Originally from Hilo on the Big Island, Chad Kukahiko (also known as 100k) graduated from the Kamehameha Schools, Kapalama campus. He spent over half his life performing in over fifty plays, including two years as a performer on the road with STOMP. His film and television appearances include ‘Charmed’, ‘Killian’s Chronicle’ and ‘Mid-Century’ with John Glover and fellow Boston University alum Faye Dunaway. He also co-wrote and co-starred with recording artist Kyle Puccia, in the rock musical ‘Longshot’, which debuted at the 2000 New York Fringe festival. As a musician he was signed to Elektra Records and as a singer and song-writer he completed production of the album ‘swell’ in 2005, and continues to develop music for the electronic project 100k and the acoustic superfreakos.
In 2005 he made the switch from performer to writer/director and hit the ground running, teaming up with his brother to submit four different 48-hour film competition entries in as many years. His most recent short film, currently in post with the working title ‘Love Story’, will be submitted to film festivals starting this summer (2010). He’s worked as a principal designer on a recent Alternate Reality Game (which unfortunately must remain unnamed as it’s still in-progress) and the new production company that he’s formed with his aforementioned brother, Denton Kukahiko, and long-time girlfriend, Kendall Hawley, has been instrumental in the production and delivery of content for that ARG.
Chad Kukahiko’s current multi-platform project, Last Days, includes an episodic drama, a multi-faceted web presence – including a web-game, a social-network and an alternate reality news aggregator is currently repped by Maier Management in Los Angeles and can be followed on its blog at lastdaysonline.com.
What are you working on right now?
I have a number of projects I’m working on right now, but Last Days is still at the top of that list. We’re planning to go to beta with the web-game portion of it – which will be like a zombie FarmVille – sometime in April or May (2010) and my new writing partner and I are wrapping up the third full episodes of the show right now. We’d like to have at least two more done by the time the game goes to beta. Last Days is a real bear, but it’s been so much fun. Even the current site, which we first posted back in 2007 at lastdaysjournal.com – is fun to watch. The functionality is super rough – nowhere near what it’ll look like in a year or two, but you it gives you a hint of how exciting the whole thing could be.
Other than Last Days, there’s my recent short film Love Story – which still needs a real name. It’s about 2-3 months from being ready for submission and is looking really promising – my team was so good and devoted I can’t wait to see it in its final form. I’m also looking to get the main creator of that ARG we had cooking the second half of last year back on the ball as soon as I can. He’s been insanely busy with work stuff the past few months, but his day job stuff looks like it’ll probably slow down soon.
Finally, there’s the new production company (superfreako.com) and web-site company (superfreakodesigns.com) my girlfriend and I started recently. So altogether, I’ve been kind of busy so far this year.
3 Trends that excite you?
A good friend of mine just aired his new web series called The Bannen Way on crackle.com (http://crackle.com/c/The_Bannen_Way). The story behind how it was made, how Mark and Jesse got Sony to go for it – especially considering the fact that neither of them is famous (yet) – how they’re promoting/marketing it, ALL that is very exciting to me.
So this is one trend, but it’s actually three – and I know I’m just plagiarizing Chris Anderson here – but it’s a) the cheaper ways of making content, b) easier and less expensive avenues for marketing content and c) the more economical channels for providing/delivering content.
That Long Tail trifecta is only just now starting to really hit the world of content. Hulu’s just the beginning. We haven’t yet seen those content doors blow open, but they’re about to, believe me.
The most recent writer’s strike and how the producers seemed to really try as hard as they could to keep the writers away from back end profits – that really rubbed me the wrong way. In my humble opinion, with all the technological advances and inexpensive new ways to create content that looks and sounds really fantastic, talented new writers and artists don’t have all those barriers anymore between themselves and their audience, and there’s no excuse in the world for them to not take advantage of them.
