COURTESY ABC / ILLUSTRATION BY
BRYANT FUKUTOMI / BFUKUTOMI@STARBULLETIN.COM
Hawaii's natural environment helped secure "Lost" production in Hawaii for another year. The cast, above, pose against the dramatic beauty of the isles.
Hawaii still offers the right mix of locations and community support to keep hosting the popular show
If you spotted the Dharma Initiative logo on the shark that nearly attacked Michael and Sawyer earlier this season, you certainly don't need to be reminded that the Season 2 finale of "Lost" is rapidly approaching. Set to air on Wednesday, the two-hour show "Live Together, Die Alone" has official and unofficial fan sites buzzing before the relative calm of the summer hiatus begins.
Here's what's new on the Hawaii front -- and beyond -- as the wildly successful series prepares for a third year of shooting in the Islands.
A producer's perspective
Rumors that "Lost" would relocate last year unless the state came up with a financial assistance package did not pan out, and plans are in place to continue for at least one more season on Oahu. "'Lost' is Hawaii, pure and simple," said producer Jean Higgins, who moved to Hawaii with her teenage son to work on the show. "It's the locations. It's the island. It's where everything is. You don't have these looks on the mainland."
"Lost" finale airs 8 to 10 p.m. Wednesday on KITV/ABC, preceded by 7 p.m. rerun titled "The Reckoning."
Highlights, Season 2
» Hatch was opened and discovered to be part of the Dharma Initiative, a countercultural research experiment that started in the 1970s.
» Survivors from tail section of plane are discovered; only five of 23 are still alive.
» Bernard and Rose are reunited.
» Sun discovers she's pregnant.
» The Others are encountered.
» Sparks fly between Kate and Jack/Kate and Sawyer.
» Desmond, the previous inhabitant of the hatch
» Bernard, Rose's husband
» Eko, one-time thug with a deep spiritual side
» Ana Lucia, ex-cop with a deep angry side
» Libby, therapist who becomes love interest for Hurley
» Henry, one of the Others, captured and held in the hatch
Dead Or MIA
» Goodwin (one of the Others, killed)
» Shannon (shot accidentally by Ana Lucia)
» Ana Lucia (shot on purpose by Michael)
» Libby (shot accidentally by Michael)
» Walt (still missing)
» Henry (escaped from the hatch)
What to expect: In previous interviews, producers have promised to resolve the plot line revolving around the hatch, and conclude the Walt/Michael crisis.
Though financial relief from the state won't be forthcoming, it doesn't hurt that Act 88 will take effect July 1, enabling the production to apply for a refundable tax credit separate from the oft-debated Act 221.
Writers will use this time before shooting resumes to brainstorm and "lay out the broad strokes" for next season. Where that leads, nobody will say. But Higgins said they "will take us in a direction that nobody expects. Just when you think you're going straight, it veers a hard left, and that's really the fun of the show."
This is why those involved with production are endlessly frustrated with the energy devoted to revealing the plots of future episodes. Crew members must sign confidentiality agreements; scripts are distributed with individual names on them and collected so they aren't circulated or sold. As the season wraps up, the inside of the Hawaii Film Studio's sound stage is strictly off-limits.
Even with such concerted efforts, keeping secrets has proved difficult. In addition to the constant flurry of gossip and spoilers on fan Web sites, one renegade devotee travels all over Oahu and posts photographs on the Internet of every "Lost" set on the island. His latest discovery was a temporary set along the Ka Iwi coastline. It included doors built into the hillside with the Dharma Initiative logo emblazoned on the front, and yurts that appeared to represent the camp of "The Others."
Leaking clues is just one of the hazards of shooting on location, amid a unique blend of challenges and benefits, said Higgins. "It's a survival show, so we are outdoors more than any other scripted television show. We are really subject to the vagaries of the weather, wind, rain and surf," which meant a lot of rescheduling during the deluge in March and April.
An enormous amount of equipment must accompany the actors to remote areas, and this can pose safety issues when access is limited. When shooting on privately owned Kualoa Ranch, the crew brought in a bulldozer and gravel to stabilize a dirt road -- a mutually beneficial effort.
Occasionally, abandoned cars and broken glass litter a chosen location. Obviously, these can't be spotted on camera, so the crew must clean up the vicinity. Another advantage for the community, noted Higgins, is that "we always leave the area cleaner than we found it."
Film studio face lift
While the actors enjoy a vacation or shoot commercials or feature films until they have to report back to Hawaii on Aug. 7, some of the show's 10 writers and producers (others are based in Los Angeles) will move from Dole Cannery into newly completed production offices at the Hawaii Film Studio.
