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The Honolulu Advertiser
Posted on: Tuesday, April 20, 2004

Future filmmaker

By Wayne Harada
Advertiser Entertainment Writer

Nelson Quan checks his storybook as a music video that he and James Jones created for "American Idol" plays on a laptop computer. Storyboards for the video are shown below.

Gregory Yamamoto • The Honolulu Advertiser

Ford's video casting call

One winner from each of three rounds (this week is the last) will compete in the final voting, beginning May 5.

'American Idol'

7-8 p.m. today (seven competing)

7-7:30 p.m. tomorrow (one eliminated)

Fox (KHON-2)

Theme: Barry Manilow music

Viewing parties at 7 tonight

• Dave & Buster's
• Eastside Grill
• Ruby Tuesday
• Players Sports Bar
• Maryknoll School

Hawai'i has another contestant on "American Idol" this week: Nelson Quan, 19.

Unlike Trias, Quan is a budding filmmaker, not a singer. And chances are if you were driving a Ford Focus around the island the past few months, he may have tried to track you down and asked you to join his video.

And it's good. Very good.

While Trias remains in the thick of the singing race tonight, Quan, a 2003 graduate of Iolani School, seeks local support with online voting beginning tomorrow and continuing through April 30.

He is a University of Hawai'i-Manoa freshman and a webmaster at the university's Academy for Creative Media who could emerge with a Ford in his future. His stunning music video, "Car Wash" (yes, the title tune from the 1976 movie)," is in the third phase of an ongoing music video competition. He is the lone Island contestant among nine entries exhibited (the last premiering tomorrow).

"I saw this video contest on the 'American Idol' site, which offered a car (a 2005 Ford Focus ST) as a prize as well as a trip for two to Los Angeles," said Quan. "We had a short turn-around time to put something together."

The effort could be a winner. It's a modest baby step toward Quan's ultimate goal of becoming a future Steven Spielberg, George Lucas or Quentin Tarantino. The prize also includes a walk-on in an "American Idol" finale video — a trek he wouldn't mind making.

Beyond winning, Quan is also thrilled to have the opportunity — with help from friends — to plan, film and make a music video that will be widely seen.

He chose "Car Wash," one of the three car-related tunes available in the competition, and ramped it up with production sizzle, real cars, dancing girls and something other contenders didn't have — the sparkling beauty of Hawai'i's seas and skies.

His entry is good enough for prime-time, so his chances of scoring appear pretty good.

"The music video had to run no more than 1:10 (a little over a minute) or 70 seconds, same as a song contestant's time on 'American Idol' each week," said Quan.

Quan approached the whole experience like a mini-movie, working with a script and a storyboard. Some early entries, from other states, are crude by comparison, lacking the slick look or bonafide "location" flavors.

It took four weeks to do, from planning to execution to completed digital video, Quan said.

"We cast Joanne Agbayani as our female singer (she's a cousin of baseballer Benny Agbayani)," said Quan. "And we relied on friends as extras and techies."

The work had to be original and use the downloadable music tracks. One other requisite: it had to display the Ford logo.

The automotive company is the sponsor of the contest.

Clint Matsumoto, a 22-year-old Leeward Community College student, helped with the script and storyboard. James Jones, a film-maker and a returning student at the UH, was director of photographer, co-producer and assisted with editing.

With plans to make a career out of film work, Quan said he approached the short "as an indie project. And with any indie, you get credit, you get food, you get a DVD end product. But no pay."

His total budget was between $500 and $600, "with most of the cost going to food," he said. "They say a film crew is like an army — runs on the stomach."

So he fed the crew plenty of hot dogs, rice, chili and chicken. And plate lunches. Three ice chests were always filled with liquid refreshments

To satisfy the Ford logo requirement, Quan went wild: He managed to borrow four Ford Focus vehicles, including one brand-new silver number on loan from Dave Chun of the Honolulu Ford dealership.

"We saw this one blue Ford Focus driving around one day, and we said, 'That's the car we need,' and we trailed the driver."

It turned out to be a fellow named Raymond Balubar. Quan asked him: "Would you like to be in a video?"

Balubar agreed, and offered up his brother Vince Balubar's dark gray Ford Focus, too.

The fourth Ford, a silver-gray vehicle, was provided by Cameron Matsumoto, brother of the project's storyboard editor.

