LIHUE — Last summer, producers of a reality show aired on Destination America network contacted Julie Mann “out of the blue,” said her boyfriend Gerry Charlebois, owner of Birds of Paradise flying school.
They were inquiring about a set location for Buying Hawaii, the third and newest installment of a reality TV series that has reached millions of viewers. But after Mann told them Charlebois was out flying, they changed their mind.
Ten days later, the couple had become Kauai’s newest reality TV stars. Film crews were following Charlebois and Mann everywhere, documenting their every step — and flight — to find the perfect home.
“They just liked the whole fact that we’re Hawaiian hillbillies,” said Charlebois, in his loud and friendly voice during an interview with The Garden Island this week.
Producer Casey Goldberg, also the shooter for the show, said the TV series is about real estate, but the stories are based on the uniqueness of the clients and the places where they live. The stories are pretty much about what people do and what they are looking for in a house, he said.
Buying Hawaii will premiere Monday, but the Kauai episode, “Flying Kauai,” will air a week later, on Dec. 9.
The first installment of the show, Buying Alaska, reached 5.7 million viewers in its second season, according to TV producers. Buying Bayou, the second installment, reached 3.1 million.
“It’s going to be good for Kauai,” Charlebois said of the exposure for the Garden Isle.
He said the show is about finding a home for their needs — the gist is that they are already residents of Kauai and want to move up to a bigger home.
After all, Charlebois needs a place with an open field where he can take off with his Mosquito, a foot-launched hang-glider powered by a 15 horsepower motor with a back propeller.
As with every reality show, the producers hand the participants a script, but Charlebois said he kept changing it, cracking jokes and making everyone laugh.
In other words, he put the real in reality.
Rather than infuriating the producers, Charlebois’ unscripted search for a home got the producers excited about the end product.
Charlebois said the producers first contacted him in late August. By the end of the first week of September, they began a five-day shooting marathon. And there was no money involved.
“We’re doing this because we thought it would be fun,” Charlebois said, who has owned his business that teaches flying since 1990. “We thought we would be able to promote Kauai, and we’re fun people, and this is what we do.”
However, two weeks before his episode debuts, Charlebois is already reaping rewards.
He said the network is running previews, and on Sunday he got inundated with phone calls from the Mainland.
The outspoken flight school owner is no stranger to TV or movies.
“I’m on the Screen Actors Guild, I worked on Raven, I worked on Magnum (P.I.), I worked on all those TV shows in Honolulu,” said Charlebois, adding he worked as a stuntman, flying, diving, and played roles of bad guys and henchmen.
He also shot “Epic Kauai,” which he said is the top-selling movie in Hawaii right now.
Charlebois said he got into making movies after his aerial photographs had made 65 magazine covers in 20 countries. A movie requires a bit of investment, but it becomes passive income and shows the beauty of Kauai, he said.
Buying Hawaii kicks off Monday on Destination America with “Off the Base” and “Turnin’ up the Heat” at 10 p.m. The first episode was shot on Oahu and the second on Maui.
On Dec. 9, “Jungle Fever,” shot on Maui, and “Flying Kauai,” will air at 10 p.m.
But it won’t stop there. Goldberg said they shot three or four couples on Kauai who will be featured as the season moves along.
He said he also shot episodes for the show on Maui, Oahu and the Big Island, and there is “absolutely no comparison” to the beauty of Kauai.
“It’s the first place I’d come back to,” Goldberg said. “I had a blast, it’s the most beautiful Hawaiian island.”