Hawaii Previous is Not Uninteresting

Screened at The Green House on Friday, December 16, 2011.

This past Friday the Red Band Project was invited to see the final cut of Hawaii Previous, a short film produced by screen2play which was their entry in last month’s Showdown in Chinatown film competition. A local version of The 48 Hour Film Project, teams basically have a set or limited amount of time to put together a film with specific guidelines in place (required use of a prop/s, specific genre/theme, etc). At it’s core, the Showdown in Chinatown pushes the skill and creativity of local filmmakers in a friendly competition.

Movie posters for the film lined the walls of The Green House.

What or who exactly is screen2play? screen2play is masterminded by Dan Zelikman, whose resumé is long and distinguished, but ultimately has a passion for film at heart. Through the wonders of social media I’d been following Dan on Twitter for a while and eventually stumbled onto his social media screenwriting efforts over at screen2play. To give you some more background, here’s an excerpt from his initial post:

I thought it might be fun to collect ideas for a screenplay using social media. Everything from the characters, their backgrounds, the story, conflicts, resolutions, etc.

As a community we can write it – and I’ll do my best to keep it in a direction that tells an interesting story.

You never know, maybe we’ll put something together that’s worth filming.

I guess that’s the project.

Though their Showdown in Chinatown entry was limited to seven minutes, the screen2play team put together a final cut of Hawaii Previous that was ten minutes long. Knowing that their film had been a finalist in the Showdown event, we decided to drop by and check out their work. Besides, who doesn’t love seeing a director’s cut now and again?

A big sign announcing the film and people involved greeted everyone upon entry.

The screening was held at The Green House, a new “learning lab, shared workspace, innovation hub” in Kaka‘ako. Co-owned by John Garcia, who also shot and edited the film, he hopes that Hawaii Previous will be the first of many showcases by local creatives at The Green House.

Everyone mingling in The Green House before the screenings of Hawaii Previous.

To kick things off that night, Dan introduced himself and all the players involved with the film and also laid out what was in store for everyone. Throughout the introductions, questions asked after the film, and a few personal conversations with Dan himself; you could definitely sense the exuberance that he had for the project. From funny things that happened on set to the nail-biting loss of all their footage after they had wrapped, everything was spoken with a great sense of pride and ownership.

Evan and Dan introducing the film before the screening.

Probably what I admire most was Dan’s ‘just go out and do it’ mentality. From what he told us, it didn’t sound as if he had a lot of experience with filmmaking. However, the project was something that he wanted to do and he had the drive to do it, so . . . he went out and did it. In many ways I can identify with his ‘just do it’ mentality. Sometimes you just have to go out and do something instead of talking, discussing, or planning it too much. Yeah, things may not always work without the right planning, but I think sometimes inaction can be just as bad. Anyway, I digress . . .

Hawaii Previous . . . the film

A scene from Hawaii Previous.

Before we go any further I’d be remiss to mention that the screenwriter for the project was Evan Nagle. While most people think that the director is the one that comes up with the story for a film, a lot of the time this is not always the case. Films usually start off being written and developed by screenwriters, and Dan was quick to give credit and praise to Evan for his smart screenplay.

So what exactly is Hawaii Previous about? Here’s background on the project and a synopsis from the Hawaii Previous – Film Debut & Screening event page:

The initial idea for Hawaii Previous stemmed from the The Showdown in Chinatown challenge of making a film about a Hawaiian Tale, which also needed to have the Pacific Ocean in the film. When we heard the criteria, we figured the other teams were going to go in the direction of shooting a beautiful Hawaii filled with gorgeous blue oceans, palm trees and explosive sunsets.

We decided to go a different route.

Hawaii Previous is set 2,000 years in the future where Hawaii is stuck smack in the middle of the oceanless continent Amasia (after the Pacific plate subducted, America and Asia became one continent).

Joon and Mestiza are two members from a tribe that live in Hawaii Previous and search for edible food remnants everyday. That is, until they find something in their digging that is of a greater interest.

Initially it was a little difficult to get into the film, mainly due to the audio as I couldn’t quite make out what our two protagonists were saying. When I was finally able to make out what they were saying, I hit another stumbling block . . . I sort of didn’t understand the things they were saying. They weren’t speaking another language, but they weren’t speaking normally either. Then finally everything clicked, and not just with me, but with everyone in the audience it seemed as well . . . the characters were speaking in a way where they knew they were in a film and were breaking the fourth wall by referencing things such as their lines and an upcoming scene. The characters also referenced their past in a unique way by citing those things as “previous” (ex: the nonexistent ocean as ‘water previous’ or ‘ocean previous’; the land they were standing on as ‘Hawaii previous’, etc).

Joon and Mestiza searching for food in a scene from Hawaii Previous.

While I won’t venture into spoilers, I will say that I did enjoy the film and wish I could have watched it a second time–to catch what I missed in the first few minutes of the film and to watch it knowing what I know now about the film. The premise of the story is interesting as we follow the two protagonists Joon and Mestiza as they search for sustenance in the wasteland of Hawaii Previous. As made apparent as the film goes on, the world they live in harsh and devoid of color, both literally and figuratively. As I mentioned earlier, though they speak in English, the syntax that Joon and Mestiza use is unique to this time period. Is this a result of the catastrophe that befell Earth? No reason is given and figuring it out isn’t the point. Following them on their journey for food is.

In the end it’s this combination of weird syntax, acknowledgement of the existence of the camera, and the situation that our protagonists find themselves in that makes the film engrossing and at times humorously entertaining. I give Dan, Evan, John and the rest of the crew tons of praise for putting together a really great film.

One pressing question I had about the film on Friday was, so how did the film do in the Showdown in Chinatown competition? Despite their best efforts, another team took home first place. However, as I mentioned, the film is great and is definitely something for them to be proud of. Hell, I’m proud to have gone and seen it. And I hope that people have the opportunity to see it.

3 Responses to “Hawaii Previous is Not Uninteresting”

  1. January 4, 2012 at 4:20 PM

    After a two week holiday hiatus from the web, I was pleasantly surprised to find your extremely warm post about our project Hawaii Previous. I can’t thank you enough for attending our screening, but your post was definitely the icing. So again, thanks!

    If you’re up for it, I would love to meet with you and Lindsey to talk about possibly working on something together in the future. As long as it’s film related, I’m sure we’ll all be pumped for it. 🙂

    Happy New Year! – Dan

  2. January 4, 2012 at 10:59 PM

    Awesome stuff, Matt! Legit review — greatly appreciated! Makes these types of projects all worth it. Hope to see you around TGH soon!


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