Star-Bulletin Features

Kailua High School graduate Albert Pyun is at work, standing above, on one of five motion pictures he plans to film on the Big Island. "We're going to find out just how many films can be done at once here," said Pyun. "We don't want to have to bring anybody in from L.A. or the other islands. We want this to be all Big Island work."

Reel deal

A Hawaii-born filmmaker is working
to establish a motion picture production
company on the Big Island

By Tim Ryan

In a bold move to create a self-contained motion picture production company in Hawaii, a filmmaker born and raised on Oahu plans to produce, direct, edit and sell independent films from the Big Island.

Albert Pyun, who has directed more than 40 films in the last two decades, began filming the thriller "Aloha My Love" at the Hilton Waikoloa Village last week. It's one of five films to be completed this summer.

Two other films are "Kapu," about a serial killer, and "Kona: Curse of the Komodo," described as a children's "Jurassic Park."

Debbie Rochon is among the actors appearing in Albert Pyun's "Aloha My Love," being filmed on the Big Island.

Pyun expects to cast rap artist Busta Rhymes in "Kapu" and Nelly for "Kona."

The three films will be shot in 18 days each on the Big Island's leeward side. The Big Island plays itself in "Aloha My Love" and "Kona," while serving as Indonesia in "Kapu."


Remakes of Pyun's "Kickboxer 2" and "Devil's Island" -- to be shot in Hilo, where he filmed 1983's "Radioactive Dreams" and 1990's "Nemesis" -- are the most prominent and expensive of the projects, and will be filmed in high definition and possibly 3-D.

Pyun declined to specify story lines or name the "pretty major stars" he expects to cast until negotiations are completed. Pyun's 1990 "Kickboxer 2" featured Jean-Claude Van Damme.

THESE PRODUCTIONS are just the beginning of what Pyun, 48, calls several "film packages" to be shot on the Big Island over the next six years. Three more pictures will begin filming in September.

Pyun, a Kailua High School graduate, created Hawaii Filmwerks in Kona last year to produce, edit and distribute the films.

Marilyn Killeri, Big Island film commissioner, said Hawaii Filmwerks' projects will provide the county with "an opportunity to build a film infrastructure that will lead to a diversified industry" on the island.

"The growth of this industry in and of itself is important, but it is also an environmentally clean industry and will provide technical (production) training for the people, as well as tremendous support for local business," she said.

Pyun is doing the three modestly budgeted pictures first to give Hawaii Filmwerks time to determine the number of available local crew and their abilities.

"We want to see who's here ... what we need to work on before we blast on to the last two medium-size films," he said.

Pyun's two larger productions are budgeted at $3 million to $8 million.

"It's a lot of movies to film at one time, but we wanted to create a constant stream of work on the Big Island to develop our own crews and infrastructure," said Pyun, who will produce the first four and direct the fifth.

He actually wanted to film the five concurrently, but there isn't enough crew available on the Big Island to fill the positions.


"We're going to find out just how many films can be done at once here," Pyun said. "We don't want to have to bring anybody in from L.A. or the other islands. We want this to be all Big Island work."

Pyun will bring in eight production staffers from his Santa Monica, Calif.-based Filmwerks only to get the first three films started. His business plan calls for a maximum of 35 full-time local staff. Crews for these first three films will number 30 to 40, increasing to 100 to 120 for the larger productions.

The studios backing Pyun's Big island projects wanted him to film a dozen pictures through November. "But I wanted a chance for the crew here to get used to us and come up to speed with the way we do things," he said.

Hawaii Filmwerks attempted unsuccessfully to film two pilots on the Big Island last year but relocated to Florida because of "union issues" here, Pyun said. "We learned a lot from the experience and came back much better prepared. There was a change in IATSE philosophy which helped us a lot."

Hawaii Filmwerks will do post-production work from its Kona offices. "That means we'll have a foreign sales organization based (here) so distributors will come to the Big Island, and that brings the pipeline and dollars to Hawaii," he said.

Hawaii Filmwerks at this point is exploring incentive options in the state, but the current projects are already financed independently.

But to increase the number of qualified Big Island crew post-production, Pyun anticipates sending some crew to Los Angeles for technical training.

After graduating from high school, Pyun worked as an assistant editor at KGMB, then moved to Los Angeles in 1977 to make feature films.

"I always made films as a kid," he said. "I'm doing now what I did when I was 10."

Pyun credits several Big Island companies -- Thrifty Car Rental and Hilton Waikoloa Village; IATSE and Teamsters union locals; state officials like Joe Blanco, the governor's high tech adviser; and county officials, especially film commissioner Killeri -- "for getting us here."

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