The ambitious little film boasts full-on location shots, largely at Waimanalo with Manana (Rabbit Island) in the background, a choreographed beach scene (yes, with babes) and a tidbit in front of Quan's home in Hawai'i Kai.

The audio was done and mixed at friend Kamuela Kahoano's home, with Agbayani lip-synching on location from a CD recording.

Quan borrowed a Sony PD-170 mini-digital video camera from the Academy for Creative Media, which endorsed the work even if it wasn't an academic activity.

"While the music is not officially an ACM project, it's got to be one of the great things our students are doing and it helps encourage other students to do other things," said Chris Lee, ACM honcho. "I think (Quan) did a good job. He's a go-getter, has a good eye; seeing this kind of quality from the students is gratifying."

Quan is one of 22 members of an ACM production class who are in completing 120 short films, each running 2 to 10 minutes, said Lee. A public screening is planned in May.

Jones, who has worked on other films, said Quan's entry "really looks like it will win. If it does, it'll be a great thing for the fledgling ACM film school."

And should Quan win, he said he'd sell the Ford Focus to use the money for future film projects. He drives a 1997 Nissan 200 SX and is happy with it.

"The music video will become the intellectual property of Ford," said Quan. "But the greatest thing for me is that it's a great resumé builder."

"And it's good inspiration for the film school," said Lee.

Besides the official entry, Quan also completed a "making of" documentary, depicting planning sessions at California Pizza Kitchen, Agbayani singing in the studio, and extras rehearsing dance sequence. The documentary was directed by Jonathan Sugai, one of the film's editors, but is not part of the contest submission.

Reach Wayne Harada wharada@honoluluadvertiser.com, 525-8067 or fax 525-8055.

• • •

Idol buzz ...

Barry interesting: Barry Manilow's music will be explored by "American Idol" contestants tonight; he also will sit in as guest judge.

Yahoo!: The global Internet company says that Hawai'i is hot on its Web site, ranking as the state with the highest percentage of "Idol" searches nationwide, with Jasmine Trias leading the Y searches at the No. 1 position; Camile Velasco was No. 2, just before her ouster from the roster of finalists. Hawai'i's fascination with "Idol" — and dominance in the searches — dates to 2002, says Yahoo! The No. 1 online name explored? William Hung, by a bon bon.

Are Jasmine Trias, 17, and John Stevens, 16, an "American Idol" "item"?

The supermarket tabloid, Examiner, reports the teen singers (the paper mistakenly lists her age as 19) have a romance in bloom, citing an unnamed show source. "They whisper and get fits of giggles. They have become really close. They go ga-ga when the other is singing," the source is quoted.

The paper explains Trias' flower placement (right ear, single; left ear, taken) but juxtaposes the meaning in the article. She is pictured with Stevens in the publication — with flower over right ear. So is she taken or not?

Trias was not available for comment.

The local touch: Maryknoll School graduate Lorna Lee Heller (Class of '88 ) recently won a contest with Honolulu-based KXME 104.3-FM radio station, giving her an opportunity to fly to Hollywood for the April 6 taping of "American Idol." Maryknoll provided Heller with "local kine" grinds to present to contestant Jasmine Trias ('04) and her family, including mochi crunch, chocolate-covered macadamia nuts, li hing mui, saimin, and of course, a Maryknoll School T-shirt. Maryknoll President Michael Baker even wrote a note for Jasmine saying, "By now, you've probably had enough Simon, and not enough saimin." The basket was delivered to Trias' father, Rudy, after the taping.

Hollywood calling: Both Camile Velasco and Jasmine Trias are being interviewed and explored for possible projects down the line. Neither is able to commit to anything yet, because allegiance to "American Idol" is part of contractual obligations, at least through a concert tour later this year. Velasco has been eliminated, and eventually will be able to nibble at offers, but if Trias wins, the commitment will be further extended.

'Idol' spoof: "Superstar USA," a show debuting May 17 on The WB, will spoof "American Idol." The premise: The William Hungs would remain, the Clay Aikens and Kelly Clarksons would be booted. Bad would be in, good gets dismissed. Judges will praise the horrible, pan the talented. Yikes, what next?

Correction: A previous version of this story incorrectly said Nelson Quan's music video would be featured on Web sites for "American Idol" and Ford. Quan's video was not one of the three finalists. Chris Lee, Academy for Creative Media chairman, said the video would be posted on the Academy for Creative Media Web site at www.hawaii.edu/acm or acm.hawaii.edu/index2.shtml.