'Flight 29 down' takes off
By Michael Tsai
Advertiser Staff Writer
By Michael Tsai
The Advertiser recently visited the North Shore set of the Discovery Kids hit "Flight 29 Down" to chat with the show's ensemble cast. This is the first in a series of features on TV's newest "lost" sensations.
With less than a full season of episodes broadcast so far, "Flight 29 Down" has already exceeded its producers' optimistic projections.
Despite a four-week hiatus and a string of reruns, the Hawai'i-based series, co-produced by Hawaii Film Partners and creators Stan Rogow and DJ MacHale, has become Discovery Kids' top-rated program.
Hollywood has been watching, too. The directing team of MacHale, Matt Locey, Bern-ie Axelrod and Andrea Boyd was nominated for a Directors Guild of America Award for Outstanding Directorial Achievement in Children's Programs.
If ever the stage was set for a sophomore slump, this would be it, right?
Not so, said MacHale. With five episodes of Season 2 filmed, the veteran writer and director said the positive chemistry that saw the series through its first-year experiment has only improved.
"The second season of shows are the best," MacHale said. "There's a familiarity, a shorthand. There are no explanations needed and no one is sick of it yet."
MacHale said "29 Down" has a low-stress, high-reward set because the ensemble cast forged close friendships while working and living together last year, and the show's local crew nurtures a family atmosphere.
The show follows the exploits of a group of teenagers stranded on a deserted island. While the premise sounds similar to that of "Lost," the production's North Shore neighbor, the execution is completely different.
For "29 Down," character development is the focus. "When there is conflict, it's character conflict, not survival conflict," MacHale explained.
MacHale said the ongoing challenge is to carefully manage the story arc, developing the larger plot line without exhausting the story.
While almost all of Season 1 was shot on the main set at Mokule'ia, Season 2 will find cast and crew venturing out a bit more. Producers are working on arrangements to shoot a flashback episode at a nearby elementary school. Another episode involving an attempt at piloting a raft will be filmed near Kahana Bay.
Last month, a film crew visited the Honolulu Zoo to film a komodo dragon, a model of which was used back at the Mokule'ia site.
Locey, the first assistant director, said the show's picturesque Hawaiian backdrop functions as another character in the show and elevates the overall look of the show. That much was apparent at the Directors Guild awards.
Locey, a highly regarded veteran of the local film industry, represented "Flight 29 Down" at the awards.
"When they played our clip," he said with all due bias, "it was the best-looking one!"
"Better than 'Brokeback Mountain' and 'Good Night, and Good Luck' ..." MacHale said.
"Yeah," Locey said, laughing. "Better than all of them."
Locey, who attended with his wife, Mele, did not get to use the award speech he prepared "just in case" (Chris Eyre won for Showtime's "Edge of America"), but he did get a couple of eyefuls of the celebrity guest list, which included Heath Ledger, Ziyi Zhang, Philip Seymour Hoffman, Clint Eastwood, George Clooney and some guy standing next to him at the door — M. Night Shyamalan.
"I didn't even recognize him," Locey said.
Reach Michael Tsai at email@example.com.