FILM LOCALLY PRODUCED
By Mary Kaye Ritz
Advertiser Staff Writer
By Mary Kaye Ritz
Independent movies often face more than their share of trials and tribulations on the way to the big screen - location problems, delays in production, schedule conflicts when an actor's paying gigs conflict with shooting.
Gail Marie Badajos, who plays a demon in "The Soul Saviour Chronicles," would've been happy if that were all she had to contend with.
In the middle of production last January, she found herself in the midst of one of the worst domestic violence cases in the Islands. Her sister, Janel Tupuola, was beaten to death with a shotgun in front of horrified bystanders; a 69-year-old Good Samaritan who tried to intervene was attacked. Tupuola's ex-boyfriend, Alapeti Siuanu Tunoa of Salt Lake, has been charged with murder.
Producer Jeff "Katts" Katsutani said production was halted when Gail Marie, as she's known in the credits, had to step in to take guardianship of Tupuola's two youngest children.
Any independent production is "blood and sweat, and this was tears," said the producer, who goes by the last name of Katts professionally.
"I give her a lot of credit," Katts said during a break in last-minute editing last week. "She still continued with this."
He's glad she did.
"It wouldn't have been the same. ... Her family was going through a lot, and she was taking care of kids, but she was always there, ready to go. And she gave an excellent performance."
Katts calls the feature-length movie "something in the supernatural genre," which you could say is just code for horror.
"There's a market for that, for low-budget horror or skin flicks," Katts admitted. "Actually, a lot of filmmakers start off with that. ... So many elements in horror that can be appealing, the good versus evil theme, plus it's an easier genre to tackle. I rarely see dramas. Horror just seems more accessible to make."
"Soul Saviours," which cost about $2,500 to $3,000 to make, is a sequel of sorts to Katts' 2005 "The Hidden Battle," which also had its premiere screening at the Dole, then showed at other venues, such as the University of Hawai'i. That one broke even, and cost less than $2,000 to make, Katts said.
The story focuses on Satan and God, battling for the souls of humans. Satan bets on his most proficient demons; God, in turn, wagers on fellow humans, or "soul saviors."
One of the titled characters is Caroline Chapman, Miss West O'ahu 2008.
"It's a classic story of good versus evil," said Chapman. "... It holds those old-fashioned values."
She explained how her character is convinced by an angel (who has taken in human form) to "help a fellow mental patient whose soul in jeopardy."
How hard was it to play a mental patient?
"I was actually a recovering mental patient, so I didn't have to act too crazy," said Chapman, who performed during her high school years in Sacred Hearts Academy theater projects.
"I'm not saying I wouldn't do it again," Chapman said, however; she has set her sights elsewhere. "My real goal is to be Miss Hawai'i," she said, explaining that she's gearing up for the next pageant. "I really want to get to Miss America."
None of the actors or crew did it for a paycheck, which is good because no one got paid - "not even myself," Katts said. "The proceeds go back into paying for the (theater) rentals."
Besides Chapman and Badajos, the cast includes Katharin "Ladie K" Dombrow; and Olena Rubin, now a TV news reporter.
Gail Marie was grateful that she returned to the set, even though it was difficult to leave the children, both toddlers.
"Jeff was really great about giving me that time off, to get my head together, to get responsibilities together," she said. "I couldn't imagine them re-shooting with somebody else. I put my emotions on the side and just got into my character."
Gail Marie said she appreciated the filming as an escape from what was rocking her world and the world of her little niece and nephew.
"I would try to get into character, to do a movie, to work full time. You have to keep all your emotions in check, single- parenting, especially. I just had to do what I had to do."
An auntie stepped in to watch the kids so she could finish shooting.
"I was literally on the set, trying to memorize lines," she said before adding, "I'm nervous to see it."
Pressed as to why she might be nervous - would the story of good vs. evil hit too close to home? Would it bring to mind those awful first days? What?
"I'm nervous to see: How did I come through: Did I do a good job? So many things were going on!"