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Mauimovie: The Sequel
October 26, 2011 - Rick Chatenever
So there’s this message in my voice mail I can’t bring myself to delete. It’s from Maui filmmaker writer-director Brian Kohne last week in Spain. He had gone there to show “Get a Job,” which he had written and directed, at the Marbella Film Festival.
Brian said he was lost, literally, “doing what I’ve been doing since I got to Spain — trying to find something.
“I thought Hawaii was vague,” he continued. “We tell people, you go down the street, look for the giant tree, when you see the dog, you’re there.”
But that still makes us master cartographers compared to how they give directions in Spain.
Luckily, “Get a Job” didn’t get lost in translation, or subtitles. Out of the 1,000 entries to the festival, it was one of three finalists for the grand prize.
When it was announced as a finalist, Brian reported, the Spanish ballroom erupted into applause.
“It was like the Oscars, with little envelopes and all that.” When it didn’t win, there were a few boos, he said. Eric Gilliom, who stars in the film with Willie K, was in Spain with Brian to share in the excitement.
“It was a lot of fun, a great festival, great people,” said Eric. People raved about the beach, he went on, “But for us, it was just another tropical place.”
“So we didn’t win the grand prize —but we were right next to it!” said Brian,with equal measures of surprise and satisfaction in his voice.
Rather than aberration, “Get a Job’s” success doesn’t feel like an isolated event. Instead it looks more like the tip of an iceberg, evidence that this is an auspicious time to be making movies on Maui.
We’re not talking about Hollywood movies needing tropical locales like Frank Sinatra and Spencer Tracy’s “The Devil at 4 O’Clock” in 1961; Julie Taymour’s remake of Shakespeare’s “The Tempest” on Lanai in 2009; Clint Eastwood's tsunami on Front Street for “Hereafter” early in 2010 or the Adam Sandler-Jennifer Aniston romp “Just Go With It” filmed at the Grand Wailea later that spring.
We’re talking about a growing population of filmmakers who call Maui home and build their smaller, independent productions from the ground up here.
“Get a Job’s” producer and co-star Stefan Schaefer just returned from the Hawaii International Film Festival on Oahu, where he reports his romantic comedy “My Last Day Without You” played to two sold-out houses and enthusiastic Q&A sessions.
Granted, that project written and directed by Schaefer was shot in his other home, Brooklyn, N.Y. But it was made by the same crew, led by director of photography Dan Hersey, who had filmed “Get a Job” on Maui right before shooting in Brooklyn.
And then there’s Schaefer’s recently completed “The Roundup,” a 22-minute short. What’s surprising and a tiny bit amazing is that a) It’s a Western; and b) It was filmed on Kualoa Ranch on Oahu’s North Shore, with pick-up shots at our own Haleakala Ranch. Turns out, Hawaii not only has a proud paniolo tradition, but is also a natural Western movie set. Who knew?
Not only does “The Roundup” feature stunning cinematography, gritty in one scene, stunning in the next, but its twangy classic spaghetti Western score was created by “Get a Job’s” other star, the magnificently multitalented Willie K … whose movie composer name is Willie Kahaialii.
“Willie’s very good” reports Stefan. “I’m excited to use him on future films … he seems fired up, too.
There’s also a confluence of music and moviemaking in “When the Mountain Calls: Nepal • Tibet • Bhutan,” the latest documentary by a Maui-based, Emmy-winning team led by Dr.Tom Vendetti. It has its world premiere along with a live concert Saturday, Nov. 5, in Castle Theater at the MACC. I’m a little biased about this project since I helped with the script, but you can read all about it in Jon Woodhouse’s Maui Beat on the next page.
There’s also been a flurry of activity coming out of the Maui County Film Office since Harry Donenfeld took over as its director a few months ago. Right now, he’s looking for local haunted houses or Mauians with paranormal potential for the SYFY Channel series “The Haunted Collector.”
Check the Shorts column on the movie pages for details, and watch for more announcements coming out of his office in coming weeks.
Then there’s the Maui Film Festival, back in the MACC’s Castle Theater with various screenings, leading up to the wonderful FirstLight series, which returns in November and December.
Festival director Barry Rivers notes that FirstLight has shown every subsequent Best Picture Oscar winner since the screenings began, often weeks before their national release.
Not bad for this little island, which, like some sort of tropical ingenue, seems poised for its big break.
• Contact Rick Chatenever at email@example.com.
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