The end is near for 'Flight 29 Down'
By Mike Gordon
Advertiser Staff Writer
By Mike Gordon
If you haven't seen the online promo, here's the official third-season teaser for the teen-castaway drama "Flight 29 Down":
There's a boat on the horizon.
Now before you get all excited about a possible rescue, don't forget all the people who found Gilligan's Island and left Bob Denver eating coconuts.
But one way or another, the successful Hawai'i-based drama will end tomorrow during a single, lengthy episode on the Discovery Kids Channel.
On Sunday, the series finale will be the featured presentation at Sunset on the Beach in Waikiki.
For everyone associated with it, the series offered a forgiving learning curve. It seems to have treated everyone well.
The series debuted in October 2005 and became an instant hit. It followed the adventures of 10 young teens who were on a plane that crashed on an island in Micronesia. It was shot entirely on O'ahu's North Shore.
Three Hawai'i teenagers — B.K. Cannon, Tani Lynn Fujimoto and Blade Rogers — had recurring roles. They say the series had a good run, and fans will be pleased with the way things wrap up, with plenty of drama and adventure.
"It's a great closing," Cannon said. "I think it got the closing it definitely deserved."
Cannon, 16, from Enchanted Lake, said that while she appeared in only a few episodes, the experience changed her life.
It motivated her to move to Los Angeles with her mother for about a year, during which she landed a role in the movie "The Inner Circle."
"I'm blessed," said Cannon, a senior at Mid-Pacific Institute. "It doesn't always happen that way. It takes years to get that."
Cannon isn't giving away plot secrets, but she said she's happy that her character, Jory, who left for the other side of the island in the first season, returned for a role in the finale.
"I thought she would be left there to die, but this is a kids' show, so that wouldn't happen," Cannon said.
The series had to end, though, she said. The young actors were getting older, especially Allen Alvarado, who was 8 when filming began.
"He grew so much over just two seasons," Cannon said. "He has a little mustache now."
'A GREAT OPPORTUNITY'
Fujimoto was a singer and a student at Sacred Hearts Academy when she landed the role of Abby.
A 2004 Na Hoku Hanohano Award finalist for best female vocalist, Fujimoto discovered a love of acting. Now the 19-year-old from 'Aiea is torn between the two disciplines.
She's had parts on the TV series "Beyond the Break," but she's also new lead female vocalist with The Hawaiian Style Band.
"For someone like me who didn't have a great deal of acting experience, to have the opportunity to work with a lot of professional people was a great opportunity to learn my craft," she said. "I had to adjust in certain ways, but I don't think it was difficult. I had a lot of fun. I think most kids my age would have loved to have that opportunity."
Fujimoto won't say much about the finale, which she views as bittersweet. Cast and crew had grown close, she said.
"My character becomes pretty intense," she said. "In the third season, I am sort of the catalyst to get everyone to go to the other side of the island. It is all about us leaving to go to the other side of the island."
Rogers enjoyed his role as Ian, but not so much the family pressure to do well. The Waimanalo teenager grew up around actors and acting — his grandfather produced summer-stock theater in Hawai'i and his father teaches film and acting in the Islands.
"My whole family was watching it and critiquing me," he said. "That's why I want to go into directing. Nobody has really directed."
An 18-year-old senior at Honolulu Waldorf School, Rogers appeared only in early episodes of the first season, but he's in the finale. His return after so long meant lengthy makeup sessions.
His hair needed straightening and bleaching and yeah, he had to shave, too.
"They they had to put all my dirt on and my cuts," Rogers said. "They put this glue on my lips and then they tore it off. It would look like I had chapped lips, but by the end of the day it was gooey and gross."
'IT PUT US ON THE MAP'
Maturity also came to Hawaii Film Partners, which co-produced "Flight 29 Down," its inaugural project, with series creators Stan Rogow and D.J. MacHale.
Hawaii Film Partners shot series episodes on a budget, spending hundreds of thousands of dollars instead of the millions typically spent on other series.
The company wants to help foster a film industry in Hawai'i that relies upon local talent. To that end, much of the production crew for "Flight 29 Down" came from Hawai'i instead of the Mainland.
"It put us on the map and really legitimized Hawaii Film Partners," said Gina Watumull, who co-founded the company in 2002 with her husband, Rann.
"The first question from everyone before this was 'What did you do before?' " she said. "It could shut down the conversation right there. Now that it is shown around the world, people will take our calls."
The series became the No. 1 Discovery Kids show, Rann Watumull said.
"We thought the show was great," he said. "We thought it had potential, but it has exceeded our expectations."
The series now airs in 20 foreign countries.
So why end a good thing?
"That was out of our hands," said Gina Watumull, who sometimes brought brownies for the teens on the set. "Discovery Kids said that was the end of the run. We said we'll buy you guys out and keep doing it. They said no. They are just going to just keep showing it, because it is so popular."
Reach Mike Gordon at firstname.lastname@example.org.