Movies Filmed: YBS partners Jon Brekke and Eric Nemoto, while associated with other production companies, as well as together producing LegacyVision Films under Yellow Brick Studio, combined have had a hand in producing or co-producing 13 movies (11 features and two shorts) of varying genres: the holiday family special, Tis The Season – A Hawaiian Christmas Story; the coming-of-age youth story, A Boy, A Girl, And A Dead Cat; the short film parody about off stage drama, Vent; the web series concept about a true Hawaiian hero, The Legend Of Chang Apana; the epic drama about death as being a part of the circle of life, Parts Of The Same Circle; the poignant, slice of life tale of personal growth that is devoid of cliches, A Breath To Survive; the crime thriller about one woman’s revenge for the murder of her sister, Natural Reaction; the romantic comedy drama about sexual harassment and the differences between the male and female species, Tiramisu On The Beach; the comedy about a neighborhood board meeting becoming the battleground between the young and the old, Juniper Lane; the mystery about a closet serial killer ready to retire after one last kill, So Close Shig; the zany laugh riot about food, merriment and chaos at the U.N., World Buffet; the heartrending tragedy told in reverse chronology, Before The After; and the murder mystery involving only one on-screen character who solves a 35-year-old cold case, The Landline Detective.
|Tis The Season - A Hawaiian Christmas Story|
LOGLINE: Facing economic hardships, a little girl and her parents learn the real meaning of Christmas with the guidance of a magical lady.
IMDB: Tis The Season – A Hawaiian Christmas Story
Jon filmed this movie back in 1992 and was completed in 1994. He also co-wrote the script with veteran Hollywood screenwriter, Ed Rothkowitz (Chicago Hope, Picket Fences, et. al.), and with the support of Executive Producer Bill Finnegan (the producer of the original “Hawaii Five-O” television series), produced this heartwarming movie that eventually was premiered at the Hawaii International Film Festival, was subsequently aired on the Hawaii ABC station (KITV), and won the Children’s Jury Award at the Chicago International Children’s Film Festival.
The Promotional Spot For “Tis The Season” Which Aired On Television
About the movie. Kimo, a dedicated worker at the sugar plant, is stunned when he is among those laid off. Worst of all it is right before Christmas. As he had dedicated his life to the company, this experience leaves him a bitter man. His wife must work double shifts to help the family out and this makes Kimo only more angry and depressed. As the days pass the future looks more and more bleak. But eventually they and their daughter, Heather, learn the real meaning of Christmas as they manage to persevere as a family while they face their economic hardships. Their struggle through adversity eventually takes a turn for the better when they meet, and are guided by a magical lady, Mrs. Livingston, who sells holiday wreaths at a roadside stand. Is Mrs. Livingston an angel? Or is she a wondrous spirit called “Mother Christmas?” We the audience are left to our own interpretations, but either way, she manages to somehow affect events by eventually helping to find a job for Kimo and the puppy that Heather always wanted. In the end we realize that the holiday season reminds us that what really is important is spending time together as a family.
Tis The Season is a wonderful story that features a terrific cast with stellar performances by its actors. Young Mindy Ballesteros plays innocent Heather, Carmella Barut plays her concerned mother, Nalani, and Ray Bumatai, playing Kimo, hits all the right notes as the worried and embittered father who ultimately finds his way. The movie also benefits from the casting of Hollywood veteran actress, June Lockhart (pictured at left), who plays Mrs. Livingston. Lockhart, who many may remember from her television days playing Ruth Martin on Lassie (1958-1964), and Maureen Robinson on Lost In Space (1965-1968), is wonderful as the magical, mysterious Mrs. Livingston, and was a real casting coup for the production.
Also of note, the movie features a poignant performance by the late, multi-talented Ray Bumatai (pictured at right), earlier in an acting career that spanned movies, television, and stage. Bumatai, whose dedication to acting would make him a Hawaii performing arts legend, would pass away in 2005 from brain cancer. He is known to have continued to play his role in a stage production when his affliction made him temporarily blind during a performance and he should have immediately checked himself into a hospital. His actions coined a phrase within the local theater community, “Ray Would Stay” – patterned after the iconic tribute to local surf legend, Eddie Aikau (“Eddie Would Go”) – as a testimony to Bumatai’s total dedication to his craft. Columnist, Lee Cataluna, wrote of this incident: Bumatai’s dedication is no act
Tis The Season was shot in 35 mm and at the time of its filming enjoyed a fairly significant production budget. But of course, as with any shoot, the production was not without its challenges. Its climactic scenes, shot during the holiday period at Honolulu’s City Hall to take advantage of a “free quarter of a million dollar set” that was bedecked with a bevy of Christmas lights and decorated trees, met with an unexpected crisis that not only threatened the scheduled shoot, but the eventual completion of the movie.
A shot of Honolulu City Hall during the holiday season.
The mayor of Honolulu at the time, who no one expected to be around since it was an evening shoot and it was also on the weekend, unexpectedly turned up to find someone had parked their car in his designated parking stall. This infuriated him and he subsequently ordered everyone off the premises immediately. In that haunting moment, the shoot, and the movie, was dead in the water. Jon, as director, was on only the first night of this two night shoot, was able to talk to the mayor and negotiate at least the completion of the first night’s shoot since everyone – cast, crew, and a hundred extras – were already there and filming had already proceeded. But in spite of this allowance the mayor was absolute in his decision that there would be no second night and so the entire production, with parts of the ending scenes “already” filmed at the established location and no authorization to complete the shooting of the remaining scenes the following night, looked to be doomed. But as the following video interview describes, in the time it took for Jon to cross the street from City Hall to the State Library, where he had told the entire production team to wait for him, he had already formulated a plan.
Essentially, while the crisis was dreaded, the solution was basically simple. If they did not finish the shooting of all the ending scenes scheduled for that night and the next, the movie could not, and probably would not, be completed. For with an upset mayor, there really were no prospects for “ever” finishing the movie since they could not count on being able to come back at any time in the near future or if at all. So Jon called a meeting of the entire cast and crew, explained the situation, and proposed that they do what they had no recourse but to do – finish “both” nights of shooting on the one night that they had. To a person, everyone agreed and jumped on board, and the production worked tirelessly through the night and into the next morning. By dawn, with the first of what would be many runners passing the front of City Hall (it was the day of the annual Honolulu Marathon) and the sun’s rising rays looming in the distance, Tis The Season wrapped its final scene, and Jon celebrated with his own personal Christmas present – a finished movie shoot in the can, completed amazingly against all the odds.
Jon directing Tis The Season. His decision to double up on shooting saves a movie.
Tis The Season – The movie in its entirety.
|A Boy, A Girl And A Dead Cat|
GENRE: Coming of age comedy drama.
STATUS: Completed and in distribution. A Boy, A Girl, And A Dead Cat is available on the Roku TV channels, 24 Hour Movie Channel, Free Flix Tonight, Free Flix Tonight GRINDHOUSE, and All Hawaii TV.
LOGLINE: On the way to the prom, four students run over a cat and decide it must bury the cat and give it a proper service first, and in so doing, a number of personal issues are resolved.
IMDB: A Boy, A Girl, And A Dead Cat
This movie was based on an original story by David S. Baker, and a subsequent screenplay co-written by Baker and Jon. Jon also co-produced the movie along with Barry Nakasone and Michael Powell, and all three served also as Executive Producers. With the majority of scenes filmed back in 1995 and subsequent scenes re-shot during portions of 1996-1998, A Boy, A Girl, And A Dead Cat was a tremendously successful micro budget production considering that it was filmed at numerous locations around Honolulu, including Chaminade University, Kawaihao Church Cemetery, and many portions of Keawe Street. Dead Cat premiered at the Hawaii International Film Festival, and was later screened at the Santa Clarita Film Festival, the Santa Fe Film Festival, and the Angel City Film Festival. Of particular note, the movie’s soundtrack is filled with songs from some of Hawaii’s most popular music artists, including Henry Kapono, Na Leo Pilimehana, John Cruz, Forte, Nux Vomica, Snake, and Mundai. The following is paraphrased from a review written in the Honolulu Star Bulletin on November 3rd, 1999:
“A Boy, A Girl and A Dead Cat,” directed by Jon Brekke, featuring a cast of actors from Hawaii, premiered at the 1999 Hawaii International Film Festival. The edgy “tween-age romantic comedy” is about the character Gordon, who is nearing the end of his high school days. Jeremy Pippen, at the time a 20-year-old student in journalism and theater at the University of Hawai’i, plays Gordon, who insists on being a Gloomy Gus even though he has a cherry convertible 1966 Plymouth Comet, his friends are funny and his blind date for the prom is a knockout. The ride to the prom takes a few twists and turns as Gordon and his friends wrestle with their fears and themselves. Other local actors include Deneb Catalan, Lena Kaneshiro, Kira Weber and Eric Nemoto, founder of The Actors’ Group. The “Dead Cat” soundtrack features cuts from local performers Henry Kapono, John Cruz, Forte, Nux Vomica and Na Leo Pilimehana. Brekke, a supporter and founder of Yellow Brick Studio, a small Kakaako theater group featuring original work, made his Hawaii film debut at the 1992 HIFF with ” ‘Tis the Season — A Hawaiian Christmas Story.” “A Boy, A Girl and A Dead Cat” has also been selected for the Angel City Film Festival, with screenings scheduled in Los Angeles and New Mexico.
Contrary to its curious title, Dead Cat is a wonderful coming-of-age youth tale that centers around Gordon, a high school student, and his heart wrenching back story. On the night of the big prom, Gordon has managed to secure the perfect convertible and date, beautiful Violet. But even with two “always up” friends, crazy Sid and funny Denise, who he’s also packing on a double date, he can’t seem to really enjoy the evening. Somehow, there’s a hidden gloom to Gordon, and his date can sense it.
While driving everyone to the prom they run over a cat and collectively the group decides that they cannot leave the dead animal a mere carcass on the road. Gordon in particular seems to harbor a labored guilt. At any rate, now they must lay the dead cat to rest by burying it and giving it a proper service. So their night at the big dance must first detour to a store to buy a shovel, then to a soccer store to ask for an empty box (the cat’s coffin), after which they head to a local graveyard to bury the cat. While at the graveyard they spend some time reading the grave stones and realize that all life, including their lives which are in the bloom of spring, eventually ends up, like the seasons do with winter, dead and buried. Of all of them, Gordon is the most affected by the notion of inevitable death. As they return to the reason they are there, to bury the dead cat, they are shocked to find that the place they start digging (near to some bushes) is where a homeless man is sleeping. His awakening and screams scares the four young people out of their wits and they run back to the car and drive away. Of course, Gordon has dropped the shovel they had especially bought for the task, and so not only do they not have a burial site, they don’t have a tool to dig the grave.
Gordon then decides he’ll take everyone to the prom and they can finish burying the cat later. At the prom, Gordon is confronted by Rick (played by Brian Fowler), the quintessential bad boy who’s older and out of school and happens to date Gordon’s ex-girlfriend. Rick picks a fight with Gordon, causing him to leave with Violet, while Denise and Sid stay back at the prom concerned for him. Prompted by Violet, they “borrow” a shovel from the garage of a business. They go to a graveyard that Violet suggests and while there Gordon confesses that his mother is buried there. We learn that Gordon’s mom, while running out of the house to prevent the family dog from escaping, is hit by a passing car and is killed. It becomes clear now, to Violet, why Gordon is always so down. But her friendship with Gordon, who has now been able to cry over the great tragedy in his life, can now bury his grief along with the cat in his backyard. They return to the prom and Gordon is able to confront Rick, who is eventually tossed out of the prom for his behavior. In the end Gordon lets Sid drive the convertible and he and Denise let Gordon and Violet have their time alone back at Gordon’s house. There, Gordon and Violet recount the night and finally kiss, and when Denise and Sid return, they all drive off into the breaking dawn and the beginning of a brand new day.
GENRE: Parody (Short Film).
STATUS: Completed and in distribution. Vent is available on the Roku TV channel All Hawaii TV.
LOGLINE: Cast members in a play taking place in a hole-in-the wall community theatre, complain about the production, their roles, and each other, around a rooftop vent.
