KAHEA (2012)

[WINNER] Leading actor in a short - john Diehl - southampton international film festival

[WINNER] best supporting actress in a short - clare nono - ASIANS on Film, film festival

An annual father and son fishing trip on the big island of hawaii brings back questions from the past that a father refuses to face

Written by Dan Zelikman

Kahea was the first real production I ever worked on (not counting my 2.5 seconds of fame as an extra on Lost). It was a small production with about 20 people or so, but it had two RED cameras (they're not cheap), plenty of gear, and an ambitious look and feel for a short indie production. I was stoked to be a part of it.

I was introduced to the writer/director Walter Dods by a friend, and he was nice enough to tolerate my uncontrollable curiosity for what he was working on and why. I must have asked him a thousand questions, all revolving around the notion of: 

Director Walter Dods and the crew capture an emotional performance from our two leads. (Photo: Ashley Smith)

How do you make a living making movies full-time?

Director Walter Dods goes through Stian Lintvedt's thought process before the next take. (Photo: Ashley Smith)

Similar to the way he would answer one of his actors, Walter told me that it's a process.

"You pick something that you're passionate about and your work on it progressively. You write the script, you re-write the script, you meet with people who might be able to help you fund it, and eventually you get the production up and running."

The script he was talking about was called Kahea (at the time I knew it as "Awaiting"). It was about a boy and his father on a fishing trip, with some uncertain and unanswered lingering questions that were clearly creating tension between the two. The script was tender and felt very personal, and Walter confirmed that for me when he said he put a lot of his personal relationships into his writing.

While I wasn't 100% sure whether or not Walter would get funded and get a chance to actually film Kahea, I told him I'd want to help in any way that I could. Luckily for me, Walter was very open to hearing my thoughts on the script. After a few revisions back and forth, one email from Walter caught me off-guard. 

Dan, we got last minute funding and we’re taking advantage of a production team’s schedule to get a great deal on a crew—you in?”

 

The crew set up one final shot before the sun goes down. (Photo: Ashley Smith)

Even though I would have to use vacation days to jump on a production I wasn't going to be paid for—yes, I was most certainly in. It was going to be a five day production right before I had to fly back east for the holidays, and I couldn't think of a better way to spend my time. 

On set it was hectic. Time was limited and because of the scheduling opportunity the Kahea cast and crew wanted to get as much done in as little time as possible. The cast was flown in, and last minute production details were being made including the scheduling of a hotel in Waikiki for a few of the scenes.

Award winning actor John Diehl gets framed for the opening shot in the film. (Photo: Ashley Smith)

I didn't have a dedicated role, so I did my best to be as valuable as I could be with every department that would have me. I was charging RED batteries, set decorating, moving equipment, helping the grips, making food and coffee runs, reading lines with the actors, playing a stand-in—whatever the crew needed.

I remember getting some funny looks because a lot of the crew had worked together on a lot of other productions—this was just another gig for them. For me, it was a chance to be on a real set with real actors, all working together to tell a story that audiences would hopefully love. It was truly a labor of love on my end, and I was soaking up as many details as I could.

I couldn't believe how many people it took working together to get the perfect shot. I was impressed, and I was also making mental notes for what would hopefully one day be my opportunity to utilize what I've learned on my own set. 

The shoot was over a lot quicker than I had hoped, but I was happy for Walter and the team—they got the shots they hoped for, and were able to stretch a small budget in a big way. For months after the shoot I looked forward to the different cuts that Walter and his editors put together—it was fun seeing the footage we captured only months earlier starting to be stitched together to tell the story that Walter created. 

Stian Lintvedt spins one of the film's most important props on his finger for a slow motion close-up. (Photo: Ashley Smith)

Kahea went on to win two awards, "Best Leading Actor in a Short" for John Diehl at The Southampton International Film Festival, and "Best Supporting Actress" for Clare Nono at The Asians On Film - Film Festival.

It also went on to being an official selection at The Hawaii International Film Festival, The Southampton International Film Festival, and The Carmel International Film Festival

While the film was recognized by the film industry, selfishly it will always be the film that I'll remember working on that made me want to do a whole lot more like it.