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Monday, June 28, 2004



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ANTHONY SOMMER / TSOMMER@STARBULLETIN.COM
The opening sequence of the teen reality series "Endurance" was shot Saturday afternoon on an island in Wainiha Stream on Kauai's North Shore. "Endurance" producer and host JD Roth is on a raft in the middle of the lake. In the foreground are assistant director Andy Nelson and "Cue Card Bob" Guzzi. The third season of the series begins in September.


Kauai film project
battled adversity

A slew of dilemmas made shooting
a TV series more difficult than
first anticipated


LIHUE » The crew of the teen reality series "Endurance" completed filming the show's third season yesterday, but the story of making the show might be more of a survival tale than the show itself.

Filming on an island in the middle of Wainiha Stream on Kauai's North Shore, the 75-member cast and crew and about 30 Kauai employees put up with a month of torrential rain, knee-deep mud, two evacuations because the river overflowed its banks -- at one point it was seven inches above flood stage -- swarms of mosquitos, bickering neighbors and a noisy duck whose incessant quacking was picked up by the show's microphones.

The show also lost its initial film location, and producers said they were assured film permits but they were rejected at the last minute. The crew arrived on Kauai without a location to shoot or a place to store their three container loads of equipment.

"When we got here, door after door closed in our faces. There were a lot of promises, but very few were delivered on," said JD Roth, the show's creator, producer and host.

County and state officials see it quite differently. They say the film crew waited too long to apply for its permits. And when the state turned them down, the county did everything it could to help.

Roth and his crew are no strangers to Kauai. In 2001 they filmed a series called "Moolah Beach" on the island's North Shore. They planned to go back to the same location on land owned by retired auto dealer Jimmy Pflueger.

The site is near Pilaa Beach, where a road Pflueger was grading on a cliff face collapsed in November 2001 during a rainstorm and buried the beach and offshore reef in mud. The landslide is the topic of unresolved lawsuits and actions by regulatory agencies.

Even though the film location was not at Pilaa, state biologists have been using the reef just offshore to compare with the reef at Pilaa.

In March, two of the show's producers met with Kauai Mayor Bryan Baptiste and Tommy Oi, head of the Kauai office of the state Department of Land and Natural Resources. They said they came away from those meetings with the belief all the required permits would be issued.

"The mayor sat there like the Godfather, with his arms folded over his belly, and assured us in no uncertain terms he would make sure the state issued the required permits," said line producer Eric Westmore.

Beth Tokioka, the county's economic development director, was at that meeting and said Baptiste made no such promise.

"He said he would do everything he could but he couldn't speak for the state," Tokioka said.

The producers said Oi told them there would be "no problem" in obtaining state permits to use Pflueger's land.

Oi says he said nothing of the kind, according to the Department of Land and Natural Resources.

In early June the film crew arrived without a permit and without a location. Peter Young, chairman of the Department of Land and Natural Resources, had turned them down, but when the crew found out, it was too late to turn back.

"With all of the legal issues surrounding both Pilaa and the neighboring reef, I decided we have to treat the whole area like a crime scene with yellow tape around it and keep everyone out," Young said.

"Mayor Baptiste called me twice and both times made lengthy and passionate pleas on behalf of the film company, but I had to turn him down," Young said.

The film producers said yesterday they did not know Baptiste had gone to bat for them.

State Film Commissioner Donne Dawson said the show's producers were informed early on that the original location was "not going to be a slam-dunk kind of situation."

"They were told by several people that they needed to get those permits in early on because the original location they wanted was questionable," Dawson said.

But the permit applications were filed only a few weeks in advance, Dawson said.

For two days after arrival, the crew and Kauai Film Commissioner Tiffani Lizama and Dawson frantically searched Kauai for a home.

Lizama spent 90 percent of her time helping them find a location, Tokioka said.

A neighbor of Pflueger wanted $300,000 for the use of his land. Trustees for the Rice family, which owns Kipu Kai, a much-used movie location, said they had decided they no longer want film crews on the property. Another site now hosts a gravel pit, far too noisy for shooting movies.

The film company finally settled on the Wainiha site. But as the set was being built, neighbors began complaining about the traffic, generator noise and the buzz of power saws.

Westmore said the county and Lizama failed to keep promises. For example, he said, she told the crew, who stayed at a Kapaa hotel at night, she would provide a shuttle van so they could get to area restaurants at night and coupon books for local merchants, but neither ever appeared.

With all the work going on during those few days, the shuttle vans and coupons just got lost in the shuffle, Tokioka said.

Would Roth come back to Kauai?

"Absolutely," he said. "The beauty of the place sucks you in. I love this place. I'm bringing my wife and children here for a vacation in November."

But would he shoot another show?

"I've had calls from a half-dozen other producers thinking about making films on Kauai," Roth said. "I told them I could not be more happy with the series we've made here. It's the best so far. But if they come, they better be willing to go through what we went through to get happy. I would want much more support from the (county) film commissioner and the local politicians."


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Outdoor TV challenge
aims to suspend reality


LIHUE » So, how real is a "reality show"?

Not real at all, according to JD Roth, producer and host of "Endurance," a popular reality series for teenagers that completed shooting its third season on Kauai's North Shore yesterday. The 21 episodes will begin airing Saturday mornings in September on NBC.

"The whole idea of a reality show is to suspend reality -- to put people into situations in which they normally would never find themselves," Roth said.

"You throw a snake into the middle of a room full of people and watch what they do."

On the show, 20 teens are dropped at a secret remote location and compete against each other in mental and physical challenges, such as hanging from a bar suspended above the ocean. Each week, one team is eliminated. The youngsters who compete in the series are picked through auditions. Most apply through the show's Web site at kids.discovery.com/fansites/endurance/endurance .html.

They aren't members of the Screen Actor's Guild, and they aren't paid. Roth looks for as diverse a group as possible. Six are sent home as soon as they arrive and never make it on the show. They all know the group will be thinned out immediately, which creates tension even before they leave home.

One of Roth's techniques is to both praise and criticize them while they are filming but not speak to them at all when the cameras aren't rolling.

He said the youngsters and their parents became close friends while the series was being shot. And he said one of the surprises is that many of the kids told him later they learned tolerance for people who were different from them while making the show.

As in most reality shows, the suspense comes from the possibility of being eliminated. But "Endurance" is a series of pure contests that either are won or lost, not on the opinions of phone-in voters, although you can vote your opinions on their Web site.

The show publicity describes the remote locations. Some of it is reality but most is illusion.

"Endurance" filmed its first season on a remote portion of Catalina Island, which is pretty much uninhabited. But the town of Avalon is very close by. Similarly, last year, they went to the desert near the tip of Baja California. But it's really just outside the town of La Paz, a popular vacation spot for Mexicans.

This year, they were on a jungle island in a Kauai river. But there are homes all around it, and actor Pierce Brosnan owns the lot next door.

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