Vent is a short film written, directed, and produced by Jon that was inspired by the theater group founded by Eric, known as The Actors’ Group (TAG). With his production office situated on the second floor of the building that housed the studio in which TAG produced its plays, Jon became very familiar with the “behind the scenes” goings on of the theater, which included gossip and drama (off the stage) about each production. Inspired by this, Jon wrote a script that featured TAG actors Leigh Ann Kinghorn, Dorothy Stamp, Betty Sanchez, and Eric actually playing themselves, in a tongue-in-cheek parody of the off stage “drama” of a typical TAG production. Additional supporting actors include Jeff Katts and Patrick Casey.
The film, a comedy that had the fledgling theater group poking fun at itself (while at the time TAG was emerging as a theater of substance it still had a reputation for being the bastard child of the local performing arts community), was shot over the course of three nights on the rooftop of the building that housed the theater, in a venue that was the original Yellow Brick Studio, in the Kaka`ako section of Honolulu, at 625 Keawe Street. The actual location of the shoot can be seen in the photo above only that the entire film takes place at night. No set design was necessary, what is seen in the above photo is what the roof of TAG actually looked like for the entire time that the group inhabited the place, 1994-2008; and this was the “clean” portion. The general premise of the film is that it depicts the supposed off stage moments (including intermission) of a fictitious play that is happening. The characters, each complaining about the production they are in and about each other, actually spend most of their time “venting” their frustration around an actual rooftop vent.
Vent – The Complete Short Film In Its Entirety
Vent was produced and filmed in 2003 and premiered in Hawaii at the Ohina Short Film Festival. In 2008, TAG finally left their intimate hole-in-the-wall location (36 seat capacity if everyone squeezed in and held their collective breaths) on Keawe Street and moved to the Mendonca Building in Chinatown in downtown Honolulu and operated there for two years. Then in 2010, it moved again to its current 70-seat location in the Shops at Dole Cannery, 650 Iwilei Road, Suite 101, Honolulu, HI 96817: The Actors’ Group – TAG
An Era Ends – The Eventual “Cleaned Out” Rooftop In 2008 After TAG Finally Moved.
|The Legend Of Chang Apana|
GENRE: Action Adventure (Short Film).
STATUS: The first episode of The Legend Of Chang Apana is completed and in development for web series. It is also available on the Roku TV channel All Hawaii TV.
LOGLINE: Inspired by the life of Chang Apana, the real life Honolulu Detective of the early 1900’s who was the inspiration for Hollywood’s “Charlie Chan,” this is a proposed series about the adventures of Apana who enforced the law without a gun, but rather with his horse whip.
IMDB: The Legend Of Chang Apana
When one talks of Hawaii’s legends, men who are truly known in history to have had some lasting impact on our culture, a number of prominent names come to mind. Of course there’s King Kamehameha, the man who united the Hawaiian Islands. There’s Duke Kahanamoku, the father of surfing and the famed Olympic swimmer. Don Ho, “Mr. Waikiki” and an ambassador of Aloha. And Senator Daniel K. Inouye, WWII hero and a titan of the United States Senate.
But among those who have affected society beyond our shores, but who don’t immediately come to mind, is the name of Chang Apana. A former paniolo (“Hawaiian cowboy”) of Chinese-Hawaiian descent, Apana was a member of the Honolulu Police Department who became its most famous detective. His exploits with the department were to become so legendary that he became the inspiration for American novelist and playwright Earl Derr Biggers to create his fictional Asian detective character known as “Charlie Chan.”
Chang Apana was born Ah Ping Chang on December 26, 1871, in Waipio, Hawaii. His family moved back to China when he was 3, but Chang returned at the age of 10 to live with his uncle back in Waipio. As an adult, Chang was fluent in Hawaiian, Chinese, and of course the local creole, “pidgin.” In 1891 he started working as a paniolo (Hawaiian cowboy) and part of his job was to carry a bullwhip, which he became very proficient at using. Three years later, Chang started working for the Hawaii Humane Society, which at the time was part of the police department. He quickly moved up the ranks and due in part to his fluency in several languages, he gained a wide network of informants which helped him develop a shrewd and meticulous detective style that made Chang very successful in solving many cases.
Throughout a colorful career, Chang’s exploits became the stuff of legend. Of many adventures, he helped to round up people infected with leprosy and while performing this duty, Chang was attacked by a Japanese leper with a sickle, leaving him with a distinctive scar over his right eye. Another time Chang was thrown out of a second story window by drug addicts only to land on his feet. There is an account that on a single night in Honolulu, with no backup and armed only with his bullwhip, Apana arrested 40 gamblers, whom he then lined up and marched back to the police department. In effect, one could argue that he was Hawaii’s first action hero. But in an era of no Internet, indeed not even television, the adventures of Hawaii’s most famous cop became long forgotten over time.
Not anymore. For while serving as creative director at Oceanic Time Warner in Hawaii, Jon was also given leeway to develop creative content outside of the company’s normal programming that was aired on its station, OC-16. Spurred on by a bevy of interns who pleaded with him to work on something other than the usual marketing commercials and promos, he inquired around and found an idea by colleague John Noland that seemed perfect. Noland, who growing up in Hawaii used to wonder why there were never any local heroes in the movies or on TV (especially since Hawaii had its share of world icons like Kamehameha, Duke Kahanamoku, etc.), told Jon of the exploits of Apana that seemed more legend than fact, and from this the idea of developing a series revolving around the adventures of Apana was born. Finding enthusiastic support from both his staff and his boss, Jon pitched The Legend of Chang Apana to the one actor he thought totally embodied the character, Hollywood star, Cary-Hiroyuki Tagawa (Mortal Kombat, American Me, Memoirs Of A Geisha, et. al.). Tagawa, caught by surprise by the pitch and busy with two productions on the mainland (Tekken, Hachi: A Dog’s Tale), was nonetheless immediately intrigued by the notion and quickly responded “Yes.”
Things came together quickly. Jon envisioned using graphics that resembled those used for the old television series The Wild Wild West; essentially using present day technology inspired by old style TV. He got filmmaker Michael Wurth to write the script and direct the shoot, while he pulled the production together and directed the 3D portion of it by working closely with his animator. Highlighting Apana’s skill with the whip was Jon’s idea, particularly the notion of it cracking in 3D. The result is an exciting take on a hero from Hawaii’s past, shot in a hip and slick manner that audiences of today will love.
An Interview With Cary-Hiroyuki Tagawa (a video interview shot by the Pacific Network)
The Legend Of Chang Apana premiered at the Los Angeles Asian Pacific Film Festival and was also shown at the Hawaii International Film Festival (HIFF) where it was selected for a special HIFF Sunset on the Beach screening.
The Legend Of Chang Apana – The Complete Short Film In Its Entirety
|Parts Of The Same Circle|
STATUS: In distribution. Parts Of The Same Circle is available on Spectrum Video On Demand, as well as the Roku TV channels, 24 Hour Movie Channel, Free Flix Tonight, Free Flix Tonight GRINDHOUSE, and All Hawaii TV.
LOGLINE: 11 storylines revolving around the theme of death interweave with the message that dying is not apart from life, but rather an integral part of the circle of life.
IMDB: Parts Of The Same Circle
Parts Of The Same Circle was written and co-directed (with Denny Hironaga) by Eric, and produced under the production company, Serenergy Productions, which was established in 2010 by five individuals – Eric, Dann Seki, Allan Okubo, Jim Tharp, and Denny Hironaga – who had all been associated with the local performing arts community for years, and who had been individually associated with many independent film projects on their own. Based on their years of experience and a collective “we can do this on our own” mentality, they elected to combine their talents and financial resources for the purposes of creating an independent motion picture.
The producers of Parts started with a clean slate; literally a blank sheet of paper upon which story points were jotted down during a single brainstorming meeting. What came out of this session were three main objectives: 1) the theme of the movie would revolve around how people are affected by and deal with death; 2) leading roles would be written for four of the five producers (Denny, a self professed “non-actor,” would serve as co-director, DP, and editor); and 3) the production would include as many local actors as possible in an attempt to showcase the great talent in Hawaii. Armed with this “mission,” Eric proceeded to feverishly write the screenplay and finished it in nine days.
The result was a drama that featured 11 separate stories following people in Hawaii whose lives are affected by death in some fashion. These include siblings who were never close having to come together to plan their father’s funeral, the romantic bliss of two divorcees finding each other being brutally interrupted by the discovery that the woman has terminal cancer, golfers dealing with the immediacy of death when one of the foursome dies of a heart attack after a great shot, and the wonders that a bank VP discovers when he is forced by his boss to go on a ghost tour as a condition of becoming the next president of the company. Through these storylines, that serendipitously weave together, the characters learn how death can change their lives forever and serves as a metaphor for tragedy, redemption, reconciliation, love, wonder, and even humor.
Given the multiple storylines, Parts turned into an incredibly ambitious project requiring the filming of 180 separate scenes using over 60 different shooting locations; and true to their intentions, the producers cast nearly every major Hawaii actor while coordinating a total of over 250 acting talent in all by the time the production was completed. To coordinate this massive project, the producers designed a meticulous shooting schedule which they used to consistently shoot scenes on selected weeknights and weekends over the course of an entire year (January through December 2011). In the end this resulted in the production actually finishing ahead of schedule (it was anticipated that filming would require the equivalent of 40 full days of shooting, but in fact principal photography was completed after what was determined to be the equivalent of 38 days). Essentially, Parts became an epic shoot that ultimately required herculean efforts from the team. Allan tenaciously scouted, negotiated, and secured the use of the great majority of the locations. Dann had the unenviable assignment of coordinating all of the talent for each shoot and did so with incredible efficiency. Denny eventually had to create the movie while sifting through over 36 hours of total footage. And Jim Tharp, who portrays the pivotal central character of Reverend James Katsner, gives the rock solid performance that is at the heart of the movie.
The trailer for Parts Of The Same Circle, filmed and produced by Denny Hironaga.
The production was particularly made possible by the partners’ personal connections to the local performing arts and film community as they were able to recruit Hawaii’s finest actors to participate in the project; most of whom agreed to work gratis (save for a few SAG actors who were required to be paid according to union rules). The following segment on Hawaii News Now features Eric and Dann Seki, two of the five producers of Parts, discussing how the movie was made.
Dann Seki and Eric Nemoto talk about the making of “Parts.”
The successful completion of Parts Of The Same Circle demonstrates how a massive independent movie production can be effectively and efficiently organized. For in spite of the enormous logistical challenges that the project presented, by tenaciously continuing their shoot schedule, the producers managed to managed to complete principal photography ahead of schedule. Parts was privately premiered on August 18, 2012 at the Leeward Community College Theatre, for which an advance ticket sale drive attracted over 1,000 reservations for two screenings (the video below, recorded and compiled by Denny Hironaga, shows footage from the event).
Parts was subsequently accepted to and screened at both the Hawaii International Film Festival (HIFF) and the Big Island Film Festival (BIFF). Reviewer Robert Pennybacker (Honolulu Weekly, October 2012) reported the following after watching the HIFF screening:
I found myself crying and laughing throughout the movie without once feeling manipulated. The fact that a film like this has seen the light of day tells me that Hawaii’s independent film movement is finally starting to grow up. What it took was courage, commitment, and intelligence – qualities that these filmmakers have in spades.
|as words breathe|
STATUS: In Distribution. A Breath To Survive is available on various Roku TV channels: 24 Hour Movie Channel, Free Flix Tonight, Free Flix Tonight GRIND HOUSE, and All Hawaii TV.
LOGLINE: A woman unplugs from the corporate world and learns to find the art in her life.
IMDB: A Breath To Survive
This was Jon’s third feature length movie. And his intent with this film was to make a movie which would demonstrate how personal change could be accomplished while being entirely devoid of cliches. The result was A Breath To Survive, a beautiful story of a woman who unplugs from the corporate grind and discovers the art in her life.
After resigning her career path oriented bank executive’s job amidst parting comments from her boss that “she’ll be back,” Lisa (portrayed with great sensitivity by Stephanie Kuroda) finds herself confronting the stark reality that her world has been turned upside down. In the confines of her apartment we see her go through a metamorphosis as she deals with anger, grief, apprehension, fear, and finally acceptance.
In the process Lisa reinvents herself by finding the true artist that always lived within her, discovering a love of photography, music, and poetry. She is helped by her young niece, Sara (Brandi Taylor), whose visits help Lisa as she evolves during this transition in her life; but also, through the reality of Sara’s mother (Lisa’s sister) being a drug addict who doesn’t watch over Sara, gives Lisa a reason to go beyond just focusing on her own troubles. Through Lisa’s advice, Sara is spared the potential for abuse at the hands of her mother’s boyfriend, and in the end both Lisa and Sara, closer than ever, finally leave the apartment together to go on a hike, which serves to signify a brighter future for both, particularly Lisa, who has now evolved into a person who knows herself well and who will be able to accept life’s challenges with joy and confidence.
