By Jan TenBruggencate
Advertiser Kaua'i Bureau
KIPU, Kauai Deep in the jungled valleys and open pastures surrounding tributaries of the Hul«ia River near Puhi, 16 camouflage-clad adventurers are working through a six-day televised hunt. Some are hunters, some are prey.
In this survival-oriented game show, skilled pursuit, great scenery and money-lust combine for the sake of entertainment.
Out in the field, a distant explosion breaks up the birdsong and drowns out the wind in the trees near the headquarters of a new television series, "Manhunt."
"Someone stepped into a tripwire," noted executive director Christopher Crowe.
The explosion alerts three manhunters to the location of their prey 13 everyday folks whose only wildland skills reportedly come from a Navy SEAL crash survival course.
"The experiment here is the outrageous notion of melding action and reality programming. Its never been done that Im aware of," said Crowe, a 50-ish television producer who has worked on shows as new as "Seven Days" and as venerable as "The Untouchables."
"Were also trying to make it somewhat of a cartoon," the producer added.
"Manhunt," a joint venture of the professional wrestling organization WWF and Paramount, comes in the wake of "Survivor" and a rush of televised reality programming.
Heres the story:
On a jungled tropical island, three trained hunters two men and a woman set out for sport to track down and tag 13 prey seven men and six women. They have six days to do it. The last surviving prey gets $250,000. The rest get nothing.
The filming is being done over six days, each of which will be distilled into a one-hour television program.
The hunting, for filming purposes, is done in daylight. Hunters are armed with "air-powered marker weapons," which are similar to paint guns, and use tricks like tripwires that set off explosions. Each day, the prey need to get from point A to point B, using any route they like.
"Were seeing it as it occurs, almost like a live sporting event," Crowe said.
When the hunted violate rules, like hiding out and not getting to the campsite "safe zone" in time, they are punished.
"The hunters may remove a sleeping bag, a tent or some food, and the hunted have to work out how to handle that," said location producer Tim Busa.
The 13 prey were competitive and independent in the hotel before the filming began, Crowe said, but once they began sleeping in the muddy Kauai forest together, the chemistry changed.
"Weve put people into the jungle, scared them with pyrotechnics and so forth. They live in the jungle. They sleep in miserable tents. But now, even though its winner-take-all, theyve coalesced into a unit. Theyve grown into this really primitive tribal mode."
Crowe said he is fascinated that the prey have turned to cooperation to survive, despite suggestions in some survival literature that humans may go in the other direction.
"Two days in, they are transformed from savages into social creatures. They are becoming more civilized," he said. "Theyve totally forgotten about the money."
Television viewers will have to wait to see whether the trend Crowe observed continues through the end of the program.
"Manhunt" producers looked at several forested locales for the movie, including sites in Fiji and Costa Rica, but were put off by Fijis recent political upheavals and by Costa Ricas snakes.
They settled on the interior of east Kauai. It had the jungle look, with other desirable attributes.
"This was a safe enough environment," Busa said, eliminating worries about poisonous snakes and spiders, and reducing problems with other natural hazards.
There are other advantages, as well. "This is Eden, and theres also good medical services, a system of justice. They use American money," Busa commented.
While the contestants sleep in damp sleeping bags on the muddy forest floor, Crowe and the other film honchos are sleeping in Kauais luxury hotel rooms.
Kauai County film commissioner Judy Drosd said "Manhunt," as short as its filming schedule may be, is a new first for the island: Its the first television series entirely filmed on Kauai.
The program will begin showing in March on the UPN network.
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