Hollywood Partners with Hawai'i / by Casey Manley

HONOLULU (HawaiiNewsNow) -

Hawai’i has a long history of being a filming location for Hollywood movies.   From Bing Crosby’s romantic comedy “Waikiki Wedding” in 1937, to last year’s remake of “Godzilla”, where Waikiki is destroyed by the bullet-proof atomic monster.  Rarely have our stories been told by our storytellers and produced for a global audience.

Third generation Hollywood filmmaker Steve McEveety and producer of such epics as “Braveheart”, “The Passion” and the recent “Man Down” along with his company MPower Pictures is partnering with Hawaii based Jumping Flea Productions and Big Island filmmaker David L. Cunningham to adapt the Hawaiian cowboy story of Ko’olau for the big screen.   This true story, memorialized by author Jack London in the short story “Ko’olau the Leper” takes place in1893 just after the overthrow of the Hawaiian monarchy when a famed paniolo and his son contract the dreaded leprosy also known as the “separating disease”.   Tricked by the new provisional government, Ko’olau takes his wife and son deep into Kauai’s valleys to live out their final days in peace.   Perceived as an embarrassment to the new Republic of Hawaii government, headhunters, mercenaries and even a Civil War hero are contracted to hunt down the Hawaiian family.  Ko’olau’s skill on horseback, rifle and local knowledge of the valleys prove to be too much for his pursuers.  Eventually, after three years of constant pursuit, Ko’olau and his family are granted amnesty when their story hits international press.

Known for helping pioneer Hawaii independent filmmaking with his hit indie “Beyond Paradise”, Kona boy and Konawaena High graduate David L. Cunningham went on to be a studio director in Hollywood and has now developed this movie with veteran screenwriter John Fusco.  Fusco is known for writing such hits as “Young Guns”, “Hidalgo”, and Netflix’s “Marco Polo” and the upcoming sequel to “Crouching Tiger, Hidden Dragon”. 

Cunningham returned home from Los Angeles to his four generations of family members in the islands to help support Hawai’i based filmmaking.  “It has been my life-long pursuit to make movies in Hawai’i about Hawai’i.  There are so many footnotes in our history that need to be told.  Although we are very grateful for visiting productions, we are not only a filming location.  We have a voice and that voice needs to be heard.   I believe that a healthy partnership with Hollywood and producers like Steve who really get it is a significant leap forward.”

Producer Steve McEveety has recently been spending more time in Hawai'i - “I have close family members that live in the islands and have worked in Hawaii’s film industry for many years.  Hawai’i has a special place in my heart and deserves to have its filmmaking community grow to the place where it can develop and produce its own movies.  New Zealand and other communities have done this.  "What has been great to learn is the tremendous diversity Hawai'i has to offer to filmmakers.  11 of the 13 climates zones, the bustling city of Honolulu, new studios and incentives , we are excited to produce more projects here" said MPower Pictures President John Shepherd successfully – I believe it is time for Hawai’i.   I am thrilled to partner with David Cunningham, John Fusco and this team of Hawai’i based filmmakers.   I started our company MPower Pictures to empower the storyteller and their vision.  I believe that this special, true story of Ko’olau and his family can be Hawai’i’s “Braveheart”.  I am honored to play a role in bridging Hawai’i and Hollywood.”

Jumping Flea Productions (the translation of “ukulele”) is a graduating company from the GVS Accelerator which is a recent public/private program that is generating Hawai’i based media companies.  Jumping Flea Productions received $50,000 in development seed financing from the Accelerator Program which was named one of the top 50 most innovative accelerators in the nation. As a successful graduate of the Program, Jumping Flea also has the opportunity to tap $250,000 in matching follow-on investment from the Accelerator Fund. Production of "Ko'olau" will be done entirely in the State of Hawai’i and will receive the 25% production and post production rebate for the outer islands.

Applications for the GVS Accelerator begins August 1 at gvsaccelerator.com

Named one of the 50 most innovative accelerators in America by the U.S. Small Business Administration (SBA), Hawaii’s “GVS Accelerator” is announcing its second cycle.  

A partnership between Global Virtual Studio (GVS), the Hawai’i Strategic Development Corporation (HSDC), the County of Hawai’i and the GTA Development Fund, the Accelerator aims to empower Hawaii’s creative entrepreneurs to launch their original transmedia franchises. The program is based out of Honua Studios in Kona on Hawai’i Island and will accept applications from August 1st through August 31st.  This year individual entrepreneurs/producers may apply as well as startup teams - the former to be “match-made” with selected startup companies. 

The program includes a $50,000 seed investment and access to entertainment and innovation industry insiders such as producer Ralph Winter (“X-MEN,” “Fantastic Four” and “Planet of the Apes”), Academy Award nominated screenwriter Tab Murphy (“Gorillas in the Mist,” “Tarzan” and “The Hunchback of Notre Dame”), Mike Frank (co-founder of Level 3 Communications) and Lance Priebe (creator and co-founder of Club Penguin).  Last year, the Accelerator selected five companies from more than 100 applicants.

Successful graduates of the program can now tap up to $250,000 in matching funds (in addition to the $50,000 seed funds for development) if they raise at least 25% of their follow-on budget in private equity and secure product distribution.  The first round’s cohort is now in the follow-on fundraising phase with graduate Jumping Flea Productions currently in talks with MPower Pictures’ Steve McEveety (“Man Down,” “The Passion of the Christ,” “Braveheart”) to co-produce “Jack London's Ko'olau the Leper.”  Production will be done entirely in the State of Hawai’i and will receive the 25% production and post production rebate for the outer islands.

Selected startups will soon have the benefit of the new cutting-edge broadband tools of GVS Connect, a spinoff startup of GVS that is pioneering a broadband pilot program in partnership with the HSDC that will utilize broadband connectivity, virtual collaboration and digital asset management.  The connectivity will allow Honua Studios to connect to over 400 major studios and post production companies on a private and secure, dedicated line in partnership with Sohonet Media Network.  GVS Connect will have hubs on both Hawai’i Island and Oahu, and will open up “self serve data transfer” services to the general public where up to 10GB of burstable connectivity will be accessible.  GVS Accelerator Founder and “Chief Instigator”  David L. Cunningham states, “We hope to pave a way for big data transfer in the islands which will open up new opportunities for Hawai’i entrepreneurs.”

The GVS Accelerator was chosen as one of the top 50 most innovative accelerators in the nation from over eight hundred accelerators in America by the SBA.  This honor came with a $50,000 award that helped to build out a new sound recording studio and 7.1 surround sound screening room at the Accelerator’s Co-Work Space at Honua Studios.  Other Program sponsors include Hawaii’s Creative Industries and Creative Lab, Hawaii International Film Festival, the High Technology Development Corporation, Big Island Gigs, and the Hawai’i Visitors & Convention Bureau.

If you are an entrepreneur in the creative industries and would like to apply to the Accelerator, please visit www.gvsaccelerator.com for more information.