Jon wrote, directed, and co-edited A Breath To Survive and it is a visually striking piece of work with an amazing soundtrack. The movie was filmed periodically over a year and took the equivalent of 25 literal shooting days (12-13 full days). It is an example of how moving drama can be accomplished by focusing on the arc of one character while filming in the most minimalist of settings – primarily the inside of one apartment with different scenes shot in various rooms. It was premiered on July 11, 2013 for an invited audience at the Consolidated Kahala Theatres in Honolulu, where it was very enthusiastically received.
A Breath To Survive is a story that many who have gone through changes in their lives will come to identify with and which especially resonated with those who viewed the movie at the premiere. John Kalani Zak, producer and director of the popular Hollywood soap operas, Bold And The Beautiful and Days Of Our Lives, captured the sentiments of many:
I just attended a screening of Jon Brekke’s film, “A Breath To Survive.” Lovely, sensitive film, relevant for anyone trapped in a life that no longer fulfills. Performances are subtle, deft, and effective. Beautifully directed and photographed.
A Breath To Survive was also accepted to and screened in the Fandependent Film Festival.
In late 2017, A Breath To Survive was expected to be released to the public via Amazon by producer/director Jon Brekke under a new title, As Words Breathe. The new release once again featured its terrific soundtrack and brilliant high definition look, and its basic theme, one woman’s journey of personal discover, where the heroine looks within, to herself, to find out who she is, should resonate with audiences even more considering the divisive nature of the current times.
Poster Created By Earl-Louis
STATUS: In distribution. Natural Reaction is available for rent and purchase online at amazon.com (it is free with Amazon Prime), as well as through the Artemis Motion Pictures #WomenKickAss Content Library, an online movie platform focusing on action movies featuring empowering women. It is also available on the Roku TV channels, 24 Hour Movie Channel, Free Flix Tonight, Free Flix Tonight GRINDHOUSE, and All Hawaii TV.
LOGLINE: Enraged that the law can’t keep her sister’s murderer in prison, a woman lures a serial killer onto a hiking trail at night to exact her revenge.
IMDB: Natural Reaction
This action thriller, shot in just 11 days, was filmed predominantly amidst the natural beauty of Ho`omaluhia Botanical Gardens in Kaneohe, Hawaii, in 2014. Financed by Executive Producer and lead actress, Ana Jimenez McMillan, who approached YBS to develop a movie project for her. Huddling with Jon and Eric, the resultant story concept involved a woman pushed to her limit when the man who raped and killed her twin sister is freed due to a technicality, which prompts her to take matters into her own hands by transforming herself into a butt-kicking vigilante. It stars Ana Jimenez McMillan as Rita, the woman bent on taking her revenge, and Troy Ignacio, as Vincent, the serial killer.
The Trailer For Natural Reaction – Created By Earl-Louis
The title of the movie was conceived by Ana herself, who felt the character’s response was a kind of “reaction” to the circumstances she faced. “RXN,” which in chemistry is an abbreviation for reaction, was something she thought could be part of the title, so the initial working title was, “Natural RXN.” This was eventually lengthened to its eventual title, Natural Reaction, but the RXN acronym was eventually written into the story. Once the story concept was agreed to the writing began. Eric wrote the screenplay in two weeks, and this essentially became the production script utilized on set with some variations in dialogue. Jon served as director and editor, and the project received great help from Ross Okamura (Audio Bytes Corporation), who handled the audio post production. Natural Reaction was accepted into the 2016 Artemis Women In Action Film Festival in Santa Monica, California; a film festival that “… celebrates action films and the women who kick ass in them.”
Rita Dons War Paint – A Teaser Of Things To Come
(Edited By Denny Hironaga & Jon Brekke)
As the movie opens we find Rita, in a state of almost catatonic depression. Phone messages she never returns alert us to the fact that something terrible had happened in the past.
Finally answering a call from her brother-in-law Jonathan (Jim Aina) reveals his concern for her getting out of the house and confirming that he will drop his kids off with her for the weekend. Rita responds that she’s continuing to see her therapist, tries to dabble in her art to occupy her time and consistently goes running.
A detective, Mark (Theo Coumbis), visits her when she’s out running and is informed by Rita’s neighbor, Heather (Tiffany Rose Brown), that she’s not home. We discover through their dialogue that Rita’s sister was raped and murdered by a man, Vincent, who is freed due to technicalities, and is living in a shack near to Rita’s house. Rita can’t help but be drawn to Vincent on her runs and asks him, “Why can’t you just leave us alone?” Vincent, a pathological killer, has no sense of remorse and on the contrary, openly taunts Rita.
At night, Heather visits Rita and tells her that she’s concerned that she’s withdrawing into herself, and that she would like her to get back to painting landscapes. Through their conversation we learn the depths of Rita’s grief. She and her sister Rona did everything together, and her murder not only deprives Rita of a sibling, but in fact her best friend. As Heather consoles Rita, Vincent spies on them through the window.
The next day, Jonathan drops off his kids, Ally (Brandi Taylor) and Evan (Landon Richards), and we realize that it was his wife who was murdered. Rita will take the kids for a few days while he takes some time for himself. Rita and the kids go on a hike where she tells them that she and their mom used to play “hero and the monster.” “Your mom never liked being the monster,” Rita says, “I was always the better monster.” Meanwhile, Mark is so obsessive about Vincent being free that he confronts him in a bookstore.
Mark gets in hot water with the captain for harassing Vincent and is put on leave for two weeks. Through his discussions with his partner we discover that the reason for Vincent not being behind bars is that after Mark brought him in for the murder of Rita’s sister, the forensics department let the evidence become contaminated which allowed Vincent to go free; an incident that has haunted Mark ever since. Later, Rita asks Heather to stay with the kids as she goes grocery shopping, during which time Vincent gets in the house and terrorizes them, leaving only when he hears Rita returning. At night, Mark gets the facts from Heather, who responds traumatically, “He would have killed us. He would have killed all of us.” Mark notices that of Rita’s many art pieces one looks foreboding, it has the initials “RXN.” Heather says that the acronym stands for a chemical “reaction,” and that it was only “natural” for Rita to find a way to express her deep sorrow.
In the early morning hours, as Mark keeps watch throughout the night, Rita leaves through the back bedroom door without anyone’s knowledge. Now turning the tables on Vincent, Rita spies on him in the dark of night. With war paint on her face, she stands in the rain and raises a knife. Her vindication is set to begin…
Ana Jimenez McMillan talks about the making of “Natural Reaction.”
|Tiramisu On The Beach|
GENRE: Comedy Drama.
STATUS: In distribution. Tiramisu On The Beach is available for rent/purchase on amazon.com, including free viewing through Amazon Prime. It is also available on the Roku TV channel, All Hawaii TV.
LOGLINE: At a chef prepared dinner on a beach in Hawaii, two lawyers, ex-lovers, engage in verbal warfare about the male and female species.
IMDB: Tiramisu On The Beach
Tiramisu On The Beach is written by Eric and Jon, and is about a man and a woman, opposing attorneys in a sexual harassment lawsuit, who meet on a beach to settle the case and engage in banter about the incompatibility of the male and female species. Jon served as director and editor of the movie, and prior to filming, had also directed Tiramisu successfully four times; once as a stage play (The Actors’ Group, 2005), once for a sexual harassment workshop (Oceanic Time Warner, 2008), and twice as a dinner show (Indigo Restaurant, 2006, Arts at Marks, 2012). In the video below James McCarthy (Chef Paul), Lauren Murata (Tara), and Eric (Wren), the cast members from the last time Tiramisu was produced as a dinner show, promoted the upcoming movie in a Kickstarter campaign. This video, written by Eric and filmed and produced by Jon, provides a good tongue-in-cheek overview of what the movie is all about.
Tiramisu was filmed on the beautiful grounds of Turtle Bay Resort on the North Shore of Oahu, Hawaii in February/March of 2015. Financed by Executive Producer William J. Schaedel, the movie was shot in 10 incredible days by the YBS production crew who had to brave the wind and the rain, while trying to assure that the production did not adversely impact vacationing yoga enthusiasts (Turtle Bay was hosting the “Wanderlust” festival, its biggest conference of the year), or affect the birthing of a monk seal that was thought to be ready to give birth near the shooting location. The setting for all of the scenes took place near the Keiki Pool, a little cove about a half mile east of the hotel along the coast. The Keiki (“child”) Pool is named for its ever-calm and safe swimming environment for children. This natural pool was formed during 1946 tsunami that pushed up two ocean bedrock formations creating a protected enclosure, making it much calmer than the surrounding waters. Every day, for 10 days, cast and crew would drive a caravan of cars and SUVs from the main hotel parking lot, along the beach, through the golf course, and through the forest; hauling film equipment, personnel, and craft in order to set up our shooting location. A bit challenging to say the least. But the efforts have proven worth it. The shots for Tiramisu, successfully produced as a stage production four times (see more info to follow), look great and we anticipate a great romantic comedy when it is finally completed. For the movie, Eric (Wren) and James McCarthy (Chef Paul) reprise their roles from previous productions, while New Yorker (by way of Florida) Claudine Quadrat, plays Tara.
Photos from the Tiramisu shoot courtesy of Mike Mazzola.
Tiramisu is about a man, Wren, and a woman, Tara – intense, high-powered attorneys representing opposing sides in a sexual harassment case – who meet at a beach park to celebrate an out-of-court settlement. They represent opposing sides of a sexual harassment lawsuit, with Wren representing the old CEO of the company who is accused of sexually harassing his personal assistant represented by Tara. Because they have arrived at a verbal agreement to settle the case with the CEO paying $200,000, Wren has arranged a chef catered dinner on the beach. Of course, Wren and Tara are not unknown to each other. In fact they know each other well, very well. Many years before when Tara was a young para legal she and Wren, a partner, had an affair which ultimately turned ugly when she was fired and then subsequently sued the law firm for the same reasoning, sexual harassment. The irony is enhanced even more by the fact that since that time she has gone on to become an expert in her field (sexual harassment) and no longer is the subordinate to Wren, who was back then the “all powerful partner” who might have taken advantage of the young naive woman that Tara once was. As a wacky Chef Paul arrives to start preparing their fine dining experience, Tara announces that her client is no longer willing to accept a “mere” $200,000, but now wants $5,000,000. This totally unexpected matter then sets the tone for the rest of the evening where both Wren and Tara trade verbal punches about each other as well as then entire male and female species as a whole. In the end, both their professional and personal viewpoints are revealed as they recount and explain their actions when their own affair imploded long ago. A delightful movie about sex, the law, and food, Tiramisu On The Beach will be the perfect movie to show the office secretary… or, personal assistant… or, administrative assistant. Whatever.
The following are a few rough cut scenes from the movie.
Tiramisu On The Beach could not have been completed without the contribution of Larry Cortez, who performed multiple duties and went well beyond the call of duty. Not only did he serve as the editor of the movie, he inserted B-roll footage, worked on the sound design, personally handled all ADR recordings of the actors, took added location shots and inserted them into the movie, coordinated and conducted the drone shots, created the music design, and was the person who reached out to singer/songwriter Kapono Na’ili’ili, to allow the production to use his wonderful music to serve as the the movie’s soundtrack. The trailer for Tiramisu, edited by Larry, follows.
STATUS: In distribution. Juniper Lane is available for rent/purchase on amazon.com, including free viewing through Amazon Prime. It is also available on the Roku TV channel, All Hawaii TV.
LOGLINE: A typical neighborhood board meeting is thrown into chaos when four young members of the community show up and speak out against the latest street light that is being proposed by the elderly members of the board.
IMDB: Juniper Lane
Juniper Lane was first produced as a dark night play for The Actors’ Group in 2013 (promotional flyer to right). It was written by Eric largely to provide an opportunity for members of an acting class he taught to perform in a stage play. Writing basically to fit the actors precast in the production, Eric created a comedy revolving around one night at a community center where the usually non-attended neighborhood board meeting becomes a hotbed of chaos when four people attend the meeting to protest the board’s intention of putting up another street light in the wake of an elderly person being hit by a car; a streetlight that promises to make the morning and afternoon rush hour commutes even longer. The meeting turns into a battle between the young visitors and the older, predominantly retired, board members. The play ran for six nights and was a surprise hit.
