Filmmakers here scouting jungle settings

Roger Corman — recognized as the “godfather” of independent movies — and his son will be filming the majority of “Primeval,” a science-fiction thriller on Kaua‘i.

It will be the first movie made on Kaua‘i in three years.

Executives with one of Corman’s companies, Rodeo Productions, have been on-island, and, with the help of Kaua‘i Film Commissioner Art Umezu, have been looking for “jungle settings,” Mayor Bryan Baptiste told reporters during a meeting at the Lihu‘e Civic Center.

The survey teams have visited Smith’s Tropical Paradise in Wailua, an area in Wailua called “Loop Road,” and areas in Hanalei, Baptiste said.

The production company executives also checked out the Polihale Beach in West Kaua‘i.

Having Corman and his wife, Julie, a renowned movie producer and chairwoman of the Graduate Department at New York University’s Film School, connected with the Kaua‘i movie-making industry is a high honor, according to Umezu, who attended the media gathering.

Umezu said he hopes Corman and his wife will help support the media and film-making class at Chiefess Kamakahelei Middle School in Puhi.

During a movie-making career that spanned more than 50 years, Corman made two movies on Kaua‘i that have reached cult status, “She Gods of Shark Reef” and “Thunder Over Hawaii.”

“It (Corman’s connection with Kaua‘i) will help new generations of kids get into filming,” Umezu said. “Roger Corman is an icon.”

The production of the movie will give an economic boost to Kaua‘i, according to Mary Daubert, the county’s public information officer.

“They will be staying at hotels and eating out,” said Daubert, who also attended the gathering with reporters.

The movie will be produced by Corman’s son, Roger Martin-Corman, and the shooting will run from May 27 to June 24.

The movie plot deals with a genetic experiment that has gone awry, and will star Brad Johnson, who was in “Flight of the Intruder,” Bianca Lawson, and Kelly McGillis of “Top Gun” fame.

“We’re thrilled to be working in the most beautiful place in the world,” said Amanda Nugent, production manager for the new movie, in a news release.

Baptiste said a production crew of 12 to 14 people is expected to fly from Hollywood to Kaua‘i for the making of the movie.

About 80 percent of the movie will be made on Kaua‘i, and the other 20 percent of the movie will probably be shot in studio lots in Hollywood, Baptiste said.

Local actors could also shine in the movie, he said, noting 15 to 20 persons will be given speaking parts in the movie. About 75 extras will be hired as well, he said.

In addition, a Kaua‘i resident will be selected to play a significant part in the movie — a male graduate assistant.

“We’re looking for people with some acting experience, but it’s not absolutely necessary,” Nugent said.

Women who are between 18 and 30 years of age, have a flair for drama, and “don’t mind being eaten by an alligator,” will be needed, as will eccentric men with a sense of humor and energy, she said.

Anyone interested in applying for a part in “Primeval” can send an e-mail to Nugent at amanda.nugent@yahoo.com. The deadline for applying is June 1.

Umezu says he is happy the movie will be filmed on Kaua‘i.

“If you look at how many people they’ll hire to handle different aspects of the movie, from catering to renting kayaks to the actors, not to mention hotel rooms and rent-a-cars,” said Umezu, “Kaua‘i will definitely benefit from ‘Primeval’ being shot here.”

Corman voiced interest in making another movie on Kaua‘i after he came to the island last fall for the Hawaii International Film Festival. Umezu said Corman initially wanted to produce the film in Mexico.

But, Umezu said, he helped Corman change his mind after he pointed out the Garden Island had a lot to offer as well in the way of a tropical setting to fit the theme of the movie.

The Cormans are eager to make the movie, officials said.

The Hawai‘i Legislature recently passed Act 88, a bill that increases the existing tax credit offered for film productions, digital media and motion pictures to 15 percent on O‘ahu and 20 percent on the neighbor islands.

The bill goes into effect July 1, and the Cormans can wait until then to derive the tax credits, but that is not the direction they want to take, Umezu said.

Umezu said Corman’s son, Roger, “told me he was going to come to Kaua‘i.”

“There are producers (and there are producers),” Umezu said. “Its (the decision by the Cormans to move ahead with movie production) not about the bottom line.”

More movies like “Primeval” are likely to be more commonplace on Kaua‘i in the future, rather than the big-budget movies of the past, due to high production costs, Umezu said.

• Lester Chang, staff writer, can be reached at 245-3681 (ext. 225) and lchang@ kauaipubco.com.

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