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ASU Online film and media studies student awarded Sundance fellowship

August 9, 2022

Miciana Hutcherson living out dream she envisioned as young girl in Alaska

It takes a couple of weeks to arrange an interview with Miciana Hutcherson.

She’s in Tulsa, Oklahoma, working on the set of a film titled "Fancy Dance," and she’s busy day and night, weekdays and weekends.

The film, which Hutcherson co-wrote, is about a Native American woman living on the reservation whose sister goes missing. The woman then kidnaps her niece to try to keep their family together and out of state custody.

Headshot of ASU film student

Miciana Hutcherson

It is Hutcherson’s entry into the world of film, a world she has dreamed about since she was a little girl, a world that became possible because she Googled “online film programs” one day and read about the opportunities at Arizona State University.

“That’s what opened the door for me,” said Hutcherson, a senior who recently was awarded the Sundance Institute's Women of Sundance Adobe Fellowship. “ASU has been a huge blessing in my life.”

That door opened only because Hutcherson, who hopes to graduate in December, wanted what was beyond her grasp.

She grew up in Juneau, Alaska, a member of the Tlingit tribe. (Her Tlingit name is Aak’w Tu Shaa.) She hunted and fished and was a member of the All Nations Children Dance Group, but also spent a lot of time indoors and bored because, in Juneau, she said, “It rains like 300 days a year and snows the other 65.”

Hutcherson knew she wanted to see and experience what was beyond Juneau. Movies at the local theater became her aspiration, even if they were make-believe worlds spooled onto a screen.

“I was not a small-town person mentally, so going to the movies was the quickest way to escape,” Hutcherson said. “I could see the outside world, learn about other people and stimulate my imagination. And then once I found out that you could make it a career, I was sold.”

There was just one problem. Haskell Indian Nations University, where Hutcherson first attended college, did not have a film program. So after earning her bachelor’s degree in Indigenous and American Indian studies and needing an online program, she put Google to work.

Up popped ASU at the top of the search engine.

There’s good reason for that. ASU Online, which has 503 students enrolled this fall in the film and media studies online program, has consistently been ranked by websites like, and as one of the top five places to get an online film degree.

“I wasn’t in a position where I could go to a physical college and commit to being there every day and doing that for four years, and ASU’s degree seemed really flexible and really accessible to someone who is working on the side doing these other things. And it’s really worked out that way,” Hutcherson said.

In 2018, Hutcherson participated in the Department of English’s Sundance Film Festival internship, and the relationships she made there encouraged her to apply for the Sundance Institute’s Indigenous Program Fellowship. That experience led to the Adobe Fellowship.

“Access provides opportunity,” said Kevin Sandler, an associate professor in the film and media studies program and the internship coordinator. “It increases the chance that you can make something out of it, especially if you are talented and have gumption, charisma and drive.”

The Women of Sundance Adobe Fellowship awards all eight fellows mentorship, skill-building workshops, coaching, introductions to industry contacts, referrals to career development opportunities and a $6,250 cash grant.

It also provided Hutcherson a treasured support group.

“Some of the women in the program are producers, some are writers, some are directors, some are all three,” Hutcherson said. “So it’s really a way for us to learn from each other.

“Film is a male-dominated field. At times, you feel as a woman like you’re alone in the void, so to have this fellowship where other people are feeling the same way as me, they’re going through these same creative struggles and coming from a similar point of view is really important. It feels like we’re the ones that are creating more space for those filmmakers that are coming up behind us.”

In addition to "Fancy Dance," Hutcherson has written "Nancy’s Girl," which led to her acceptance into Sundance’s Indigenous Program. "Nancy’s Girl" is about a young woman whose dream of living in Los Angeles crumbles, and she’s forced to move back home and live with her mom in a small town.

Both "Nancy’s Girl" and "Fancy Dance" draw from Hutcherson’s life.

“You don’t see women in film depicted in a way that feels like it honors women as 360-degree, fully dimensional, fully fleshed characters,” Hutcherson said. “They’re always falling into a category of like the siren or the angry chick or all these sorts of things.

“So, I’m really drawn to stories of women who are able to explore all of their emotions and share all of who they are, because those are the women that I was raised by. I was raised by a single mom. My mom was raised by a single mom. I come from this long line of women who had to be all these different things. That’s something that really speaks to me.”

Hutcherson has achieved her first dream. The life she envisioned outside Juneau has come true. But now she has another dream, and this one, ironically, has her returning home and opening up a production studio in Alaska.