Juniper Lane, the movie, from the initial moment of inspiration (to film the movie) to the wrapping of the final day of the shoot, was done in an unbelievable two months. The inspiration to do the movie began at the actual wrap party for another YBS movie, Tiramisu On The Beach. Basking in the glow of having wrapped that movie, members of the production crew started to talk about “doing another movie.” Eric took the idle banter seriously and told everyone that it was possible to film another movie quickly on a micro budget which could cover the costs of shooting the movie if the story involved a simple one location setting. To this he offered the prospect of filming Juniper Lane, which takes place in one meeting room.
Following up on an inspiration received at the wrap party for a previous movie, Eric recruits supporters, raises a budget, selects a cast, hires a crew, finds a location, develops a shoot schedule, and gets Juniper Lane shot and in the can in two months.
Immediately, Eric began contacting those who had contributed to the unsuccessful Kickstarter campaign for Tiramisu, essentially asking if those same contributors wouldn’t mind committing their pledges to “another” movie. These people (particularly actor David Matthew Jenkins, who became the first to invest in the movie, which served to kick up the initial momentum of the project) said they would be more than happy to transfer their support to another project. Next, he cast all the roles but also in so doing asked if actors would be interested (but were under no obligation to do so) in investing in the movie and becoming pro-rated (their contribution over the total eventual production budget) owners of the movie. Every actor recruited said “yes” and contributed in various amounts. A few other supporters, who had heard of the prospect of investing in the movie, elected to invest as well. In short, the contributions of the prior Tiramisu Kickstarter campaign, the actors themselves, and a few others, raised a sufficient budget that was sufficient to hire a small film crew, pay for the film equipment, cameras, hard drives, and memory cards, as well as a decent craft budget, and amazingly, the shoot was on.
The cast and crew take a break from filming Juniper Lane. Photo courtesy of Mahealani Diego
Hence, financed by a number of supporters, Juniper Lane was written, directed, and produced by Eric, and was shot by DP Earl-Louis Williams, with filming taking place over an amazing eight (8) days – from April 28, 2015 to May 6, 2015 (one night actors were not called) – at the St. John’s The Baptist Catholic School (see photo at right) in Honolulu, Hawaii, which provided the fictitious meeting room of the Canyon Neighborhood Board, the fictitious community organization situated “somewhere” in the continental USA. The production greatly benefited from the participation of Mahealani Diego who as makeup head brought along her team (five total) who were essential in handling hair and makeup for the large ensemble cast. The cast in this heartwarming comedy include David Matthew Jenkins (Brian), Lara Palafox (Terry), Rob Earle (Gary), Kathy Bowers (Winona), Starla Marie (Sari), Dann Seki (Roy), Tate Rolfs (Robert), Jana Park Moore (Charlene), Jeri Lynn Endo (Ginny), Margaret Jones (Nancy), Mary Ann Vasaturo (Michele), Dennis Ihara (Pete), and Gerald Altwies (Tom). The voices of Bill Baist, Ron Riles, Steve Dillard, Patrick Jeppeson, and Margo Baist portray other characters. Earl-Louis served as editor of the movie and Ross Okamura (Audio Bytes Corporation) provided audio post production.
The recruitment of Baist, in particular, was a coup. Known throughout the State of Hawaii as the “Golden Voice,” Bill, for decades, had been known for his terrific on-air voiceovers that had been featured on countless radio ads and television commercials. Sadly, Bill passed away in 2016 before Juniper Lane was privately premiered on June 15, 2017. Still, the movie captures his magnificent voice as his legacy and can be heard in the following video. The movie ultimately was dedicated to Bill, who also served as an Executive Producer.
The opening and closing credits for Juniper Lane featuring Hawaii’s “Golden Voice,” the late Bill Baist, as edited by Earl-Louis.
Juniper Lane revolves around one night at a neighborhood board meeting. On the agenda for this meeting, influenced by the fact that an elderly woman was hit by a car at a busy intersection, is a proposed resolution to recommend to the city council that a traffic light be constructed at the intersection. We learn that this is the fifth accident in the last three years, and in the previous times, the board’s actions have resulted in a traffic light being constructed. The members of the board are all retirees. They are dedicated to the community and their record of not missing a meeting for over ten years backs this up. They meet every month and usually no one attends. But on this night, four young people decide to attend to express their opposition to the resolution, citing the fact that with every new light that is built, the traffic gets worse. The meeting proceeds through introductions, meeting motions, divergent personalities, misstatements, misunderstandings, shouting matches, and eventually reconciling speeches. As the question is called and the final board vote is compiled we are surprised to find that the resolution in support of the traffic light is voted down, and that a majority of the board members were against it all along. Reaching a level of understanding with the elder board members, the four young visitors elect to stay for the remainder of the meeting, a gesture that gives hope for the community’s future.
The cast and crew on the final night of a terrific eight day shoot. Photo courtesy of DP (and break dancer) Earl-Louis Williams.
|So Close Shig|
GENRE: Dark Comedy/Thriller.
LOGLINE: A widower’s grief masks his anxiety of wanting to kill the last of the 20 men who had slept with his wife, culminating an odyssey that began with his first murder – his wife – 20 years before.
IMDB: So Close Shig
This movie stars veteran Hawaii actor, Dann Seki, in a terrific performance that covers the spectrum of emotion – sad and tragic, ecstatic and maniacal, at times his bizarre behavior is comical, other times terrifying. Dann plays Horace Shigematsu, who goes by his nick name of “Shig.” Despite Shig’s common appearance as an unassuming retiree, we discover that he is really a closet serial killer. The movie follows him throughout a day and night where he is plotting to kill his next victim.
Dann Seki portrays the closet serial killer, Horace “Shig” Shigematsu
(Photo courtesy of Rick Bernico)
Shig originated during the post-production of Juniper Lane in January 2016 when DP and Editor Earl-Louis Williams commented to Director Eric Nemoto about one of Juniper’s actors, Dann Seki. “He’s the easiest to edit. He always has his lines down and every take his body actions and gestures are always the same so it makes matching shots from multiple cuts easy.” Of course this was no surprise. Dann, a veteran Hawaii actor with a long list of stage and screen credits, was certainly a gifted actor who, with his years of experience, gave him the knowledge of how to play to the camera. In addition, Earl suggested to Eric, “We ought to just film something else while we continue to pound Juniper out.”
Influenced by Earl’s comments, Eric set about thinking up a story that would feature Dann in the lead. Soon, he feverishly wrote a 97 page script in a week entitled, So Close Shig, in which Seki would play a retired, quiet man in his late sixties who seemingly still grieves over his deceased wife, who purportedly died in a swimming accident 20 years before. But in the movie we find he is really a closet serial killer who has methodically been killing off his wife’s former lovers (20 of them) throughout the years, and that his first murder victim was his wife, whose body is actually buried in his back yard; entombed under the pavement to the side of the swimming pool.
Once the script was written the production was quick to assemble. Dann was in and Eric and Earl would again direct and DP respectively. Other actors – Steve Cedillos, Jana Park Moore, Noelle Yoza, Thomas Smith, Patrick Jeppeson, Rick Bernico, Ron Riles, and Rebecca McCarthy – quickly followed. Mahealani Diego, who had provided such great assistance to previous Yellow Brick movies, Natural Reaction, Tiramisu On The Beach, and Juniper Lane, came on board to serve as co-producer along with Eric, and brought in other members of her crew – Corynn Musser (who would serve as AD), Nina Bellord, and Patrick Guanzon. The location for Shig’s house was a home in Mililani (pictured at right) as provided by the parents of actress, Yoza. Other locations around the island included Ala Moana Beach (see left photo courtesy of Rick Bernico), Sandy Beach, Proof Public House, and various roads and streets. The production was shot in March 2016 in a lightning fast seven days.
As the story enfolds, we discover that the root of Shig’s maniacal obsession is his unfulfilled life that had been lived in the shadows of personal torment. “So Close Shig” is the phrase that he often heard being delivered by his wife, Rose, who belittled him as being a loser who always came in second, and was never one to win the prize. We find that their marriage was a sham, an agreed-to arrangement as a result of her parents threatening to cut off her inheritance if she didn’t at least make it appear that she was a settled down princess who brings honor to the family. Further, as a result of one night of passion brought about by Rose returning home drunk from a gala event and surprisingly turning her sexually ravenous attention on Shig, we find out that she became pregnant and Shig viewed this as the turning point in their relationship. For with a child, moreover a son (as Shig would later find out), perhaps they could learn to truly be husband and wife.
But of course Rose hammers this dream to oblivion. She gets an abortion and laughs at Shig, saying, “I have one mistake already, I won’t have another!” This insult to injury tips Shig over the edge. He uses the bat he bought for “Horace Jr.” and clubs Rose to death. Having now to cover up his deed, he buries her in the back yard; but not before severing her arm and racing to Ala Moana, a well known beach that Rose frequented to often meet men, to dispose of it in the surf in the dark of night. In the days that follow, after an intensive search, the severed arm is discovered and eventually confirms the probable cause of death… Rose was devoured by sharks while she did her daily swim. The event indeed changes Horace’s life, and in his eyes, for the better. He collects on Rose’s life insurance policy, even inherits her family’s millions, and the financial resources thus sets him up for the rest of his life. But Shig is not content to just spend his days idling by planting flowers in his yard. Bolstered by “getting away” with Rose’s murder, he finds he actually enjoyed the moment. And this compels him to go on to become an unlikely but effective serial killer, proceeding to methodically murder, over the course of the past 20 years, 19 of Rose’s 20 past lovers.
We follow Shig as he meets up with “number 20,” a businessman named Dirk Manners (portrayed by Cedillos), for dinner on the pretext of becoming an investor. But instead of going into the restaurant, he asks Dirk if he wouldn’t mind driving him around the island for one last look at his home before departing forever to sunny Arizona, during which Shig says they can talk business. Dirk, thinking Shig is an eccentric, agrees, for he needs to do whatever is necessary to get him to invest in his failing company.
Throughout all this time, however, we haven’t learned of Shig’s full back story and so we believe he is merely an old man who might be in the process of being scammed by oily Dirk. But indeed we find that it isn’t Dirk who is taking Shig for a ride, it’s the other way around. At a secluded beach Dirk collapses after drinking a celebratory wine toast with Shig that is laced with drugs, and after fruitlessly trying to crawl away is clubbed to death by the maniacal Shig, who buries his body in the sand with tools he had pre-positioned at the scene days before. The last of Shig’s killings has gone exactly as his expert talents had planned.
A Rough Cut Of Selected Scenes From So Close Shig (Earl-Louis, Editor).
The next day Shig readies to leave Hawaii forever and he gives the keys to his house to the new owners, who are ecstatic at getting such a marvelous piece of property for a cut rate. Shig, we find, didn’t need the money, he just wanted to get rid of the final piece of remembrance that tied him to the “Evil Rose of Honolulu” as fast as possible. In fact, he doesn’t even want any of the furnishings, choosing only to take the bat that clobbered Rose years before as a “souvenir.” So he bids them adieu and drives off happily in the backseat of the cab that is taking him to the airport. But as this is happening he’s told by the Cabbie that since the couple saved so much on buying the house they’re going to spend money on renovating the pool in the back yard. “You knoat that they’re actually ex-competitive swimmers?” the Cabbie says, “They swam in college. They’re going to expand the pool to fill up the entire back yard.”
Knowing that this construction will inevitably unearth the body of the one-armed Rose, Shig begins to beat his own head with his beloved bat as he screams, “So close! So CLOSE!! SO CLOSE!!!”
STATUS: Post Production
LOGLINE: Low-level diplomat Wilhemina Nilly’s dream of staging the greatest food festival in the world goes awry when she leads a committee comprised of the misfits from other U.N. offices.
IMDB: World Buffet
Eric initially wrote this as a dark night stage production back in 2009, in order to bring in added revenue for the theater he founded, TAG – The Actors’ Group (see inset promotional flyer). It not only helped to bring in some needed cash flow for the theater but proved to be a surprising hit.
