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Movie teaser co-produced by isle man is a finalist in global contest

By Mike Gordon


For years, George Russell and college buddy Grant Wheeler dreamed of making a film together that would showcase the beauty and mystery of local culture.

Russell, a kamaaina who lives in Kaimuki, and Wheeler, who lives in L.A., traded ideas all the time. Then, after stumbling upon the world of Hawaiian ghosts, they were unsure whether they could ever fund the project.

But all of a sudden they are finalists in a filmmaking contest carrying a prize of $250,000 in financial backing -- good seed money to attract investors.

A short teaser they made last fall to attract funding was recently named one of six finalists in the first "Get It Made" competition from, an online platform that connects indie filmmakers with more experienced professionals.

The teaser made the first cut through an online voting process. It will now be judged by James Caan and son Scott Caan, Robert Duvall and Mark Rydell. The winner will be announced in September.

The story, written by Wheeler, involves three friends who discover their home is haunted by a young Japanese girl who died in an internment camp. They are helped by a kahuna whose character was inspired by a real Hawaiian priest.

"This is a worldwide contest, and we didn't think we were going to place," said the 42-year-old Russell, who works in the production side of the film and TV industry here. "We knew we had something of quality, but Hawaii ghosts we thought might be too secular."

Their teaser, created with volunteer help on weekends, is indeed creepy, but Wheeler, 42, does not consider the larger script to be a horror story. Instead, he views it as a blend of M. Night Shyamalan's "The Sixth Sense" and Niki Caro's "Whale Rider," set in a Maori village in New Zealand.

He said it's the best script he's written.

"This is the one that seems to pull out of my heart," Wheeler said. "I think it is unlike anything that anyone has ever seen before."

UNIVERSAL PICTURES has been casting for military faces to appear as extras in "Battleship," which begins filming here Aug. 30, but the studio already shot the state's biggest retired war hero: the Mighty Mo.

The studio towed the USS Missouri out of Pearl Harbor and two miles off Oahu, the first time the 54,000-ton battleship had been at sea since it was brought to Hawaii at the end of a towline in 1998. It was done without fanfare on Jan. 8, one day after the 887-foot-long Missouri was moved from an $18 million makeover in dry dock to its home at Pier Foxtrot 5.

Mighty Mo was heavily insured for its one-day outing, but the USS Missouri Memorial Association isn't saying for how much or by whom.

"It wouldn't have happened if the weather was in any way iffy," said Keith DeMello, a spokesman for the group. "It was one of the most beautiful days and the flattest of seas. It was like it was meant to be."

There's no word on whether the Missouri will get additional camera time when "Battleship" starts filming.

CBS IS IN the midst of a marketing campaign that's worthy of its high-octane reboot of "Hawaii Five-0." Promos of the show and its cast are running in prime time, amid daytime soaps and game shows, on late-night talk shows, weekend sports events and online, too.

But the most creative promo invites fans to record their own 30-second video of the classic "Five-0" theme and upload it to the CBS website.

Colin Barley, a 50-year-old technical writer from Mesa, Ariz., used the opportunity to perform the theme using a bass, ukulele and kazoo. It took an afternoon, he said by telephone.

"I always wanted to marry the two -- the idea of playing an ukulele and playing the 'Hawaii Five-0' theme," he said. "It was always a very powerful and riveting theme."

Barley, who writes, records and performs in his spare time, grew up in England, where the original show was hugely popular.

"England can be cold and gray most of the time," he said. "To see this tropical paradise, that was a great bit of escapism."

The contest winner will receive a surfboard signed by the "Five-0" cast. In the meantime you can hear Barley's version at And that's a wrap. ...

Mike Gordon is the Star-Advertiser's film and television writer. His "Outtakes" column appears Sundays. E-mail him at

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