Dozens of friends of mine are right now taking matters into their own hands and just creating little bodies of content that they themselves own and control, and I think that we’re seeing just the tiniest of trickles compared to the complete content revolution that’s lurking just around the corner. The winners could really be the providers themselves – no matter how small or unknown they happen to be today, but it all depends on is how savvy, productive and determined these individuals are – how willing they are to just get to work and get their stories out and in front of that hungry, connected audience that’s right outside, starved for engaging, well-told stories. The rest is falling into place every day right in front of our eyes.
How do you bring ideas to life?
Since I’ve been on many different sides of the dramatic arts – actor, musician, songwriter, singer as well as director, writer, producer and casting agent – my understanding of them is pretty simple: It’s work. It’s fun work, but it’s definitely work. I personally am not a big believer in originality being the most important characteristic of story. One of my biggest heroes is Shakespeare and his most original pieces were also his most incomprehensible.
Since I like to create pieces that my blue-collar family could watch and enjoy, I usually start with just a simple theme. Now the inspiration to even look for a theme could start from anything: a dream, a particular scene I’ve imagined, the idea for a character, anything – but I can’t really get to work on something until I can see the point behind why I might want to tell that story.
Once I have that, it’s just good old fashioned craftsmanship: outlining, writing, story-boarding, casting, rehearsing, production meetings, shooting, editing, composing. Each step along the way has it’s own tips and tricks though, it’s own potential pitfalls. Each different element requires it’s own craftsmanship and many of those particular skills I don’t happen to have.
So the next step is to get the people who DO have those skills and to try to get them excited about the project. That’s where my girlfriend comes in. She’s a really fantastic producer – and that’s an absolute necessity for getting a great story made for an amount of money that a normal person could afford. You got to get really creative sometimes just to get a particular scene shot, or to say turn a friend’s apartment into a hospital waiting room (which we’ve done by the way) and that particular kind of creativity isn’t always so easy to come by.
So get good people to work with you, and having a decent script (or idea) is definitely key to getting them. If they like the script, people will want to have their name on the final piece – so that they can use it for their own reels or resumes. The better they think are the odds of the piece winning some kind of festival award or something, the more likely they are to sign on. So a good script is where it all begins in more ways than one.
Now what craftsmanship gives in reality is details. If your piece lacks the right details to tell your story in exactly the way you want it to, you need to work harder and smarter to get more of those details. That particular sound, the look from an actor that tells exactly how that character is feeling in that moment, the amount of time you spend on a cut, every fraction of every second of the piece can either help you or hurt you in the telling of your story, and those details come from solid craftsmanship.
Anybody who says otherwise is probably trying to sell you something.
However, even though there aren’t any shortcuts in the telling of a good story, that actually also means that it’s possible for just anybody to do it, or at the very least to participate in the process in some capacity. Sure, some people have a knack in particular arenas of that filmmaking food chain, but it’s an art form that requires lots of different skills from a number of different people, and that means there are a number of different opportunities in that world.
So in a nutshell, what I do to get my stories told is first of all write as good a story as I can by putting my heart and soul into each and every detail of that script; then do some good, solid pre-production before we shoot, including a ton of rehearsal with the actors; find great people to help in all the jobs that the script requires; work as hard as I can on set to get the exact performances, shots, etc that the editor needs; and finally work just as hard on the post production to make sure that the story is told in every way as well as it can be.
What is one mistake that you’ve made that our readers can learn from?
This is a hard one for a variety of reasons. First of all, this is still a brand new world that still isn’t paying off for anybody as strongly as I believe it will soon, so it’s impossible for me to assume I’ve made all the mistakes that I’m going to. Also, as is true in playing a game of chess, sometimes a terrible mistake can turn into the brilliant move that wins you the game.