The play centered around a bumbling mid-level bureaucrat in the U.S. Ambassador’s Office, William J. Nilly, who by a quirk of fate manages to impress the Secretary General of the United Nations that an annual food fest with different countries bringing food would help contribute to world peace. Of course, William has never chaired any project of any significance before and the members he is assigned are made up of the “dregs” from other offices as well and the result is absolute (and hilarious) chaos.
Fast forward to 2015. Having completed “Natural Reaction,” the movie written for and starring herself, Ana Jimenez McMillan approached Eric to produce and star in a film version of “World Buffet.” Admittedly, Eric did not jump at the prospect for he could not envision the character of the committee leader (William Nilly) being a woman. But Ana was persistent and eventually Eric agreed to produce and direct the movie version which he would rewrite to not only change Nilly to a female, but to then take this opportunity to expand the storyline and add a few more characters he believed could help move the story along. Having agreed in principle, the two decided that the movie would be filmed in the fall of 2016. Eric eventually did in fact rewrite the script and the synopsis follows below.
Wilhemina Nilly, also known by her nick name of “Willy”… Nilly, has hit the mother load of accidental serendipitous career opportunities. While she has been known to have led a highly undistinguished foreign affairs career by being the “go-to” person for such important assignments like walking the German Chancellor’s dog and accompanying the Prince of Japan for a Karaoke singing night, suddenly she has received a mission of significance. Because she happened to have been fortuitously seated next to the Secretary General of the United Nations at a luncheon, she was asked the infamous “What would you do for world peace” question by the Secretary General merely so as to be brought into the conversation. To which Willy responded, more out of panic than ingenuity, that if it were up to her, she would create a big food festival whereby every country in the world would be invited to bring a dish and in the process of eating and dining everyone would come to know each other better and learn how to live together. Of course, after blurting out this thought, Willy imagined she would be laughed at, as she often is. But to this the Secretary General commented that it was positively the greatest idea he had ever heard in his entire foreign relations career! So great it was that he then asked the U.N. to pass a resolution establishing what Willy termed the “World Buffet,” and made Willy the chairperson of a planning committee to whom he would personally ask other diplomats to send members to help plan this amazing event. Of course while the idea has great potential it also has many drawbacks. The first of which is Willy herself, a career diplomat who is not exactly the sharpest tool in the shed and who has never headed any project of any significance before. Second, most of the committee she is provided with also happens to be the “dregs” of other U.N. offices as well.
Wilhemina’s great idea! A smorgasbord of international cuisine resulting in merriment and peace!
There is Mara (not Martha) Stuart, Wilhemina’s anal, worrying personal assistant whose personality could not be deader than a door nail. Michael Al Sadih, from Egypt, whose claim to fame is his knack for making like he doesn’t know English when it is beneficial for him, when in fact he is a wise-ass whose education was honed during late night undergraduate bullshit sessions while a student at Boston University. Ida Sawyer from Florida, who is brash and bold and who will make it her personal mission in life to remake Mara into a ball busting woman of substance, i.e. “bitch.” Sophie Trudeau of France whose nose is so far up in the air she could rival the Eiffel Tower. Alexander Baraquio Concepcion Harbaugh Smith Mina… the third, whose accent and mannerisms are so Filipino that you almost forget that he is white. Rajeeve El Swaify, from India, who everybody calls Ricky, who believes that the world will come together by this wonderful new mode of communication he calls, “e-mail.” Louise Hilgart, who everyone assumes comes from a different country because of her Afro-European heritage, but who actually hails from London, England and speaks with a highly British accent. Henrietta Ojuwan, who actually does hail from Africa (South Africa that is) and whose bubbly optimism can make the cynics of the world (like Michael) puke. Solomon Sataraka, a charming Asian know-it-all and been everywhere type who would give “the most interesting man in the world” a run for his money, and whose witty philosophical one-liners ultimately turn into rhetorical nonsense. Throw in FBI agent Ted Calley, who is initially asked by Mara to merely help with lowering the AC temperature in the room and then never leaves, and the photographer, Victor Conch, whose photos for posterity constantly cut people off because he can’t see his hand in front of his face, and we’ve got the committee that is going nowhere fast. Their antics are followed by YouTube conspiracy theorist, Malcolm Whiteman, and his co-host Jackie Douglas. As they report on the progress of the World Buffet committee, the group bumbles through their own personalities and through a series of hilarious revelations.
The first is that after planning the event for some time they come to realize they really have no funding, so their only means will be to negotiate and influence, two skills most have very little of. It’s a daunting task but they band together and assign each member to visit various ambassador offices of other countries all of which are situated right in New York (see following video); and through their diligence (amateurish as it is) they manage to get contacts with every country! The second is when they come to a near stalemate, as some committee members insist that every country be allotted the same amount of booth space for the event, while the others feel that some of the more developed countries (i.e. “non third world”) should naturally receive “greater” square footage for their areas. But the “piece de resistance” is when they follow Willy’s lead and make the decision that causes the most controversy of all; her edict that instead of letting each country merely bring what they want, that the committee will tell each country what particular food or drink item to bring, thus assuring that each country will bring the “one” food item it is most famously known for. Of course their decisions to ask countries like Korea to bring their iconic Kim Chee, the Irish to bring their world renown Guinness, and the Japanese to bring only their sushi, is met with claims of stereotyped racism. And when Willy also manages to subsequently get the committee to approve the U.S. bringing only “American Fried Chicken” or “AFC” (since America is the home and inventor of “fast food”), it seems the world is entirely against them. So a combination of all of this creates a farcical scenario whereby the best of all their intentions ultimately results into one gigantic, and hilarious, implosion!
Casting for the production could not have come out any better with each actor truly embodying the wackiness of their characters. Of course, there was Ana Jimenez McMillan as Wilhemina Nilly, who served as Executive Producer as well. Ana, through diligent rehearsals with Eric, along with a ton of self preparation on her own, mastered the “tonnage” of Wilhemina’s dialogue (particularly an amazing opening three page monologue) as well as her slowly developing paranoia. Jinsong Chu Riles, while being absolutely new to film acting (well, new to acting in general for that matter), fit the anal Mara Stuart perfectly. Her natural Chinese accent gave her character an added comic boost. Patrick Jeppeson played the near (or rather “non”) sighted Victor using a pair of Coke bottled bifocals that literally had him acting blind. Patrick also greatly helped the production in other ways. He filled in on sound when called upon, contributed financially to the project, and would voluntarily assist with contributing craft items. Maseeh Ganjali, who holds dual citizenship in both Iran and the United States, reprised his role from the TAG play of the annoying and sarcastic (and chief Wilhemina antagonist) Michael and was even better than he ever was. Mary Ann Vasaturo, who was one of two actors who had roles in Yellow Brick Studio’s previous ensemble comedy, “Juniper Lane,” brought the brassy Ida to life; adding a deep Southern Belle drawl to her speech that was terrific. Rebecca McCarthy, a multiple Po`okela (Hawaii’s excellence in theater awards) winning actress, embodied the condescending persona of Sophie brilliantly. Having taken a trip to Ireland just prior to the shoot date, you would have thought she traveled to France to prepare for her role instead, since she arrived on set with her lines fully memorized, a French accent flawlessly spoken, and additional French words and phrases which she tossed in with a natural flair. Another multiple Po`okela recipient, Wendy Pearson, similarly portrayed the ebullient but also level headed (and wig wearing) Louise Hilgart flawlessly; adding a wonderful English accent to boot. David Baquiran also reprised his role as Indian accented “Email King,” Rajeeve “Ricky” El Swaify, whose hilarious calls for “We must have email,” may one day eventually rival another phrase that immediately brings a chuckle, “Gotta have more cow bell.”
Ron Riles (he and Jinsong are husband and wife) was, aside from Ana as Wilhemina, one of the first cast by Eric, who saw in him the perfect actor to play the happy, tactless, FBI agent Ted Calley and he did not disappoint; adding his natural Southern accent to the “good ole boy” nature of Ted. Ron also helped out tremendously behind the camera, operating the sound boom and working the slate; and he and Jinsong also contributed to the project’s budget. Alexandra Roth had not been initially cast as the ever optimistic Henrietta Ojuwan. But due to the original cast member having to drop out right before production, a search for a replacement had her fortuitously being not only available, but turning out to be perfect for the part. In no time at all she had caught herself up to where the other actors were and her South African accent, learned in a couple weeks, made her efforts even more remarkable.
The third cast member to reprise his role was Jimi Wheeler, arguably the laugh riot of the play when he portrayed the “awesomely” wacky, Filipino accented, Alex Mina. Given he had relocated to Japan to work as an actor for Universal Studios Japan at its theme park, Eric assumed he would be unavailable. But just to make sure he messaged Jimi and was excited to receive a return message a minute later communicating that he wanted to be a part of the production. Of course, this was easier said than done since Jimi was on contract with Universal as one of its daily performers in the park and could only get away for six days (part of which was for a much needed vacation as he had been away from Hawaii for seven years). But Eric coordinated the shoot schedule to assure that all of Jimi’s scenes could be shot on three days (November 12th, 14th, and 15th) and the rest was history. Film and theater (Kumu Kahua) veteran Eric Mita took the newly created role of Solomon Sataraka and made it his own; first depicting him in the beginning as a citizen of the world with innumerable experiences until the end when we realize that he just might actually be the wackiest of a wacky group. A third Po`okela recipient actor, Thomas Smith, tore into the role of Malcolm Whiteman, proving that a character can be passionate, obsessive, and hilarious all combined and also shot in one night. Starla Marie, the second Juniper Lane alumnus, rounded out the cast as Jackie Douglas, Malcolm’s assistant, who dutifully follows her boss’ lead until the end when she ceases her supportive ways due to self-preservation (“What do you mean ‘us’ Whiteman?”). Rounding out the cast were two enthusiastic background artists. Michael Carter appeared as the Security Officer and Mika Thomsen played the Receptionist.
Periodic rehearsals were held in October in the production offices of the Island Film Group courtesy of Ric Galindez and principal photography ensued in November 2016. A minimalist crew subsequently managed to pull off an absolutely terrific shoot. Eric not only was World Buffet’s writer, director, and producer, but seemingly its chief cook and bottle washer as he handled craft and props as well. Larry Cortez served as Director of Photography, Art Balligui and Wes Cortez worked second cameras. Art and Ron Riles (Ted) worked on sound with assistance from Robert Carlos and Patrick Jeppeson (Victor). Veteran Hawaii actor (and previously seen in “Natural Reaction,” “Juniper Lane,” and “So Close Shig”), Dann Seki, helped on set design and also served as an AD on certain shoots and with organizing SAG-AFTRA paperwork. Starla Marie (Jackie) helped on slate, watched for continuity, worked as script supervisor, and also helped contribute craft. Mahealani Diego, who had helped in previous productions (“Natural Reaction,” “Tiramisu On The Beach,” “Juniper Lane,” and “So Close Shig”) in various capacities, while unable to physically be a part of the production due to her commitment to other shoots, was helpful nonetheless. She arranged for Nina Bellord (who worked as hair and makeup on many previous Yellow Brick Studio productions) to take on the challenging task of being singularly responsible for handling hair and makeup duties for a cast of 14 and did so very efficiently.
The location for the shoot was provided courtesy of Eric Mita (Solomon). This was the offices of his company, Innovative Insurance Resources (IIR), situated on the 17th floor of a high rise building located at 615 Piikoi Street in downtown Honolulu (see inset photo). IIR allowed the production to shoot in and around its office premises for a total of 18 days spread out through the month of November 2016, and their staff (in particular Casey Matsuda) were amazingly accommodating. To IIR, Yellow Brick Studio owes a great debt of gratitude. The production could not have filmed World Buffet without their assistance.
With the production in the can, the footage has now been transferred into the hands of Earl-Louis, who continues as Yellow Brick Studio’s editor (previously for “Juniper Lane” and “So Close Shig”) for World Buffet. Projected rough cut completion date, March 2017.
|Before The After|
STATUS: In post-production.
LOGLINE: Three roommates, two men and a woman, return home from planting bombs on a college campus in the early morning hours to destroy property to satisfy their own personal vendettas; but are horrified when one bomb explodes later in the day, killing people, which then leads to their own tragedy.
