Cameras focused on "North Shore" star Kris Polaha as he cruised in a pickup truck through Haleiwa during first day of filming.

'North Shore' -- It's rolling!

The island-based series
gets under way with $2 million
budgeted for each show

Kapuna Kawena Mann's Hawaiian blessing began after 7 a.m. in the parking lot at Haleiwa Joe's restaurant. Dozens of crew members, producers and Fox TV executives reflected on the moment until producer Harry Bring broke the silence.

"OK all you scumbags, let's get to work," he said, joking. "We've got just 200 days until we wrap" in September.

Across Kamehameha Highway on the Haleiwa side of the bridge, crew busily prepared the first shot last Thursday for Fox's hotel drama "North Shore," Hawaii's first series since "Baywatch Hawaii" wrapped in 2001.

Joe Carini, owner of Bear Arms, which rents camera cranes to film productions, made final adjustments to his equipment, director of photography Christopher Faloona sat behind a monitor, and Kailuan Rick Brock, "A" camera second assistant, held up a digital clap board to document the time and place.

Pohala's garb was adjusted between takes.

Mann's mele told of the importance of clean water, which heals and nurtures everything it touches, from taro to people. It seemed a metaphor for a show whose producers are unusually well liked by the crew for their friendly, and respectful manner.

"It's early in the game," says Bring, a slender, polite man with kind eyes. "I can be mean, mean, I tell you."

"Harry doesn't get angry," a crew member whispers. "He gets disappointed."

All attention is focused on the Haleiwa bridge where surfers, bikini-wearing 20-somethings, and a truck driven by series star Kris Polaha are filmed passing by and over the structure. Thirty minutes later, Emmy award-winning director Michael Dinner is satisfied with six takes. "Good," he says.

"I think we could have shot that in three takes," Bring teases John Perry, unit production manager.

"Hey, wear long pants tomorrow so we don't have to see those spindly legs," Perry snorts back.

"You think so, whitey?" Bring says, pointing to Norris' pale limbs. "We don't have a big enough budget to buy sunscreen to protect that skin."

Producer Harry Bring is like the mild-mannered gent who morphs into Superproducer when the cameras start rolling, barking orders and joking on the set.

Not true. With $2 million budgeted per each of 13 planned episodes, the series may be the most expensive shot in the state. Fox also is building the most expensive TV set ever in Hawaii at the Hawaii Film Studio. The "lobby" of the fictional "Grand Waimea" will cost $850,000 when it's completed for filming May 10. About 80 carpenters in two crews of 40 each are working 12-hour shifts to meet the deadline. Overtime pay alone, approved by Fox before construction began, is about $300,000, said Bruce Margolis, senior vice president of Fox television production.

"North Shore" revolves around the interactions between the staff at a luxury Hawaiian hotel and the hotel's wealthy guests. At the center of the series is Jason Matthews (Polaha), the hotel's general manager. The series will delve into relationships among the recurring characters, including Brooke Burns ("Baywatch Hawaii"), and James Remar ("Sex and the City"), who plays the hotel's owner, Vincent Boyd, with the added intrigue of stories about the hotel's affluent and powerful guests.

Another "Baywatch Hawaii" vet on "North Shore" is Jason Momoa as a dreadlocked bartender. Michael Ontkean ("The Rookies," "Twin Peaks"), who lives on Kauai, will play Polaha's father, Gordon Matthews, owner of Gordy Matthew's Surf Shop.

Several local veteran "extras" are stand-ins for series stars: Floyd Vaughn for Ontkean; Dustin Geiger for Polaha.

Thursday's locations included the Surf 'n Sea surf shop as Gordy Matthew's Surf Shop; the Manu O Ke Kai Canoe Club's canoe house, and Jameson's restaurant. Hotel locations will be the Turtle Bay Resort and Ihilani Resort & Spa.

The Surf 'n Sea surf shop is transformed into Gordy Matthew's Surf Shop for filming.

