“Waikiki,” an independent full-length dramatic feature film by Native Hawaiian director Chris Kahunahana, is almost ready for public consumption after four years of work.
Before that happens, however, Kahunahana and his team need to raise more than $30,000 to pay for the film’s final editing, sound design, coloring, and score — and they’ve turned to fundraising website Kickstarter for help.
“We’re definitely relying on the community for support,” Kahunahana said earlier this week by phone. “You just need to believe. If you’re risk-adverse, you probably shouldn’t be making an independent film, either. Kickstarter is risky, but so is filmmaking!”
Kahunahana, who formerly owned Chinatown nightclub Nextdoor before shifting gears to focus on film writing and directing, participated in the Sundance Institute Native Lab for three consecutive years starting in 2014 and the Sundance Institute Writing Intensive program last year.
He said the opportunity to work with Sundance pushed him to completely rewrite the script originally named “Karaoke Kings” and transform it into a completely different story. “Waikiki” tells the tale of a hula dancer on the run and the mysterious homeless man she partners with in a fight for survival on the mean streets of Waikiki.
About 50 people — many of them Native Hawaiians themselves, Kahunahana said — are involved with the project, which completed filming last summer on location at the Queen Kapiolani Hotel.
Among the rewards for pledging support on Kickstarter, Kahunahana said, is an invite to a VIP reception from 1 to 4 p.m. Sunday at Hard Rock Cafe Waikiki. Supporters will be able to enjoy a buffet lunch, hosted beverages and live entertainment by Danny and Nicholas Kaleikini, Duncan Kamakana, Taimane Gardner and Tim Rose; DJs Tittahbyte, FRNT BZNZZ and Anit will also be a part of the fun.
Those who attend the VIP reception will also be the first to see a new, extended trailer from the film and get a sneak-peek at new promotional gear for the film from local clothing companies Fitted Hawaii and In4mation.
“We’re trying to reach out to our community and connect our supporters with the cast and crew,” Kahunahana explained. “It’s a good way to push into the final week of our Kickstarter. Hopefully we’ll get enough momentum going into the final week.
“It’s going to be a lot of fun. Kamea (Hadar) from Pow! Wow! Hawaii is painting the poster for the film live, and people will be able to bid on that. We’re also going to release a limited edition art poster for the film on Sunday.”
While declining to provide specific numbers, Kahunahana said “Waikiki” will ultimately cost between $200,000 and $500,000 to produce. The Kickstarter campaign is helping to pay for unforeseen post-production expenses, including hiring Academy Award-winning sound designer Ben Wilkins (“Whiplash,” “La La Land”) and composer Woody Pak (“Seoul Searching,” “Planet B-Boy”) to work on the project.