On May 22, freelance producer and director David Naylor won a Telly Award for his video short “The Chun Family Legacy,” a special feature on the “Hawaii Five-0” season seven DVD collection. The DVD, which contains all 25 episodes of the 2016-17 season, includes a gag reel, deleted and extended scenes, as well as several video shorts, was eagerly anticipated by fans of the CBS television series. Naylor, who calls the video short, “a labor of love,” created a beautiful tribute to Kam Fong, the actor who embodied the character of Chin Ho Kelly in the classic version of “Hawaii Five-O,” as well as to his son Dennis Chun, who plays Sgt. Duke Lukela on the current reboot of his father’s show.
Naylor, a former Journalist who worked with the BBC before he was sent to Los Angeles to book guests for a talk show, and fell in love with the warmer-than-England weather and decided to stay, is no stranger to the Telly Awards. Tellys are awarded to any short-form content– whether it be television, online, commercial, or promotional videos, and next to the more traditional awards like the Emmys, they are the highest form of award one can get for this kind of content.
Naylor, who has worked with JJ Abrams, Tom Cruise on “Mission Impossible,” and with shows like “Lost” and “Blue Bloods,” has worked with executive producer Peter Lenkov from the start of “Hawaii Five-0.” He is also working on a project for “MacGyver” and has one of his 24 Tellys from a short he made for the season one DVD of “Blue Bloods.” His specialty is creating content for short-form videos, like the special features that are added to DVD collections. Giant Interactive, a digital services and media production company, called him “one of the most lauded talents in creative content for special bonus and marketing videos.”
Perhaps to a layperson, that sounds rather mundane, but after talking with Naylor this week from his office in Los Angeles, it really is more than just making “marketing videos,” especially in telling a story of inspiration, like the one about Kam Fong. Dennis Chun wrote on Facebook page this week that Naylor’s “hard work, persistence, professionalism, creative vision and leadership were key to the success of this very special project. Knew that dad’s story was in good hands with David.”
Chun also said today via phone from Hawaiʻi that he knew that Naylor had “a lot of aloha and love” for their story because of the thoughtful dedication Naylor had to “The Chun Family Legacy.” Kam Fong’s story is tough to hear, as well as one to tell. Before Kam Fong, whose real name is Kam Tong Chun, met Leonard Freeman and became Chin Ho Kelly, he had been an HPD officer for 16 years. Yet before becoming a police officer, his wife and two children were killed when a B-25 crashed into his home in 1944.
Naylor said that “Peter [Lenkov] and CBS were both incredibly supportive of acknowledging the lineage and the legacy of [the Chun] family.” Naylor recalled meeting and seeing Chun on set, and he was aware of his connection to the original series. “But I hadn’t realized how significant and substantial it was until I started researching [Kam Fong’s] story more and talked with [Dennis] that I realized that is was an incredibly moving story to be told.”
Luckily, Naylor had great source material to pull from, and Chun was very generous giving Naylor access to his family photographs and many scrapbooks dedicated to dad’s life and work. There were two other valuable sources that Naylor was grateful to be given free access to– the Star-Advertiser graciously allowed him to use their old Honolulu Star-Bulletin and Honolulu Advertiser newspaper headlines visually in the short. Naylor also found an incredible television interview Kam Fong gave to the PBS Hawaii show “Pau Hana Years” and Brent Suyama, the video production manager for the Hawaii State Department of Education, who now owns the rights to the PBS show, allowed him to use portions of the interview within the short.
One of the first shows Naylor worked on was called “Famous Families.” It chronicled in each episode a different family with well-known members. Which gave Naylor the best insight into what made the Chun Family so different from other families who have worked in television. Naylor researched famous father-son acting duos, and “there are the obvious ones, the Hanks, the Brolins, the Sutherlands, the Sheens– but no father-son acting combination has stretched across a single franchise that has lasted half a century, they are unique in that sense,” said Naylor.
It was interesting to hear Naylor reflect about what kind of man Kam Fong was, having never met him, but having researched him extensively for the video, and then getting to know Chun over the course of filming. He spoke about how they shared so many of the same kind of traits. “Definitely humility, grace, and kindness, they both seem to possess– Dennis, I know for sure, and from I can gather from the interviews what everyone has said about Kam, he was just a remarkable man,” said Naylor.
Naylor also shared that he was very much drawn to Kam Fong’s story. He quoted Hawaiʻi actor Al Harrington, who played Ben Kokua in the classic version, and now plays Mamo Kahike in the reboot. Harrington says at the beginning of the video short that “Mr. Kam Fong was a very special guy.”
What made Kam Fong unique, Naylor says, was that “he had the ability to cope with a tragedy that would have destroyed many other people, yet he accepted it and figured out a way to take that pain and turn it around. And he was still able to carve out a better life for himself. By joining the Honolulu Police Department and becoming a decorated officer, and then going into the field of acting– his story is truly inspiring on so many levels. It was such an emotionally driven story, yet had a wonderful happy ending, despite all the tragedy that surrounded it in its early stages.”
It was a story Naylor had to tell, and after looking deeper into Kam Fong’s story– “it made sense when people said Kam Fong was a remarkable man, they weren’t just saying that– he truly was a unique individual,” said Naylor. He also feels the same way about Chun and enjoys seeing him play Duke, who ironically wears an HPD uniform on the show in his role as Sergeant, which his father actually wore in real life, but not on television. Chun represents the uniformed personnel of the HPD very well on the reboot, and Naylor spoke about how great it is when Five-0 gives him the opportunity to be able to show off his talent on the show.
Winning a Telly, or any award in television, is a big deal– and for Naylor, “it’s a very humbling experience. It feels great to see hard work rewarded, not for just [me], but also for the team behind it, and especially for something like this which has an incredibly moving, strong, emotional story. I can’t say enough thanks to Dennis for allowing us to document it. Really, if anyone should be getting the award it should be him. He made it possible with his help and his generosity with his time and with the incredible access we had to his family archives. It feels great to win a Telly, but the winner here is Dennis because the opportunity to tell his family’s story is something I will be grateful for the rest of my life,” said Naylor.
David Naylor is grateful that he was able to tell Kam Fong and Dennis Chun’s legacy story– and Chun is very thankful that Naylor was the one who gave his father’s story voice. Fans are happy to be able to hear the story being told by the many people who were a part of Kam Fong’s life, and who are now in Chun’s life. We can call it another blessing in the Chun family legacy.