POLAHA, 27, (TBS 0riginal movie "America's Prince The John F. Kennedy Jr. Story") is tall, dark and fit, looking the part of a surfer-turned-businessman in a dark blue suit. Despite his Hawaiian sounding last name, Polaha is Czech.

"I play the hotel owner's protégé and I have these conflicting ideologies going on between being a surfer and the desire to create something that is beautiful and luxurious," he says. "My father in the show is a surfing legend, former Pipeline Masters champion ... and now a surfboard shaper.

"We have some issues."

Polaha's character surfs, so the Reno-born, New York-trained stage actor has been taking lessons from the "North Shore's" Water Safety supervisor Brian Keaulana, and surfing instructor Hans Hedemann.

"Brian took me out there!" Polaha said, point to a distant point across from Haleiwa Boat Harbor. "It was in the middle of a storm; the water was swirling like a toilet bowl. Brian told me 'You can't panic until I panic.' "

Hedemann, who has instructed Adam Sandler, Cameron Diaz and Justin Timberlake, took Polaha out at Old Man's near Diamond Head.

"It seemed pretty big, probably too big for me at this stage," Polaha said. "But I caught a wave and stood up, so I'm getting there."

Polaha, the youngest of four sons, graduated from NYU's "Tisch School of Arts" earning a bachelor of arts in 1999. His theater credits include "Ragtime Revue" at Lincoln Center, "The Long Days Journey Into Night" at the Roundabout Theater, "Bread & Butter" at Provincetown Playhouse in New York City, and "Uncle Vanya" at the Stella Adler Conservatory. His television credits include "Roswell," "Birds of Prey," "Angel," and Fox's pilot episode of "Third Degree."

Polaha said being out of the Hollywood mainstream if the show becomes a hit will be healthy for him personally and professionally.

"I'll be able to focus only on the work," he said. "Fame is a very tempting mistress. If you don't have your head about you ... you can get sucked in."

Polaha admits he'll have an unavoidable "distraction" this August. He and his wife, actor Julianne Morris (Princess Greta von Amburg on "Days of Our Lives"), are expecting their first child.

"That's a distraction I'm really looking forward too," he said.

Emmy award-winning director Michael Dinner takes five on the set of "North Shore." The program is set for a June premiere.

BEFORE FILMING begins, Daryl Stant of Laie, a member of the production's water safety team, spends 30 minutes showing Ontkean how to use the belt sander on the white foam blank.

It takes Ontkean several attempts before he can slide the sander across the foam blank without gouging it.

In one scene, Polaha walks into the shaping room where Ontkean is deftly handling the sander along a narrow rail of the slender board. Bits of foam fly.

"Hey," Polaha says to his father who stares before speaking.

"You don't want to get dust on that suit," Ontkean says.

The scenes take more than an hour each to film, then the crew breaks for an overdue lunch. Each episode will take eight days to film, five to six days of exteriors, two to three days of interiors.

It was a no-brainer that Hawaii had to be the show's setting, although last year, Martha's Vineyard was being considered for the drama, Margolis says.

"Look at this natural beauty," he says. "No where else in the U.S. can you duplicate this. The show had to be here."

Fox exec VP Craig Erwich said the network picked up "North Shore" after viewing a 15-minute presentation reel.

"It felt like a show that delivers on good characters and relationships, along with a huge dose of wish fulfillment," Erwich said.

Hawaii's higher costs wasn't much of an issue, Margolis said. "It's always more expensive when you go out of (L.A.) to film, unless it's Canada, but you do it for the quality of the show."

Hawaii's proven ability to provide able crew helps to defray the cost of bringing in labor from L.A., which adds per diem expenses, Margolis said.

"We've only brought 12 people from L.A. out of more than 100 crew working on the show because we knew from personal experience and talking to other producers that all we needed was here. I think it's safe to say that Hawaii is meeting our expectations."

"North Shore" will premiere on June 14, and air twice a week.

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