IMDB: Before The After
This movie was initiated by Eric Nemoto asking a basic question of himself, “What would terrorists think after an act of terror?” Was it possible that they could have feelings of regret and remorse? The intent was to create a powerful story within the confines of a single location, wherein the terrorists would begin to second guess themselves and then ultimately regret their actions. This initial premise then evolved into the idea of ordinary people somehow being caught in a mode of thinking that doing some kind of symbolic destruction somewhere would satisfy their own personal agendas of hatred. A thought, however, does not necessarily mean it then evolves into a real project. But the spark happened during routine conversations between Eric and Larry Cortez as they would head to the shooting of World Buffet. As Larry was “all in” for doing another movie immediately on the heels of WB, Eric started to give serious thought to producing Before The After. Of course, with a script yet to be written, Eric thought to ask three actors he knew if they would possibly be interested in playing the leads, and if so, the script could then be written with their acting abilities in mind.
On this matter an absolute coup was achieved. For the three actors Eric was able to recruit were Dennis Edward Proulx, Rebecca Lea McCarthy, and Timothy Jeffryes. All of them experienced actors who had, over the years, provided numerous outstanding performances on the stages of Hawaii’s community theatres. So on the heels of wrapping World Buffet on November 30, 2016, and getting a commitment from the actors by the following week, Eric proceeded to focus on writing the script. Knowing the looks and personal traits of each of the actors, he envisioned Dennis as Rand, Tim as Cooper, and Rebecca as Sammie. This helped the writing considerably and Before The After was completed on December 19, 2016. In writing the script, Eric remained faithful to an original concept he had towards having this movie be at least partially told in reverse chronology as in the play Betrayal by Harold Pinter. In addition, Eric contacted Jerry Wayne in Encino, CA, the producer of the prospective movie, Lisa Patterson (see movies In Development) who agreed to serve as the project’s Executive Producer.
With the script completed and delivered to the actors, Eric communicated with Larry in San Francisco, where he resides, and upon confirming his return to Hawaii at the end of January, the shoot was scheduled for January 31st through February 4th, with an initial rehearsal day scheduled for January 30th. The location would be the house that Dennis resided in, located in Kaimuki, a small business and residential district of Honolulu (see photo under The Story). Note: This shot appears in the backdrop of the movie poster.
The Cast And Crew Do The Initial Read Through And Blocking Of The Very First Scene (Courtesy Of Art Balligui)
The production commenced with Eric and Larry working with the actors on January 30th in terms of blocking each scene. Voiceovers were recorded that evening with the following talent portraying their respective characters: Alexandra Roth (Female Reporter); Anne Craig Lum (Miriam); Eric Nemoto (Male Anchor); Belle Armstrong (Female Voice); Michael Carter (Male Voice #1); and Larry Cortez (Male Voice #2). Shooting actually did commence on January 31st with the crew the most minute ever for a YBS LegacyVision production, with Eric directing, Larry serving as DP, and Art Balligui assisting on sound. Wes Cortez supported the production by providing most of the filming equipment and also helped out for a day. But minimalist crew notwithstanding, the shoot was efficiently shot, and the movie was in the can and wrapped on February 4th as scheduled, resulting in a feature length movie being shot literally in five days.
A little behind the scenes footage courtesy of Wes Cortez.
Of particular note, the acting was simply phenomenal. Dennis brought unrelenting power, passion, and the proper intimidation to the role of Rand, Timothy simply absorbed the character of Cooper and portrayed the tragic pathos that was at the essence of the character, and Rebecca poured her soul into capturing Sammie’s constant depression and her subsequent inconsolable grief.
The boys (Eric, Dennis, Larry, and Wes) on break.
It is dark as our movie begins with a door opening and three shadowy figures entering a room. They banter about whether they should open the light but eventually do, which reveals our three heroes: Rand Merrigan, a big ex-military man who is currently a security guard and who can be an intimidating presence; Cooper Salk, a doctoral student who has taken forever in his studies and because of this feels he is wasting his life; and Sammie Stalls, a woman beset by mixed feelings and emotions because her daily work involves witnessing the suffering of animals in a research lab. Through dialogue we understand that they did something covertly in the night and they celebrate with toasts, the last of which is to “Horatio.”
Inside This House The Lives Of Three People Will Tragically Intertwine
We flashback to earlier when the trio are planning the event. They look over a map and some blue prints. Rand explains that they will be planting bombs into a building on a university campus, specifically inside the Department of Sociology, the ROTC offices, and a research lab where “Horatio” resides. To the consternation of the others, Sammie asks for a few moments with “Horatio.” Rand refuses. But upon Cooper’s rationalizing that Sammie only needs a few moments, he relents. After going over every detail of their plan, Rand asks, “Any questions?” There are none. They’re ready, or as ready as they’ll ever be.
Back in the present, Rand and Cooper sit drinking beers, waiting for the bombs we now know they planted in that campus building to go off. Rand complains of the beer being flat and Cooper admits that the function he took the beer to was a party put on by Mormons and nobody drank the beer he kept on ice. Rand leaves to get in a nap before the time when the bombs would go off, which prompts Cooper to ask, “You can sleep?” Cooper then visits Sammie, who is lying in thought in her bedroom. Sammie is sad. She confesses to Cooper that she believes Horatio knew what was going to happen. Sammie laments, “What if he thinks “I’m” the one who’s killing him?” Cooper reassures her that if animals have a “sixth sense,” then Horatio knows that she was doing this to relieve him of his suffering. In their conversation, Sammie tells Cooper something that she asks him to keep confidential. She explains that she learned form someone on campus that Rand had been dishonorably discharged from the military.
A Sample of Scenes Featuring Rebecca Lea McCarthy as Sammie Stalls
(Edited by Larry Cortez)
We flashback to Rand explaining to Cooper and Sammie as to why they need to take out their personal frustrations out in a tangible manner. He offers his own story as evidence. He explains that after the Gulf War he was a shell shocked mess. So much so that he could have been the next front page news, someone who annihilates people in a public area with his firearm, which he confesses that he still keeps in the house. His visits to the VA office where he received little attention and service only heightened his anger. Hence one night he returned in the middle of the night to the VA office and unloaded his gun clip into everything around him. To a shocked Sammie and Cooper, he admonishes that if they don’t take out their rage on some kind of inanimate objects, that they may one day do something that they would truly regret. “You know what I’m talking about right, Cooper? You’ve actually thought of killing him haven’t you?” The expression on Cooper’s face confirms that he had. In the end, both Cooper and Sammie buy into the ironic oddity of doing some kind of property damage in order to regain inner peace. So Rand tells them how they’ll go about planning some destructive event. Of particular note, he advises Cooper that his responsibility is to somehow get a key imprint of the office of his department’s chairman.
Behind The Scenes – Shooting Rebecca Portraying The Depressed Sammie (Courtesy Of Art Balligui)
Later, Sammie finds a report on the web of a still unsolved break in and destruction of a regional VA office caused by an unknown assailant. Still later, Cooper returns from his work with a key imprinted into a puddy mold, much to the delight of Rand, who says, “You got it!” Cooper confesses his desire to “get it done,” but Rand cautions him to maintain patience. He advises Cooper to go to his cousin’s place to watch football, essentially keeping his usual schedule so as not to tip off anyone to any unusual changes in any of their schedules. He tells Cooper, as a reward for getting the key mold, to take a case of beer that Rand bought to the party.
Larry Cortez sets the shot.
Back in the present, Rand awakes and joins Cooper and Sammie at the living room window to await the bombs going off at 3:30 a.m. They wait and in the dead of night they hear the sound of faint explosions in the distance. “That’s it?” Sammie asks. “Yeah, that was it,” Rand retorts. Cooper, relieved, moves to shake Rand’s hand. But something still bothers Sammie.
Later, as they watch the television reports in the early morning, the news confirms that only the bombs set in the ROTC offices on the second floor and the Department of Sociology on the third floor went off. “What about the fourth floor?” asks Sammie. The mood becomes frantic as everyone knows that the bomb set on the fourth floor, the research lab, has not detonated. “What the hell happened?” Sammie barks, “We’ve got a bomb that hasn’t exploded yet and in a couple of hours the sun will be up!”
In mid-morning, Sammie talks to Miriam, a receptionist in the research lab on speaker phone. Miriam tells Sammie that she doesn’t have to come to work, that she and Julie, their boss, just want to go up to check on the animals and come back down. Sammie, concerned for their welfare tries to communicate that they shouldn’t. Rand takes the phone away and the three get into a heated argument about what to do. Sammie explodes in anger, blaming the predicament on Rand and leaves. Rand looks at Cooper and warns, “We have to watch her Coop.”
We flashback to see Cooper enter the back door with mail. He sorts through it, separating what to keep and what to throw out. One piece attracts his attention. It is a letter from his department and it tells him he is dismissed from the program. He rips it up and leaves. Later at night Sammie worries that Cooper isn’t back. She and Rand talk. He tells her he’s probably out getting drunk. “Oh that’s a good thing?” Sammie responds incredulously, “He might take his motorcycle and just jump into the canyon.” Sammie explains that getting his doctorate was everything to Cooper. She offers up an example of a student she knew when she went to veterinary school. After years of “not getting it,” in other words of not realizing that his committee would never let him get his doctorate, he finally did get it and subsequently hung himself on campus. Cooper then returns home and expresses his extreme hatred for his department chairperson. Rand responds, “Well, why don’t you do something about it?”
A Sample of Scenes Featuring Dennis Edward Proulx as Rand Merrigan
(Edited by Larry Cortez)
Back in the present, Sammie and Cooper are continuously worried about the third bomb. Rand assures them that the bomb containment personnel will search the building and upon finding it they’ll put it in a containment chamber and it will be detonated. “You know that right?” Cooper asks doubtfully. Rand says, “Hey, it’s what I used to do in the military.” Sammie is less inclined to trust him anymore. “If you’re such an expert, what the hell happened?!” she demands. Rand responds angrily, “What the hell you want from me? Look it happens. Maybe the dynamite was old. I don’t know. But it is what it is!” At that moment they hear the final bomb go off. They look to the clock and see that it is 3:30 in the afternoon and realize the fatal error. Rand had set two bombs for 3:30 in the morning, but mistakenly did the third for p.m. and not a.m. Sammie calls Miriam and hears only her voice recording over and over again.
Later at night, as Cooper watches the news, it is confirmed that not only were Miriam and Julie killed in the blast, but also two FBI officers. Rand, now seemingly detached from reality, prepares to cook a meal. Sammie lies in her bed in a catatonic state. Cooper watches the television reports and slumps into despair. He later visits Rand in the kitchen and they get into an argument. Rand screams, “Shit happens! I tell you, shit happens!” He tells his own story of when he was in the Gulf War and was responsible for laying out mines along a perimeter line 1,500 feet out from base. But when two infantry men step on bombs along the line he is told that the line was supposed to be set out 1,700 feet. He refers to the map where a penciled line was drawn and it no longer appears. “They erased line! They threw me under the bus, Coop,” Rand says, “That’s what they did. That’s what they do.” Cooper later visits Sammie in her room and finds that both of them are inconsolable. The guilt of their actions which took the lives of people is too much for them to bear.
We flashback to Cooper cooking dinner and Sammie coming home through the back door feeling despondent. Cooper tells her about dinner but Sammie doesn’t hear him. She merely walks upstairs to her room. Cooper eats alone. He reads an email from his department chairperson which essentially tells him his dissertation could use a complete overhaul. He types a vicious response and readies to send it, but then retracts it and sighs in disappointment. Sammie finally comes down and they eventually have a good talk, revealing their inner feelings about their work and lives to the other. Sammie expresses her inner turmoil of liking the people she works with but cannot stand the work they do, which is caring for animals that are essentially being tortured for the benefit of science and medicine. She gives as an example a juvenile orangutan named Horatio whose scalp has been removed and probes are stuck into his brain to do experiments. Cooper talks about the frustrations of dealing with his dissertation committee and how they’ve got him running in circles. In the middle of their discussion, Rand returns from his work as a security guard on campus. As they continue to profess their inner frustrations, Rand eats his dinner in the kitchen and listens in.
A Sample of Scenes Featuring Timothy Jeffryes as Cooper Salk
(Edited by Larry Cortez)
Back in the present, both Cooper and Sammie approach Rand in the kitchen. They advise him that they can’t live with themselves. Rand tries vociferously to convince them that they can’t make an emotional decision, that they have to let time take its course. But both Cooper and Sammie are adamant. They will turn themselves into the FBI. As Cooper leaves, Rand grabs a cooking pot and hits him on the head as Sammie screams.
