What inspired you to come up with the idea for the film?
I was first introduced to Hawaiian mythology as a sophomore at the University of Hawai’i, where I was studying geology and geophysics. I came to know the island of Oahu on various field trips to local geologic sites, such as the leina ka ‘uhane, the leaping place of soul. Ultimately, I learned that I was more interested in the stories that people had to tell than in rocks, but the idea of a physical gateway to the afterlife stuck with me and the idea for this film took root.
How do you relate to your characters or subjects?
I think every character I develop represents a different aspect of my personality. It’s interesting to learn about yourself through these personas as they come to life. It’s a bit like going to therapy.
What aspect of the story changed the most during writing and production?
The original concept for the film was much more supernatural, but those aspects were toned down due to production limitations. The final film is more interior and interpersonal, which makes it stronger. I think the universe was just reminding me to keep it real.
What influenced the visual style of your film?
We were influenced by vintage vacation photos, Luc Besson’s The Big Blue, and great classic films with child actors like E.T., Stand by Me, and The Goonies.
What was the most courageous decision you or your crew made during writing and production?
First we decided to set the film in Hawai’i, some 4,000 miles away from our home base in Austin. Then we realized we had to film the entire two minute finale underwater…
Were there any risks that you faced during writing/production and how did you find a way to embrace them?
We were filming very far away from home on a very limited schedule and budget, which meant that there was very little room for anything to go wrong, and it felt like almost everything went wrong. You learn to roll with the punches, and you learn to prioritize.
What risks does your story take?
It’s always a risk to tell a personal story about loss on such a grand scale. The challenge is to not minimize the tragedy or manipulate the audience.
How would you encourage others to tell their story or manage through the process of screen writing or film producing?
Ask others for help, and thank them profusely when they give it to you. Don’t let bad news get you down. Remember why you wanted to tell your story in the first place