Carrie Ching ’95

Experimental Storyteller

Department: Alumni Profiles

Innovators and Entrepreneurs

Whatever they go by, the Punahou alumni featured in this section share several things in common. They are not afraid to step out of their comfort zone, shake up the routine and embrace risk. Whether it’s discovering a safer medication to relieve pain or bringing dark stories to life through illustration or documenting a restoration odyssey in a foreign country, their work is set in motion by their passion to think beyond themselves and pursue what’s important for the greater society.

What they also share is praise for an education that provided a culture of learning through critical thinking, problem-solving and collaboration, and appreciation for the many Punahou teachers who nurtured their curiosity and imagination, and dared them to dream big.

Read additional stories in this feature by Tobias Reeuwijk ’08 and David G. Watumull ’68.

By Susan Nakamura

Experimenting occurs for a myriad of reasons. Sometimes, it’s simply because you’re out of your usual options. That was the case for Carrie Ching when she was tapped to work with investigative reporter Ryan Gabrielson on a story about the sexual abuse of a young woman, Jennifer, who was being kept in a state-run institution for the developmentally disabled in California. Ching, then the senior multimedia producer for the Center for Investigative Reporting, remembers when she sat down with Gabrielson, trying to find a way to turn this text-heavy story into a multimedia documentary.

“I was told there were no photos, no audio interviews or compelling visuals,” recalls Ching, now an independent journalist and filmmaker. “Then the idea of illustrated storytelling came to mind.” With the use of strong narration, haunting music and stark graphic-novel-like illustrations in muted hues of browns and blues, “In Jennifer’s Room” was created. The impact was powerful and immediate. Two weeks after the documentary ran, state regulators revoked the operating license for the Sonoma institution where Jennifer had been housed. The documentary was awarded a coveted Emmy Award in 2013.

“I work with a lot of dark and disturbing topics. Using illustration makes the story more accessible; it seems to give people some emotional distance, yet draws them in a way that traditional documentaries can’t,” says Ching.

Filmmaker Carrie Ching edits an illustrated documentary at her home office in Oakland, California.

Born and raised in Kailua and now living in Oakland, California, Ching never shied away from tough subjects or unconventional ways. A 2005 graduate of the University of California, Berkeley’s Graduate School of Journalism, her master’s project was on the history of crystal methamphetamine in Hawai‘i. Early in her career, she focused on print narrative journalism before joining the Center for Investigative Reporting, where she explored ways to use video, audio, photography, animation, art/illustration and interactive graphics to push the boundaries of multimedia storytelling on the Web and other digital platforms.

“My passion for narrative writing really blossomed during my Academy years, thanks to teachers like Paul Hamamoto ’83, who was inspiring and just plain cool,” says Ching with a laugh. “I loved my English and literature classes and published a number of poems in Ka Wai Ola, the Punahou Academy literary journal.” Her advice to students interested in journalism and filmmaking resembles her own journey: “Don’t be afraid to carve out your own path.”

Ching was recently named a National MediaMaker Fellow by the Bay Area Video Coalition (BAVC) and will direct and produce a full-length animated documentary film about the crystal methamphetamine epidemic and the impact on generations of families in Hawai‘i, a project that has been simmering for the last 10 years. This is a very personal story for Ching and the very first big project on her own.

“I’ve always been a rebel at heart, and my work is a way of expressing myself in a positive way,” Ching says. “Narrative storytelling has the power to reach people with an idea, draw them in and inspire change in the world. That is my hope with this story.”

Susan Nakamura is a freelance writer in Hawai‘i and the mother of Ana ’20.


  • Submitted by Barbara Wilson

    1/17/2016 8:54:34 AM

    Wonderful to read about you and your work. The results of your documentary must feeling deeply rewarding. I know your Mom and Dad would be so very proud of you and your accomplishments. Bravo Carrie!

  • Submitted by Cookie Doo Ayabe

    2/1/2016 8:25:02 PM

    Carrie, We are so proud of your achievements. Your parents are beaming from above at your accomplishments!
    Cuz, Cookie Doo Ayabe

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