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The Future of Film Shows Promise with Artistic Filmmaker Dustin Kahia

The film industry is known as a highly competitive space that fuels itself on the constant innovation of producers, directors, writers, actors, and more. With fierce players continuously emerging, it can be hard to break onto the playing field, but emerging talent Dustin Kahia is proving it is not impossible. 

Crafting cinematic brilliance is grounded in this filmmaker’s cultural perspective. As a Chaldean, Kahia’s heritage is steeped in over 5,500 years of history and is a key element to his identity. This community is estimated to have a population of only 500,000 worldwide and is proof of the resilience and continuity of their ancient traditions and language, Aramaic. With both Iraqi parents speaking Aramaic and raising Kahia in a home that values his Chaldean identity, Kahia’s cultural perspective inspires the stories he tells through filmmaking and amplifies his value in this industry. 

This filmmaker’s journey began after profound upheaval when, in 2003, his father was diagnosed with stage three colon cancer, which had spread to his liver, causing severe damage. Kahia’s father installed video editing software on their home computer, encouraging his young son to play around with editing home videos. This was an activity that Kahia immersed himself in for refuge after his father’s passing, just 11 months post-diagnosis. 

After his father passed away, Kahia found himself trying to balance his filmmaking dreams with his family’s financial needs. Unable to relocate to the Los Angeles area, Kahia faced a difficult situation, knowing that many Hollywood internships were predominantly offered to those residing in or near the area—and Kahia was two hours away. Yet, despite such challenges, Kahia was able to secure internships in L.A., including at Revelations Entertainment, co-founded by Morgan Freeman and Lori McCreary, and at Village Roadshow Picture. These internships, as well as his screenwriting course at USC’s School of Cinematic Arts, proved pivotal in helping Kahia hone his craft. 

A key moment early in this film director’s career was receiving the Audience Choice Award at the National Film Festival for Talented Youth (NFFTY) in 2012 for his second short film. This recognition helped Kahia gain confidence and inspiration, showing off his skills in creating meaningful work that deeply resonates with his audience. Furthering his experience with award-winning short films in 2019, Kahia proved that a little can go a long way. He created a short film on a mere $300 budget that went on to win two awards for Best Student Film and another six nominations. 

Today, Kahia’s writing ability has been recognized in many prestigious competitions, such as the Nashville Film Festival, FadeIn Awards, Scriptapalooza, and ScreenCraft. His ability to craft compelling narratives was again highlighted in an ambitious 55-minute, under-budgeted film production. Shooting across a quick four days in L.A., the film made its premiere to a sold-out crowd in and around the L.A. area and caught the attention of the LA Times, drawing comparisons to the works of Alfred Hitchcock.  

Later, Kahia’s short film Monday Mourning marked itself as a pivotal moment for the filmmaker, a visual representation of the culmination of his skills and experiences in filmmaking, securing 19 award nominations and 9 wins.

Kahia is currently engaged in projects that showcase his expanding abilities as a screenwriter. One noteworthy accomplishment is his recent development of a historical epic spec script. This ambitious project, budgeted at over $100 million, involved extensive research and creativity to bring a true, untold story to the big screen. In addition, Kahia is working to secure financing for another feature film based on an original screenplay. This script has garnered praise from industry professionals and significant interest from investors. It offers a unique twist on a familiar genre and has attracted potential funding exceeding the initial budget.

Dustin Kahia’s experience with under-budgeted and rapid film productions has proven that he is more than capable of accomplishing quality films when facing challenges. Learning from roadblocks and success, Kahia understands the importance of dedicating the necessary time to outlining, raising additional funds, and aligning the scale of a project with the available resources. His experiences have given him a practical approach to filmmaking that is still rooted in his cultural perspective and passion for connecting with audiences.

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