Social Encore: Kinetic’s perspective
BY JERMEL-LYNN QUILLOPO / Special to the Star-Advertiser
Films can give you a different perspective on life — whether based on a fictitious storyline or something that actually happened/is currently happening, they can help you better understand life itself.
Local film company Kinetic Films and Consolidated Theatres Pearlridge West 16 have partnered up to bring three locally produced films — “Paradise Broken” “Hang Loose” and “6B” — back to the big screen after being featured at the Hawaii International Film Festival last year.
Kinetic Films CEO James Sereno said he has been very fortunate to have the opportunity to tell stories about Hawaii.
Sereno was raised in Hawaii and went to California for college, where he graduated from the University of Southern California’s School of Cinema/Television. He was able to build his production resume by working for companies like Disney Studios and Columbia Pictures before joining Team-One Advertising, where he produced commercials for companies like Lexus and America West Airlines.
Being a local boy at heart, he said he was at a cross-roads and wanted to move back home after living in Los Angeles for several years. When he moved back, he opened up his own production company. Since returning home, he has directed and produced work for some of the island’s largest companies, including Hawaiian Electric, Hawaiian Airlines, Hawaiian Telcom, First Hawaiian Bank, and Ala Moana Center.
Sereno has told stories through video for so many years, but he wanted to tell more in-depth stories that lasted longer than a 30-second commercial. He started producing short films and had those entered into HIFF.
“I always saw this happening. … Telling the stories about Hawaii,” Sereno said. “I always saw myself doing that in my life.”
Wanting to create a feature film, Sereno partnered with local author Chris McKinney, known for his book, “The Tattoo.” Sereno said they were originally only going to write a short script but their creativity combined kept elongating the storyline.
Sereno kept telling McKinney his dream of creating a film. McKinney came into his office one day with a script and motivation to start the process of “Paradise Broken.”
Even though Sereno is a veteran when it comes it production, he admits that “Paradise Broken” challenged him on the concept of cohesively connecting the many pieces of a story together for that the audience.
“To be honest, it was a 20-day shoot,” he said. “I’ve never shot more than four days in a row. So stamina and pace was a challenge.”
One thing he was grateful for during the production process of “Paradise Broken” was the people that were on the crew.
“I had people on the crew side that I’ve worked with on commercials, people that I have long deeper relationships with,” he said. “Then I had people who never made films but all of them gave me their support. It was a great mix of first timers and experienced (actors).”
Kinetic Films partner Dante Basco helped produce and played Ray, the male lead of “Paradise Broken.” Sereno said it was interesting to see Basco play a dark and tough guy but was also happy that Basco’s network and his network were able to come together to work on the film.
With Basco already familiar with Hawaii and having his girlfriend contribute to the film as a producer, Sereno said it was a family-style type of filmmaking process.
Basco comes from a family of actors and said there is something special about Sereno and is glad that their energies have collaborated. Since “Paradise Broken,” Basco starred and also produced in Kinetic Films’ “Hang Loose,” a story about a boy named Kevin and his adventurous night with his future brother in law. His brother, Dion Basco, also stared in “Hang Loose” as his brother.
All three films being showcases are based in Hawaii and have many Asian-American actors and actresses. When I asked the Basco brothers what their take was on Asian-Americans in the film industry, they said many Asians aren’t able to land major Hollywood roles because it’s a “business thing”.
“There are many Asian-Americans out there and with films like these, it shows people that yeah, I’m an Asian-American and I go through the same problems as everyone else,” said Dion Basco.
Dante agreed and said there are “more producers creating stories with depth and are featuring Asian-Americans instead of following the American fabric pop culture.”
“Twilight” star Justin Chon was able to work with the Basco brothers on “Hang Loose” and said he is happy that they are doing films that they really love.
“BJ Penn was supposed to play my role but he turned it down,” said Chon. “I quit the movie ‘Pitch Perfect’ to do ‘Hang Loose.’ I got the script the day I flew in and played the villain in the film.”
