Sunday, April 11, 2004



Each adventure-episode of "MythQuest" is based on a story selected from myths throughout the centuries and from all over the world. The show's producer, David Braun, and actor Branscomb Richmond, inset, are hoping to have the series filmed in Hawaii.

On an isle quest

A "MythQuest" producer and actor
hope to utilize Hawaiian culture
and backdrops for their TV series

Imagine a world of myths and legends that could be visited through a special portal where a partner would stay outside to protect the explorer.

In "MythQuest," contemporary teens Alex and Cleo Bellows cross into a cyberworld of mythic imagination through a special plasma screen.

The hour-long drama began filming in Canada two years ago and made its way to the United States via PBS. Episode by episode, the two teens pit themselves against epic creatures and dark forces based on some of the world's greatest myths.

In the process, they discover that their fantastic quest to locate their missing father is tied to the fate of civilization. As young and old viewers experience the pair's adventures, they also learn some of the tales of ancient Greeks, Egyptians, Aztecs, Celts, American Indians and possibly, next season, Hawaiians.

Los Angeles-based producer David Braun and actor Branscomb Richmond want to film the series in Hawaii where legends, myths, deep-seated cultures and a multiethnic population flourish.

"MythQuest" filmed 13 episodes in 2001, shown in half-hour slots on PBS and hour-long ones on CBC. A second season will have 10 one-hour episodes. Producers have begun discussions with Random House for companion books to the series and have received offers from a electronics company to market video games based on the stories.

"MythQuest" is now being filmed in Canada, but harsh weather, a flat landscape and a lack of diversity among actors has motivated producers to consider Hawaii.

Braun, owner of David Braun Productions, and Richmond, who co-starred in the TV series "Renegade" and has appeared in dozens of Hawaii-based TV series, were recently in Hawaii to meet with state officials and attorneys to discuss how they can move the series here.

Utilizing computer-imaging technology, combined with live-action drama, the fantasy series plays out the myths in a realistic and captivating way. Like a magic looking glass, the plasma screen becomes a gateway to the kingdom of myths: a gateway into which the teenagers' father, an archeologist, has disappeared. Now on a quest to find him, Alex and Cleo test their heroism.

Among the reasons Braun and company want to film in Hawaii is our tropical climate.

"When we started filming in Regina, it was winter, and half the time the temperature was well below zero," Braun said. "Filming out on the lake was brutal."

The prairie landscape was also too flat to offer different views, and there was a lack of diversity among actors that limited selection for certain myths, he said.

"Hawaii offers a stunning, diverse landscape from deserts, volcanoes, lava fields, snow, rain forests and beaches, and a multiethnic population," said Richmond, who will work with Braun. "For a myth show, Hawaii is perfect, and there are so many Hawaiian stories to explore."

Canada had offered government funding for productions and a favorable dollar exchange rate. The Canadian government provides tax credits of up to 40 percent for film and television productions, Braun said.

To bring "MythQuest" to Hawaii, the production likely will need to qualify for the state Act 221's high-tech investment credits, Braun said.

"That's probably critical for us," he said. "We would be spending a lot of money here -- more money than we get -- but we need something to help us make this work."

The pair met with the few attorneys here who specialize in Act 221 law to learn what it will take for "MythQuest" to qualify. Richmond -- who's married to a former Miss Hawaii, has relatives and friends here and frequently works here -- acted as liaison in setting up the meetings.

Braun says a television series contributes far more to the local economy than a motion picture because TV series remain at a location longer. In "MythQuest's" case, that would be eight months a year. "We would absolutely film here for five years."

Producers would spent about $500,000 an episode, or $5 million, and hire mostly local crew.

Richmond expects his involvement to be mostly behind the scenes, though he's not ruling out some on-screen appearances. The pair also said they would create a training program for production hopefuls to work or intern on the series.

"You can't learn this business in a classroom," Braun said. "You need that real-life work experience to see how it's done."

On the cover: An adventure series based on cultural myths might be filmed in the isles. Photo courtesy of "MythQuest."

Timing is critical for "MythQuest" producers to know if they can qualify for the investment credits in order to make the January 2005 deadline to begin delivering episodes. That means filming must begin no later than late summer, he said.

Braun is also considering other locations, "but Hawaii is our top choice because of the weather, landscape, population, proximity to the mainland, and stars want to work here," he said. "We'll try to accelerate the (Act 221) application process so we know what we can or cannot do."

Richmond, who was here to appear in the NBC police pilot "Hawaii," says part of his involvement would be to help native Hawaiians enter the film and TV production business.

"There hasn't been a serious series in Hawaii since 'Magnum, P.I.,' and 'MythQuest' is a show of quality, something children and parents can watch together."

Braun has a producer's perspective on why series with "great characters" don't come to Hawaii: production costs.

"Money is always the question; we have to look at what's being offered by the locale," he said. "And the fact is Hawaii is always more expensive."

Braun is back in Los Angeles crunching the numbers and trying to put together an economic model that works for filming in Hawaii.

"We're looking at any and all waste factors and plugging those holes," Richmond said. "Maybe this dream is our myth quest."

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