We flashback to Rand, Cooper, and Sammie, on the night that Cooper and Sammie first moved into rooms in Rand’s house. They talk after dinner sipping glasses of wine. Sammie explains that she is an animal laboratory veterinarian who is troubled by the fact that the animals she is charged with helping, are suffering from the experiments they are put through. Cooper explains that he is a “perpetual student;” already eight years into his doctoral program, for which his graduate assistantship has been cut to a quarter time position. To supplement his income he works parking cars at the India House Restaurant where one of the insults he has to put up with is parking his department chairman’s Lexus during his weekly dinner visits. Rand explains that he is a Gulf War veteran who did many covert missions. His specialty, planting anti-personnel mines.
Back in the present, Cooper awakes next to the pot that was used to knock him out. After he recuperates he is struck with a stomach churning fear of knowing Rand did it and thus is unstable. He goes upstairs to find Sammie dead in her room, a victim of strangulation. He grimaces in shock and grief and then rushes out of the room, down the stairs, and towards the front door. But before he can get there he is intercepted by Rand, who asks, “Going somewhere Major?” Rand wears his military fatigues and in his mannerisms Cooper knows he has gone mad. Rand backs Cooper up to the kitchen sink where he proceeds to strangle him until Cooper is near to passing out. But in a final attempt to survive, Cooper manages to grab the kitchen knife that Rand was using to prepare dinner and stabs him in the side which incapacitates him. Rand takes out the knife and struggles back to his chair in the living room where he dies.
We flashback to the day that Rand is receiving visitors who want to rent two rooms in his house. He meets Cooper who agrees to take one of the rooms. Sammie arrives unscheduled and explains she desperately needs a room for she just started working for the university and hasn’t had any success in finding a place. Rand, a man who likes to follow procedures, is reticent to give the room to Sammie when he’s got others he’s scheduled to show the room to. But he eventually relents given Sammie’s exuberant personality and Cooper’s “why not” attitude. All seems bright for the future.
The Cast & Crew Celebrate Wrap Night
Back in the present Cooper’s hands are seen searching for things around the house. He later completes an email he has always wanted to send and then shuts off his computer. He stares away with a curious look of contentment, but then places Rand’s gun to his temple as the screen turns black. Later, as images of the heinous tragedy that has occurred in this house emerges, we hear Rand’s voice placing the initial call to the newspaper classified ads section, asking that they place an ad for two rooms he has for rent. We end with a shot of the front door, through which out story began. It is a simple shot of an ordinary thing, inside of which these extraordinary events took place.
|The Landline Detective|
STATUS: In post-production.
LOGLINE: A man organizing the family photos discovers a Polaroid shot of his old car on a certain day which confirms that his brother-in-law was not where he said he was on the night his wife was murdered, which prompts him to investigate whether the killer of his sister-in-law was her husband, by calling people on his landline telephone.
IMDB: The Landline Detective
This movie actually began in the wake of the “World Buffet” post filming energy, even before “Before The After” was written. It reflected the constant thought process on the part of Eric Nemoto to come up with compelling drama which could be filmed on the most minimalist of concepts. It occurred, as most script ideas do, simply out of the blue while driving to a meeting. “What if” for some reason, a man came upon an object he sees every day and has done so for years on end, and he suddenly, out of the blue (hence the connection to the random thought Eric had while driving), realized that it had some alternative meaning which then provided an answer to some long forgotten secret… a lost treasure, a missing person, a murder? Soon after the spark hit him, Eric contacted his good friend, fellow filmmaker and filming associate, and all around great actor, Dann Seki (see inset photo), to pose a question, “What if we filmed a movie whereby we focus only on the one central character as he goes through this process of discovery, that the other characters are but voices we hear as he makes telephone calls which ultimately leads him to solve some great mystery?” Dann responded that he thought the concept interesting and so, “Write it,” he said.
Seki’s response came on December 5th, 2016 and around writing “Before The After,” Eric completed “Landline” on January 7th, 2017, writing specifically with Dann playing the lead. Upon reading the script, Dann committed to doing the movie around other creative commitments that he had made (stage plays with Kumu Kahua Theatre and TAG – The Actors’ Group). As it would happen, most of the year would pass before finally Eric, Dann, and Larry Cortez (see inset photo) committed to produce the movie. The trio agreed to make this movie a shared project with Eric serving as producer, director, and screenwriter, Dann as producer and actor (playing the lone on-screen character, James “Jimmy” Furuta), and Larry as producer, director of photography, sound mixer, and editor. Dann and Eric worked to get the other voice actors. Dann recruited Valerie Falle (Myra), Nyla Fujii-Babb (Blanche), Jim Aina (Stan), Eric Mita (John), Lisa Katagiri Bright (Belle), and Denise Aiko Chinen (Janice). Eric recruited Michael Carter (Billy), Mike Mazzola (Tom), Carol Chong (Donna), Howard Noh (Harry), Lance Motogawa (Randy), Kristen Nemoto Jay (Lisa), Aaron “Iwi” Jay (Newton), and Kaila Arakaki (Shayna). Eric voice over the role of the Male Voice recording which peddled term life insurance. As Dann was a member of SAG-AFTRA, the project was filed as a SAG-AFTRA New Media production, designed to go directly to online screening. Dann secured the location for the shoot, a residence apartment for visiting staff personnel at the Buddhist Study Center located near the University of Hawaii at Manoa (see photo below), Larry obtained the services of Pong Kham for make-up, Eric and Dann contributed in bringing and producing props and set decoration, and the shoot was on, which took place during the week of December 11th, 2017 through December 16th, 2017. Though a veteran actor of many movies and stage plays, it was entirely unique acting experience for Seki, since he basically had to act alone, only having the voice of Eric to work off of (who read all of the other characters’ lines as Dann’s scenes were shot). The other actors were brought in during pre-planned slots half hour or more whereby they read their character lines in repetition under the guidance of Eric and Larry. The minimalist plot and production paid off. The shoot was shot in a very efficient five days.
James “Jimmy” Furuta, a retiree living in Hawaii, has returned from a “boys only” vacation to Las Vegas with his friends. Like most who vacation in Vegas, Jimmy “won some and lost some” which means he lost. But also during his time away he was inspired to do complete something he hadn’t been able to finish in his life when one of his friends shared that he had finally finished the garden he had been promising his wife he’d create for over 20 years. While he didn’t have anything he had promised his wife he’d do for the past 20 years, he did realize that the family photos, taken over all of their years together, had never been organized. So now that he has just come back from dropping his wife, Myra, off at the airport for her “girls only” vacation to a jewelry convention in Seattle, he begins our story by taking out a box of the family photos from a closet in one of the bedrooms, and emptying out atop living room coffee table.
But a few things happen before he gets to his big project. He gets a call from his granddaughter, seven-year-old Shayna, who welcomes him home and passes the call to her mother, Jimmy’s daughter, Lisa, who invites him over for dinner with her and her husband, Phil, while Myra is away and also asks, “What is it again you’re going to do?” Jimmy tells her his intentions and they jokingly talk about his prospects for success. “You watch,” Jimmy tells his daughter, “When mom comes back in a week, everything will be neatly organized!” Lisa laughs and they end their call on a “We’ll see” basis. But given the call has brought him to the phone Jimmy notices that the voice mail light is blinking and he has five messages. He presses the play button and hears the messages play. The first message is from Blanche, the receptionist for his dentist, she reminds him that it’s time to schedule his next appointment. The second message comes from Randy, a solar energy salesman who says he’s following up on a referral notice he was given. The third message comes from Billy of Toyota’s warranty division, who wants to talk to Jimmy getting an extended warranty on his Lexus. The fourth message is from Donna, Jimmy’s niece who is soon to be married, who reminds him of the upcoming rehearsal dinner and also that Jimmy had agreed to be the MC of their wedding reception. And the fifth message comes from Myra, who was about to board her plane, telling Jimmy to make sure he eats regularly and to not be too obsessive about trying to get all the photos organized.
Jimmy decides to return one of the messages immediately. He calls Blanche and they talk about his vacation and how it was kind of a reunion of his friends since they decided to get together more often since one of their gang recently passed away. This in turn leads to Blanche talking about her upcoming reunion for Castle High School and how she’s one of the ones coordinating it because she was back then, and still is, the source for school information. They end the call by telling each other how it was great to talk to one another. But as soon as Jimmy hangs up he laughs because he had failed to schedule his dental appointment. A quick call back accomplishes this and it also has he and Blanche laughing at what had happened. In scheduling the appointment Blanche asks Jimmy if he would want a reminder and Jimmy says, “Yes.” Blanche subsequently confirms that the only way to contact Jimmy is through his landline, since as Jimmy puts it, he’s a dinosaur who doesn’t have a cell and has no email address. They laugh and end their call.
Jimmy starts on the photos. He lays them out and tries to separate them on the table by some type of organization. As he does he notices an envelope that has the initials “CE” written on it. It spurs his curiosity. So he picks it up and opens it. Inside he finds a few polaroid photos which seems to just random slice-of-life shots taken over 30 years ago. There is a shot of scenery, a shot of some fish that have been caught, and a shot of a mom and pop store. All of these photos are dated, and as Jimmy looks at the pictures we sense that these seemingly random shots have drawn his attention. As he tries to figure out what intrigues him about the photos, his phone rings. So he steps to his desk picks up the receiver and hits the speaker button as he sits and still looks at the photos. It is Billy from Toyota. Jimmy apologizes for not returning his call because he had been away and still doesn’t know how to leave a message on his phone. Billy tells him “No worries,” and proceeds to tell him about the benefits of buying an extended warranty. During Billy’s sales pitch we find out that Jimmy really takes good care of his car and that he’s only had five in his lifetime and it’ll probably be his last. Billy’s engaging personality has him saying, “Well there you go Mr. Furuta! If this car is the final one and needs to last, what better way to assure its longevity than to get an extended warranty.” Jimmy laughs and tells Billy to give him a week. Billy laughingly says he will and they hang up.
As Jimmy sits there he continues to look at the photos, for something about them continues to pique his curiosity. Not knowing exactly why, he stares at them, particularly the one showing the mom and pop store. It is a store he recognizes. It is a long time and well known little store in Heeia on the windward side of the island, the same side that Jimmy lives on, which is Kailua. And then it dawns on him why he can’t take his eyes off of this shot. It is about the date of the photo. We get an extreme close up of that portion of the shot and it shows, “03-27-82.” Jimmy’s eyes widen with what we know is a kind of revelation. While he is deep in thought, the phone rings again, both startling and irritating him. He presses the speaker button and it is a taped voice recording of a man’s voice energetically telling him the value of obtaining term life insurance. But because of Jimmy’s attention to the mom and pop photo, he continues to stare at the photo as the message plays and eventually ends. We then see a series of shots of Jimmy in various locations of his house, wherein he is lost in his thoughts about the photo.
The Mom & Pop Store Photo That Changes Everything
Jimmy finally returns to his desk and looks into his Rolodex to find Lisa’s work number and makes a call. After a ring he hangs up. As he continues to look at the photo his phone rings. He answers it. It is Lisa asking him why he called. Jimmy asks her how did she know it was him? Lisa sighs, “Oh Dad,” and Jimmy realizes that it is because there is such a thing as caller ID. He then proceeds to tell Lisa about the difficulties of organizing the photos, beating around the bush of what he truly wants to say. Lisa senses he wants to say more but Jimmy says he can’t recall what it was he wanted to talk about. They eventually hang up. But no sooner than that Jimmy calls her again and Lisa responds, “So what was it?” Jimmy asks her about a Polaroid camera he and Myra bought for her. Lisa recalls it, says it was back when she was eight-years-old. Jimmy goes on to describe the random shots that he found in the CE envelope and Lisa eventually recalls that it was taken during her school spring vacation trip. Jimmy looks at the photos with a new perspective and they conclude that the shots were taken by Lisa, and in particular the mom and pop store photo was taken from the view of their bus seat as they were traveling home. The talk makes Lisa ask why all the interest in these photos and Jimmy finally divulges the reason for why this perplexes him. In the mom and pop photo there is a car which cannot be there on the date of that shot. For March 27th, 1982, was the day before Jimmy’s sister-in-law, Sarah (Myra’s sister and Lisa’s auntie), was found strangled in her house a mile away. It cannot be there because that car used to be Jimmy’s before he sold it to his brother-in-law, John (Sarah’s husband), whose alibi during the weekend of his wife’s murder was that he was out fishing at Makapuu (on another part of the island). “Why if Uncle John was away fishing for the weekend is his car there on the night before your Aunty Sarah’s murder?” Lisa questions whether Jimmy is certain that the car in the photo was his. Jimmy is. As we’ve learned from his talk with Billy, he takes care of his car and he’s only had five in his life. It’s definitely the car he sold to John. The question is unsettling and after a back and forth between the two Lisa tells her father to just let it rest for now, to bring the photo to her house later in the evening when Jimmy has been invited to join Lisa and her husband, for dinner. Jimmy agrees and they hang up.