Local girl Katherine Emily Mills also stared in “Paradise Broken” and “Hang Loose”. Mills grew up doing community theatre and had been performing since the age of 10.
After graduating from New York University, Mills wanted to concentrate on film and TV. She did a few commercials and eventually auditioned for “Paradise Broken” a couple of times. When she finally got the part and was on set with Sereno, they both realized that they had worked together before doing Ala Moana commericals.
“This was my first feature film and it was an amazing experience to have my first feature filmed where I’m from, in Hawaii,” said Mills. “I was introduced to people like Kevin and Justin and I’ve made really good friends.”
Mills said both films has helped her stretch her abilities as an actress. With the different type of actors that she has been able to work with through Kinetic Films, she says all of them have a level of respect and ground. When she compared her drama and comedy profiles, she says that comedy was a lot more fun since she felt like the cast was similar to an ensemble.
“Comedy is very vulnerable too but in a different way and there are more people so it was like were just hanging out, we had to understand each other,” said Mills. “For Paradise Broken, all of my scenes were Dante scenes and I mostly worked with him since my character was so attached to his.
“I really liked the idea of doing something that seemed very truthful versus the glossy image that Hawaii is normally depicted,” she said.
While shooting “Paradise Broken,” Dante Basco said he was able to talk to people on Hawaii’s streets and realized life here isn’t all about bikinis and surfing.
“With films like Paradise Broken, I think people will get a wider view of what Hawaii is about, because there are so many different sides of Hawaii,” he said, “I hope that people take what they see and do something about it, it needs to gain attention.”
The Basco brothers, Chon and Mills have all been impacted by their Kinetic Films experience that they too have been working on their own projects by writing and producing.
“I wanted to inspire people. You touch people in different ways,” said Dion Basco. “Even when I go and audition, there are people that still come up to me and say that I have inspired them, that opens your eyes as a person when someone says that to you.”
I highly recommend that you can catch these three Kinetic Films projects at Pearlridge 16 West Theatres before their runs end on March 28.
“6B” is the anthology feature film of four Hawaii filmmakers. Each of the four stories revolves around rooms with the number “6B.” The film examines the darker side of island life: a man struggling with drug addiction has a revelation about his identity; an ex-con must enter an underground poker game to reunite with his daughter; a young woman befriends her neighbor, a former hitman; and a local family deals with an impending tsunami.
Two drug addicts battle the Waikiki underworld as they try to make their modest dreams come true. Ray and Misha’s one bedroom apartment, only a half-a-mile from Waikiki Beach, feels a world away from the white sandy beaches and crystal blue waters of Honolulu. As the sun sets and the sightseers retire for the evening, Ray (Dante Basco – “Hook,” “The Debut”), a small-time drug dealer, and Misha, a hula-dancing prostitute, work the back alleys of Waikiki, trying to scrape a living from tourist crumbs. When the couple splits after a blow out, a regretful Ray searches for a pregnant Misha while she, alone now, must face off against forces that wish to possess her–her abusive father and a kingpin pimp of Waikiki. Can Ray and Misha reunite and rise above the powers that fight to bring them down? Or was their split the only chance they had to survive the brutal world of back alley violence and addiction tucked away from the pristine beaches of Hawaii?
Kevin (Kevin Wu aka YouTube’s KevJumba) is an average, conservative Asian-American male. Fresh out of high school, he flies to Hawai’i to attend the wedding of his big sister. The day before the wedding, he meets his future brother in law Dante (Dante Basco – Hook, the Debut) and they head out for a bachelor party with Dante’s frat boy groomsmen. A misunderstanding with a notorious drug dealer named BJ (Justin Chon – Twilight, Man Up, 21 and Over) leads to one crazy night and a series of misadventures that will change Kevin’s life forever.
Jermel-Lynn Quillopo is a multi-faceted, energetic individual with experience in both print and broadcast journalism. “Social Encore” aims to tell diverse stories about Hawaii’s food, events and people; share your tips with Jermel via email or follow her on Twitter.