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The Honolulu Advertiser

Posted on: Friday, June 17, 2005

'Tween castaway series drawing interest

By Michael Tsai
Advertiser Staff Writer

Prospects look good for a second season of "29 Down," the 'tween adventure series co-produced by Hawai'i Film Partners.

The series, part of the Discovery Kids block on NBC, was created by Stan Rogow ("Lizzie McGuire") and DJ MacHale. It filmed 13 episodes on the North Shore earlier this year. The pilot episode for Season 1 doesn't air until Sept. 10, but discussions are already progressing for another season.

If all goes well, a second season could begin shooting as early as October, according to Rann Watumull, who founded Hawai'i Film Partners with his wife, Gina.

So far, things have been been going well. Two episodes from Season 1 were test-marketed to approximately 800 adolescent and teen viewers from around the country — with overwhelmingly positive results, according to Watumull.

"The responses were as strong in the 7-to-8 (year old) group as in the 15-year-olds," Watumull said.

About half of the respondents said they would be willing to give up their current favorite show to watch "29 Down."

Watumull said the show has generated offers from foreign markets, but that he plans to wait until the show is more established and therefore more valuable.

Discovery Kids was so impressed by the fledgling project — which came in on time and under budget — that it asked Hawai'i Film Partners to take over one of its reality TV projects. Watumull said he had to turn down the offer because it didn't promise enough of a return for his investors, always a key consideration for the young film company.

"We want to build a viable product so that people will look at investing in film as a good alternative investment," Watumull said. "Our investors are not star-struck, they're business-minded.

"The only way to build the industry here with a real sense of ownership and involvement is to attract local investors with quality productions that are financially viable," he said.

Hawai'i Film Partners is also closing in on a deal to produce a full-length feature film in Hawai'i.

'Desperate' vacation

Turns out Ray Romano and his "Everybody Loves Raymond" cohorts weren't the only TV writers schmoozing the dolphins at the Kahala Mandarin Oriental Hawaii last week.

Writers from ABC's "Desperate Housewives" were also at the luxury hotel, plotting out next season's intrigues on Wisteria Lane.

The trip, albeit a working one, was a reward for the show's surprising success last season.

Student film honors

Nice showing by the Hawaii Student Film Festival, which drew an estimated 500 people to its awards and screening program at the 50th State Fair.

Jennifer Akana-Sturla's film "Kamea" took top honors.

Gold Award winners included "Do Not Disturb" (Michael Ogasawara), "The New Americans" (Pearl Ridge Elementary, grade 5), "Pieces Mended" (Kapolei High School, grade 12), "Cause & Effect (Ogasawara), "No Means No" (Hawaiian Mission Elementary & Intermediate, grade 8), "A Team Like No Other (King Kekaulike High School, grades 10-12), "Love of My Life" (Nanakuli High School, grades 8-12), and "Deadly Hidden Master" (Ogasawara).

Thirteen silver and bronze awards were also presented.

Inde Awards were given to local film and TV professionals who include local students in their productions. This year's Indes went to Deanie Lehano ("Save Hawaii's Dogs"), GB Hajim ("Strange Frame") and Rann and Gina Watumull ("29 Down").

Reach Michael Tsai at mtsai@honoluluadvertiser.com or 535-2461.