Construction of sets for Season 3 will also begin soon in the technical building, where faux sharks and boars are stored with bicycles and other props used throughout the last two seasons. The new structure replaces the old technical building, a World War II-era edifice that was termite-ridden and plagued with leaks ominously positioned over electrical equipment.
Now that the $7.3 million renovations, additions and landscaping are nearly finished, "Lost" producer Jean Higgins has an additional plan: to possibly repair the water tank built at state expense for "Baywatch Hawaii" for shooting underwater scenes. The tank is now in such disrepair that it is used only for storage.
Past underwater sequences have fallen victim to the elements.
An early scene featuring Kate and Sawyer diving for a briefcase full of guns was shot in Waimea Valley, but a dive pool in Hawthorn, Calif., was the setting for the underwater portion, because water clarity at Ko Olina proved too unpredictable.
State Film Commissioner Donne Dawson said the state would be thrilled if "Lost" used the water tank, but the production would have to bear the cost of repairing it.
Dawson sees the renovated studio, still smelling of fresh paint, as a boon for Hawaii's film industry at a time when the market for commercial office space is tighter than ever. "Because this is state-owned and operated, we're able to offer it below market rates in order to 'incent' productions," she said. Though "Lost" is the sole occupant now, subsequent production companies will be able to configure the space however they wish.
Pop culture status
Honolulu Film Commissioner Walea Constantinau remembers watching "Hawaii Five-O" as a youngster and thinking, "Oh, what a great local show this is," having little concept of its widespread influence. Many people in Hawaii feel the same way about "Lost," she said. "Yet it's arguably the most successful show that we've had, certainly in recent years. It's destined to become as legendary as 'Hawaii Five-O.'"
Nielsen ratings indicate the series averages approximately 15 million viewers every week. But that's just the beginning.
There's an official magazine, unofficial Web sites, interactive games (download the Dharma Initiative countdown clock so that you too can input numbers every 108 minutes!), wallpaper computer desktops, T-shirts, mugs, caps, an Oceanic airlines bag -- the list goes on. Producers and fans exchange ideas and comments on message boards. Analyzing clues related to the geographical and psychological maze that envelops the sharply written series is a time-consuming effort for people who post theories and frustrations on any number of sites. A spinoff novel about a passenger on Oceanic Flight 815 is marketed on ABC's Web sites, and links such as www.thefuselage.com, lost-tv.com and www.oceanicflight815.com are just a click away.
Largely because of the two attractive Korean actors and their story line, "Lost" is extremely popular in Korea, according to Constantinau, and it airs on AXN, which serves an affluent market throughout Asia. Visually prominent "Lost" promos are evident throughout Eastern Europe in subways and on outdoor billboards and on Russian magazine covers.
"It's totally fascinating to people," said Constantinau, who noted that she can't keep track of the number of tours she's led for international press who want to write stories about "Lost" locations.
RICHARD WALKER / RWALKER@STARBULLETIN.COM
New production offices are under construction at Hawaii Film Studio near Diamond Head.
The series has made exceptional use of unexpected corners of Oahu. These include scenes at an old church in England (St. Andrew's Priory), a library in Jack's childhood home (the Pacific Club), Sawyer at Sydney Harbor with the iconic Opera House in the background (Ala Wai Harbor with a digitally imposed Sydney skyline), an airport in Australia (the Hawai'i Convention Center), a morgue (the Convention Center kitchen), a bunker in an Iraqi war camp (Diamond Head crater), Buffalo, N.Y., on a snowy day (a downtown street in Chinatown covered with manufactured snow), Korea (Valley of the Temples) and Bernard and Rose at Niagara Falls (Michel's restaurant with a digital view of the famous waterfall replacing Kaimana Beach).
One way producers have eased the struggle of shooting outdoors is by using a warehouse on Nimitz Highway for "exterior jungle nights." The crew gathered greens and built a forest in the warehouse, where the set can be darkened to look like nighttime. "This is much nicer for the cast and crew," said Higgins, because it means everyone can work a normal day and sleep at night, rather than shooting until all hours.
Hawaii provides an interesting mix of ethnic architecture, wilderness and beach, and "all are easily accessible," said Constantinau. Possibilities for next season include shooting on a neighbor island -- most likely the Big Island -- for even more diversity.
The steady parade of locations also allows members of the show to interact frequently with the business community, said Constantinau. Indeed, a significant portion of the show's budget is devoted to paying 950 vendors who dry-clean costumes, set up portable luas, deliver 50 pizzas at a time and more. Approximately 450 people are on the payroll, and most, except some writers and post-production staff, are located here.
RICHARD WALKER / RWALKER@STARBULLETIN.COM
A stuffed boar and a pair of legs are among the "Lost" props being stored at the site.