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'Chicken skin horror suspense'


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POSTED: Monday, June 29, 2009

On the set of “;Truth or Dare,”; which on this night is shooting at the Aikahi gas station in Kailua, a patron eases up to the pump and assesses the camera, lights, makeup applied from the back of a car and actors rotating through the gas station restroom to change into their costumes.

“;It's super low budget,”; she declares to a friend.

Writer/producer/director Tom Boyle laughs when he overhears this and says to those standing near him: “;She has no idea.”;

With a few independent films to his credit, Boyle recently launched production of “;Truth or Dare,”; and he's making it work on a shoestring. For about $110, 000, he'll complete a full-length feature that involves approximately four weeks of shooting six days per week, with about 20 people at any given time. Boyle wants it to be in local theaters by Halloween. After that, he hopes it sells well on DVD.

“;Truth or Dare”; is a horror/thriller about six high school seniors in Hawaii who experience supernatural elements of the island while extending dares in cemeteries and other haunted areas of Oahu in 1987.

“;We're trying to be as true as possible to Hawaii,”; explains Boyle, who adds that the story is based on events he's experienced. His pitch? “;The Breakfast Club”; meets “;Bully.”; But he's also inspired by flicks like “;The Exorcist”; and “;The Omen”; because they're “;played straight.”;

Tired of movies that depict every kid in Hawaii running into the surf after school, he wants to tell an authentic story to which longtime island residents can connect. This is the first in a series of “;chicken skin horror suspense films”; which Boyle hopes will expose some untapped resources in Hawaii.

“;I want the film industry here to grow with stories about Hawaii that emerge from Hawaii filmmakers,”; he says. “;There's a lot of talent out here.”;

That aptitude includes film students from the Academy for Creative Media, like assistant director Mike Nagamine. He joins director of photography Jeff Butcher and Sabour Amirazodi, the visual effects supervisor (and the set photographer).

OF THE SIX principals, three were trained by local acting teacher Scott Rogers, owner of the Academy of Film and Television in Honolulu. Nearly all hail from Hawaii or have local ties. Kahuku graduate Chris Latronic is the host of OC16's “;Board Stories”; and dances for Tihati. Tabitha Jade, Tasha Woodfall, Julia Hemi and Sage Adams are (or were at one time) Hawaii residents. Only Ron Wells is from Los Angeles.

While Boyle touches up scratches in the movie's car with black ink, the attractive cast members review their lines and change into provocative Halloween costumes that stop traffic on the busy corner.

“;What are you guys doing?”; people holler out their car windows. “;Wow, you look great!”;

When asked what he will do if people came through the gas station while cameras are rolling, Boyle smiles and offers the typical indie solution: “;They'll be in the film!”;

After gathering at 7 p.m. and executing a few rehearsals, cameras prepare to roll at 9 p.m.—just as it starts to rain. Everyone scrambles for umbrellas. Boyle realizes that he has forgotten the Hawaiian blessing for the evening, and assembles the cast and crew next to the gas pumps to amend the omission.

“;As soon as we do the blessing, things go smoothly,”; he notes.

Just as they launch the scene again, live music sounds from a nearby bar, potentially interfering with dialogue. Boyle asks producer Wes Fleming if it can be turned down. Not possible, he's told. Boyle shrugs. “;It's good music, so at least we're being blessed.”;

While preparing for a subsequent scene in the mini mart (the real gas station attendant is given a uniform circa 1987 and asked to be in the film), Boyle quickly hides price tags and products that didn't exist in the 1980s. The actors, awaiting instruction, escape the steamy weather by piling into the mart's cooler. At one point, Boyle joins them, laughing—enjoying the camaraderie and relaxed atmosphere that seem to arise from operating on a tight budget.

BOYLE SAYS the project he's most proud of is his short documentary “;Madelyn Dunham and Barack Obama: The American Dream.”; A classmate of President Barack Obama's at Punahou, Boyle has pursued several projects related to the family's Hawaii ties.

“;Because Madelyn was a friend of mine and I've known Barack since the 7th grade, that one will always be important to me,”; he says.

Unlike his political commentaries, the primary demographic for “;Truth or Dare”; will be 13- to 21-year-olds. But Boyle expects the appeal to extend beyond teenagers.

“;There's a message in there that each generation is not so different from previous generations.”;

Boyle will shoot the cemetery scenes in Los Angeles to avoid any inappropriate trespassing on burial grounds in Hawaii.

“;I feel more comfortable going into mainland graveyards where they film all the time,”; he notes. “;I want to make sure that everything is pono. I want everyone to know that although this is a rite of passage, we're not encouraging people to disrespect any grave sites.”;

It's all part of exploring and sharing elements of Hawaii that typically remain shrouded, says Boyle.

“;There are so many good stories from here.”;