But after a continued beat of attention to the photo, the phone rings again. Jimmy answers it. It is Randy, the solar panel man. Jimmy goes through his routine again about being away and just now getting to his messages and Randy tells him “No worries.” Randy starts explaining that he’s following up on a referral he had about Jimmy being interested in talking to someone about installing solar panels on his house. Jimmy acknowledges this but tells Randy if they could possibly talk say in a week since he just got back from a vacation in Vegas and he needs to catch up on all his mail. Randy tells him that’s not a problem and explains to him that he’ll call in a week but that if he ever wants to talk sooner just to give him a call as his office is located in Kahaluu near the mom and pop store but closer to the old Carlton hiking trail in the mountain. Jimmy nods in response to the irony of Randy’s workplace being near to the store and they thank each other for their time and hang up. But as soon as he does the phone rings again and Jimmy answers it. It is Lisa again and she first asks if Jimmy has told her mother or her Aunty Janice, who is busy helping to play her cousin Donna’s upcoming wedding. Jimmy tells her no. Lisa responds that this is good because she has a theory as to why her Uncle John’s car is there that night. She offers that maybe John was seeing someone else, that he then doesn’t divulge the fact that he was there because that would then reveal his unfaithfulness and also bring attention to whoever he was having an affair with. Jimmy finds this difficult to believe. For one he and Myra didn’t know anyone on the street where the car was parked. But Lisa has an answer for that too. If John was indeed having an affair with someone, he wouldn’t park near the house for that would make it too obvious. He’d park on another street and then walk to that person’s house. The theory gets Jimmy to thinking. They end their call with Lisa again telling Jimmy to bring the photo with him when he comes for dinner.
But intrigued by what Lisa has told him, Jimmy grabs a phone book and looks up a number. He then calls Stan Takei, his brother-in-law’s best friend and the man who was with John on that fateful weekend back in 1982. Stan is surprised to hear from Jimmy and even more surprised when after a bit of busy talk Jimmy asks a bombshell, whether there was any possibility that John could have been seeing someone else when his wife was killed. Stan is naturally taken aback and no matter how Jimmy attempts to explain his reasoning, Stan is hanging up, telling Jimmy not to call again. Jimmy exhales frustration and as he does he sees the number for his niece, Donna, and calls her. Donna answers and she and Jimmy go through the pleasantries of what he did on his Vegas vacation, how’s Myra, making sure that Jimmy will come to her wedding rehearsal dinner, that Newton, her fiancee is on third watch on the night of that dinner (he’s a cop) and to not forget he promised to be their MC. Jimmy smilingly pleads, “Donna, you sure you can’t get one of your friends to MC?” Donna confirms she’s sure. “We have no back up Uncle, it’s you.” Jimmy chuckles and they hang up.
As Jimmy moves away from the desk the phone rings yet again. Jimmy steps back and answers it. It is Stan, who apologizes for his reaction and asks why did Jimmy ask his question. Jimmy explains from the beginning and points out that there’s no way that car can be there if what John said happened that weekend happened. Stan advises that Jimmy should just let “sleeping dogs lie.” But Jimmy admits he can’t for John’s car being there on that night changes everything. He then explains that Lisa had this theory about John seeing someone in the neighborhood, for that would explain both why his car was parked near the mom and pop store and why he wouldn’t reveal that he was there on that night. Unexpectedly, Stan then suggests that such a theory might have some basis in reality. Jimmy’s interest is heightened and he asks why. Stan tells him that he knew that John was friendly with a Belle Adachi who went to Castle High School. Stan then tells Jimmy that’s all he knows and as much as he’ll venture to say and asks, again, that this be the last time they talk and if he’s ever asked that this conversation never happened. Jimmy ponders for a few beats after Stan hangs up and then he’s making yet another call, this time back to Blanche. Blanche answers and Jimmy explains what has led him to call her back. Blanche admits “This is heavy stuff,” and asks Jimmy what he wants. Jimmy confides that Blanche being the source of information for Castle High School could he tell her a bit of what she knew of Belle Adachi, who Stan suggested might have been seeing John. Blanche recalls that Belle married some PR guy and they moved to the mainland not soon after she graduated. But not being totally sure, she tells Jimmy to give her time to ask around and she’ll get back to him. Jimmy, wary of Blanche’s self professed skills at being the “go-to” person for information shares his concern. Blanche promises to be discreet. They hang up.
Another thought crosses Jimmy’s mind. He calls Randy back and tells him aside from reconfirming their talk the following week he has a question about the old Carlton Trail. Jimmy learns from Randy that while the trail is closed to the public since the 90s, back in the 80s it was open and one could literally walk up to the trail from the road that his (Randy’s) business was on and walk as far as the mountain range possibly could take one. Jimmy and Randy end their call and Jimmy searches for and finds a map of the windward side and studies it. Jimmy gets on the phone again, calling Stan, who by this time is beside himself what with Jimmy becoming obsessive. Jimmy tells Stan that his source tells him that Belle had likely long departed for the mainland before Sarah’s murder but moreover that back in those days one could hike along the Carlton Trail from where the car was parked back to John’s house. Jimmy asks Stan what does he think about this and whether he had ever posed the question to John of what he thinks happened? Stan shouts back to Jimmy never to call him again and slams the phone down.
Later, Jimmy is back on the phone with Lisa, who finds his ever burgeoning theory – now it’s her Uncle John parking on the street near to the mom and pop store, walking up into the mountain, hiking along the Carlton Trail a few miles, and then walking back down to his street in the cover of darkness back to his house to murder Aunty Sarah – to be a product of his growing obsession and fantasy. “Dad, what’s gotten into you?” Sarah exclaims. Jimmy explains that he’s doing what most people do if they came across something that they couldn’t handle. “They talk to people,” he retorts.” We watch as Jimmy’s physical actions (pacing and thinking) communicate his inability to focus on anything other than the thoughts he has in his mind. Myra calls him and tells him she talked to Lisa, and unlike Jimmy, she doesn’t feel a need to trudge up the past. Jimmy can hardly believe his ears but it is because, as Myra puts it, “It was such a horrible time. So much pain. Pain that in reality, you never get rid of, never quite get over.” But in addition, Myra confesses she doesn’t believe that John could do such a thing for he and Sarah for so much in love. Jimmy, ever the pragmatist, contends the facts go contrary to John’s story. Myra relents and tells Jimmy to do what he feels he needs to do. After they hang up Jimmy gets another call. He answers it and it is the voice recording again about term life insurance. Jimmy at first feels it’s a repeating nuisance, but then it hits him, ‘insurance.’
Jimmy talks to his old insurance man, Harry, and after exchanging pleasantries brings up Sarah’s murder and asks Harry what does he think John would have gotten for a settlement like that back in the 80s. Harry finds the question to be very strange and says it’s something he wouldn’t reveal if he knew and that perhaps Jimmy’s energy could be better served by contacting the people who actually did the investigating of the case. Jimmy acknowledges this and they hang up. Jimmy quickly redials and talks to Donna. He asks her if Newton could give him a call. When asked why, Jimmy responds that his friend’s son is interested in joining the force so he has a few questions for him. Donna says sure and tells him that Newton will call him. They hang up. A few beats pass and the phone rings. Jimmy answers it thinking it’s Newton, but it’s not, it’s Newton’s prospective mother-in-law, Janice, Donna’s mother and Jimmy’s other sister-in-law. Janice asks Jimmy if the couple asked him to do the ceremonial banzai toast. Jimmy responds, “Jesus, I’m doing the emcee, what, should I conduct the ceremonies?” They laugh and Janice confesses her nervousness and Jimmy tells her that the kids have everything under control. Janice then confides about her feelings of sadness in that Sarah never had the opportunity to have children and experience watching them grow and get married. Jimmy tells her that Sarah will be there in spirit. Sarah appreciates the comment. As soon as they hang up the phone rings again and Jimmy answers. It’s Newton. Jimmy awkwardly explains that their call has nothing to do with a friend’s son wanting to become a police officer, but that it has to do with Donna’s late Aunty Sarah. Jimmy explains the situation and tells Newton he needs to talk to the man who led the investigation, Tom Copeland. Newton tells Jimmy he’ll have to locate Tom’s contact number because he’s retired. Jimmy understands. They hang up.
Moments pass and the phone rings yet again. Jimmy answers. It is Blanche and she has Belle Anderson’s (her married name) number in San Diego. Jimmy thanks her. Blanche and Jimmy talk about the surreal nature of this day and Blanche asks him “James, you ever thought of just calling up your brother-in-law?” Jimmy tells her it’s obviously crossed his mind but what am I going to tell him, “Hey John, did you kill your wife?” They hang up. No sooner than he does the phone rings again. Jimmy answers. It’s Tom Copeland. Jimmy is half shocked and half happy to be talking to the man that headed up his sister-in-law’s murder investigation. He starts to introduce himself but Tom remembers Jimmy. Jimmy asks Tom what kind of insurance settlement did John get when Sarah died and Tom can’t recall and asks Jimmy why the question? Jimmy goes on to reexplain what he’s discovered and Tom admits it’s a game changer. He asks for Jimmy to scan the photo and email it to him. But Jimmy explains his lack of technical computer prowess and tells Tom he’ll get his daughter to do so when he visits her for dinner at night. Tom gives his email and then says he’ll go to the police department and visit the homicide division and check the Izumi murder files and get back to Jimmy. He confides in Jimmy that he always thought something was amiss about what happened simply because on that weekend the boys, John and Stan, came back from their weekend fishing trip with no fish, since they always caught fish. They hang up.
We watch as the wheels turn in Jimmy’s head as he considers what Tom said. He finally gets up the gumption to do what has been on his mind from the start. He calls John. John answers and is surprised to hear Jimmy’s voice. What possible pleasant ‘how you doing’ conversation that could have ensued is obliterated when Jimmy cuts to the chase and asks John why his car is parked near to the mom and pop store on the night before Sarah was murdered? John responds incredulously, “MY CAR? You’re saying my car…”. Jimmy doesn’t let him finish. He tells John to cut the bull and explain why. But John abruptly hangs up. Jimmy looks at the receiver he holds and filled with adrenaline makes another difficult call, to Belle. She answers and thinks Jimmy is calling about the upcoming Castle High School reunion. But Jimmy explains his scenario again and tells her that Stan suggested that she might have been involved with John. Belle rebukes this. She tells Jimmy that she and John met on only a couple of occasions and that they were just friends. She then tells him that for Stan to accuse her of fooling around was ridiculous. For it was Stan who was known to be a flirt. “We used to say his last name should be tako (Japanese for octopus) for that’s what he was to all the pretty girls, all arms!” Jimmy thanks Belle for her time and apologizes for the inconvenience and they hang up. As Jimmy paces about and contemplates this latest information the phones rings again. Jimmy rushes to it and answers. It is Tom. “James, Sarah Izumi didn’t have any life insurance,” he says. It is a blow to the theory that John killed his wife for the money, but Jimmy presses on. He tells Tom that he called John and confronted him and that he got emotional. “I can feel it,” Jimmy says, “I know he killed her.” But Tom doesn’t buy it. He tells Jimmy that John couldn’t have killed Sarah. Jimmy asks why and Tom explains simply because John didn’t have his car on that night. Jimmy is totally confused. Tom explains that John and Stan went fishing that week but Stan forgot to bring his share of the bait. When they ran out, having caught only a few fish, Stan volunteered to take John’s car to buy more bait. But by the time he did all the bait shops were closed. So John said Stan said he went back to his house in Aiea to get possibly get some frozen fish he might have in his freezer. But when he got home he discovered he didn’t have any fish and so came back empty handed. So this made them cut up the fish that the did have to use for bait which turned out to be unsuccessful and ultimately, they caught no fish. That explained why they came back empty handed. John and Stan always brought home fish but for this weekend, the weekend where John came back to find his wife murdered, they had no fish whatsoever.
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