“It’s really hard to film up there,” Hutcherson said. “But it is so rich in stories and characters that the world hasn’t seen or had access to. I really want to give back to my community in that way.”

Scott Bordow

Reporter , ASU News

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Ohana brings Hawaiian students to ASU

August 9, 2022

Blaise Acosta, Casey Soong joining siblings on Sun Devil journey

Editor's note: ASU News is highlighting some of its notable incoming students for fall 2022.


That’s the word for family in Hawaiian, and it’s a big reason why Casey Soong and Blaise Acosta have come to Arizona State University.

Soong and Acosta are cousins. Their older siblings, Taylor Acosta and Kenneth “KJ” Soong, arrived at ASU in 2020.

“I think it’ll be good for me to have family there and a support system,” Blaise Acosta said.

Ohana wasn’t the only reason the two chose ASU. The university also had the majors they were interested in: Acosta is majoring in biology and Soong in engineering management.

ASU News talked to Acosta and Soong about their hopes and plans.

Question: Why did you choose ASU?

Portrait of student in front of ocean

Blaise Acosta

Acosta: I chose ASU because it has a lot of different majors to choose from compared to the ones here in Hawaii. And I guess (it) had one of the majors that I was looking for, which is biological scientist.

Soong: First of all, my brother and cousins are here right now. They’re going to be juniors. Also, ASU was one of the few schools on the West Coast that actually had an engineering management program. I wanted to stay on the West Coast, but when I was looking at all the other West Coast schools, they didn’t really have programs that specialized in management or engineering business. So ASU was one of the few schools that actually had the type of program that best suited my interest.

Q: What are you most excited to experience your first semester?

Acosta: I'm kind of excited to just experience the dorm life there and also having the freedom when I'm on my own. And also I want to make new friends and relationships with other people.

Soong: I’m looking forward to attending the engineering camp that every freshman engineer goes to. But I’m also looking forward to just meeting new people. I’m from Hawaii, so it’s kind of a small place. I see the same people every day. So it’s always good to look forward to meeting new people and getting outside of my friend zones.

Q: What do you like to brag about to friends about ASU?

Acosta: Some things that I tell my friends is that ASU is really welcoming, and they have a lot of programs and experiences for me to join.

Soong: My tuition is paid for. ASU is extremely helpful in providing financial support. So I like to tell my friends that I’m going to college for free and I don’t have to worry about all that stuff (tuition costs).

Q: What talents and skill are you bringing to the ASU community?

Portrait of student in front of ocean

Casey Soong

Acosta: One talent I have is that I play the ukulele. I’ve been playing it for basically my whole life. I also play the piano. I’ve been playing for about nine or 10 years. I hope that I can share my talents with my roommates or friends up there.

Soong: In high school I was president of a bunch of clubs, so one of the skills that I’m bringing to ASU is more toward leadership and school involvement. There’s a Hawaiian club (at ASU) that helps reach out to Hawaiian students and helps them acclimate to Arizona. Hopefully, I can help out that club and use my skills there.

Q: What do you hope to accomplish during your college years?

Acosta: I hope to achieve my bachelor’s degree in biological science and I also want to try to join some programs and gain new experiences so when I come back (to Hawaii) I’m more ready for the real world.

Soong: Aside from my bachelor’s and hopefully my master’s, just to get out there, meet new people and enjoy life before I have to start paying bills and stuff.

Q: What’s one interesting fact about yourself that only your friends know?

Acosta: I’m a big animal lover. I raise chickens at my house. I also have two dogs and couple of fish. And my grandpa recently got a couple of ducks, so I go there every so often to check up on them.

Soong: That’s a good question. I don’t have any special quirks. Back in high school, I was kind of the person who everybody went to for help. If they needed anything, they would come to me. So, I guess that’s an interesting fact only my friends would know.

Q: If someone gave you $40 million to solve one problem in our world, what would you choose?

Acosta: I’d have to say the homelessness problem, especially in Hawaii, because there’s just a lot of them and being on an island, they can’t really go anywhere except for homeless shelters and they’re kind of overfilled right now. It’s a really big problem.

Soong: Mine would be environmental pollution. I used to do a lot of community service back here in Hawaii, going to beach clean-ups. I’d like to help find a way to create a more sustainable future and stop pollution in the water. Yeah, if I was given $40 million, that’s where I would try to help.

Top photo by Jess Loiterton/Pexels

Scott Bordow

Reporter , ASU News