But if I had to narrow it down to the main things that have held me back most recently, I’d say make sure you don’t under-estimate the value of good pre-production. If for instance, your Director of Photography expresses reservations in the execution of a particular shot, make sure you listen to him and challenge him to come up with solutions to the problem he sees whether or not you think it’s an actual problem. You don’t want to find yourself in the edit bay weeks later discovering that he was right and that you now have to figure out how to fix that problem after the fact.
Did that sound personal? Yeah, that’s because that’s exactly the situation I’m in right now.
What is one idea that you’re willing to give away to our readers?
Well, last days is a show with a companion web-site that basically provides an extension of the world of the show beyond the screen that gives users to actual help determine the fate of the greater world surrounding the characters from the show.
The site is a combination of social-network, “news” aggregator and browser-based web-game but the twist is that anybody who participates in the first two portions of the web-site interact via alter-egos they create and control who are living in exactly that same zombie apocalyptic world in which the characters exist.
Now I’m not at all afraid to share this info because first of all it’s not really all that innovative in itself. It’s just taking ideas that other people have already put to use and putting them together. The most important reason that I’d happy to share this idea though is that as it’s still such a new way to tell stories, I’ve been finding it’s pretty frightening to most production companies and studios to want to invest in it. So actually the success of similar projects could only serve to help me because it would prove to people that something like this can work.
So please, if this idea inspires you to do something like it, by all means run with that.
Where do you see your production company in ten years?
What I’d love to see superfreako productions become in time is a production company that focuses on excellent stories with compelling themes regardless of production values. A company that would earn a reputation for doing great work for very modest upfront costs, because we’d give principals back-end to help mitigate much lower front-end pay.
The general business model basically allows for no performer, writer, etc. to get a single penny more than the union minimums, and this would allow superfreako productions to pump out much more work than a typical production company. The trade-off is that the principals all share profits with the production company and what that provides is the opportunity to throw a bunch of stuff at the wall and see what sticks. Those pieces that do perform well, make it worthwhile to perhaps even established talent because they get
back end, but pieces that don’t perform well won’t put the company out of business either. That particular point would make it possible for superfreako productions to truly focus on quality because we wouldn’t constantly be focused on sales.
So in ten years, I’d love superfreako productions to have a hand in a variety of different types of media – webisodes, TV, film, alternate reality games, web games, even music – and to be able to apply that signature business model across all the different formats by making the artists themselves part-owners of the pieces they collaborate on.
Considering the trends of production, marketing and delivery, that’s the future I see not just for superfreako productions but perhaps for dozens of other companies as well.
Why do you want to tell “great stories”? What drives you?
I honestly don’t think I can answer that question in a particularly illuminating way. It’s just something I’ve always loved to do, ever since I was a child. I’ve loved reading my whole life, loved music, loved the drama and excitement of a good movie. It’s what has always driven me and kept me up at night.
I’m also a bit of an amateur historian and one thing that fascinates me about history – any bit of it taken as an individual event – is that everything that has ever happened, almost didn’t. That’s true of outcome of World War II, the American Revolution, the Civil War, everything. I mean few people realize it but the Mongols during I believe the 15th century were on their way to conquer the entirety of Europe. The only thing that stopped them was their lack of order when it came to succession, and therefore when a series of leaders died young – as many of them did – their armies would have to ride back to the Far East to figure out who’d be the next leader.
What I love to consider with all of my stories, is what if this or that event had ended in a different way. I think of my characters therefore as real people and what happens to them are true events and in fact they often reflect true events or at least metaphorical abstractions of them and so give us each a way to see what would have happened if something in history -even our own personal histories – had taken a different turn.
Good stories allow us to contemplate these possibilities and in a sense test out our decisions in life. Good stories in that sense help us become better people and a better society, and as strange as that may sound – that is what I want contribute to. That is what I want to help do.
Chad Kukahiko’s different web sites include:
www.iam100k.com – Chad Kukahiko’s personal site
www.superfreako.com – the web home for Chad’s production company, superfreako productions
www.superfreakodesigns.com – the web home for Chad’s new web site creation company