screenplay Competition. She is currently working as a producer and editor for The Lili`u Project documentary.
Alexa St. Martin
Alexa St. Martin, MSW is a social worker, therapist, educator, researcher, musician, dancer, and writer. She is a fierce advocate for social justice education, with a particular passion for adolescent sexual health, school-based sexual health education, reproductive rights, and consent. She is currently pursuing a PhD in Social Welfare with hopes of conducting meaningful research that will raise awareness of adolescent sexual health disparities and inform future program planning. When she isn’t making spreadsheets, she enjoys cleaning her room, talking to herself, and asking her dogs if they’re the cutest boys in the world.
Writer & Like Breath Instructor
Ngaio Simmons is a writer and performer born and raised on the island of O’ahu. With a degree in English from the University of Hawaii at Mānoa, her work focuses primarily on themes of diaspora, identity conflict, and home. Her writing has been featured in Public Journal, Contemporary Verse, Ora Nui, Flux Hawai’i, and is forthcoming in Bamboo Ridge Press. She is the writer in residence for HWF.
Founder and Executive Director
For over 10 years, Vera has been advocating for gender justice in filmmaking through an intersectional lens. In 2017, Vera launched the production of REEL WĀHINE OF HAWAIʻI, a short doc film series that redresses gender inequity in the film industry by documenting the real-life stories of Hawai‘i women filmmakers. Vera has been teaching at the Academy for Creative Media West Oʻahu and the Women's Studies Department at UH Mānoa since 2016. Vera serves on the Indie Media Arts West's leadership committee, and is part of the Creative Resurgence Collective of Hawaiʻi. Vera holds a M.A. in Japanese Studies from Ca’ Foscari, University of Venice, a M.A. in Political Science from Johns Hopkins University, and a Ph.D. in Urban Planning from the University of Hawaiʻi Mānoa.
Arminda Gandara is a consulting grant writer and program designer with a focus on access to arts and education. Originally from Texas, Gandara received a BA from Linfield University and an MA from the University of Texas at San Antonio. Gandara comes with extensive experience in community building, museum education and program development. In her free time she loves to swim, eat spam musubi and foster dogs in her home.
Social Worker & Community Outreach Coordinator
Katie Young-Caldwell is a social worker, writer, teacher, and activist. She has worked with women and girls for over two decades and specializes in gender violence. She teaches women's studies and social work at UH Mānoa and Hawai'i Community College. Katie is an intersectional feminist and works as a social worker and outreach coordinator for Hawai'i Women in Filmmaking. She loves cats, pizza, and running.
Filmmaker Mentor & Youth Video Lab Instructor
Noa Helela is a hapa Hawaiian-Asian-European multimedia artist who has worked with HWIF since 2016 as a writing instructor and film mentor. Her work includes filmmaking, playwriting, music, and poetry. Most of her projects involve fantasy realism and dark humor, with intersectional themes including mixed racial identity, diaspora, native issues, racism/racial violence, colonization, feminism, queer relationships, and trans identity. She also likes video games and taking way too many selfies.