Welcome to ‘Paradise’: Independent feature film wraps shooting in East Hawaii

  • ALLISON

  • DONOVAN

  • CARRERE

  • GUPTA

CORRECTION 11/15/2021: A previous version of this story had a photo of a different Patricia Allison than the one starring in the film “Paradise.” The Tribune-Herald regrets the error.

The independent feature film “Paradise,” shot entirely in East Hawaii, wrapped filming last week.

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Co-produced by Ian Morland and Zach Carver and directed by Max Isaacson, the film stars Patricia Allison, an English actress best known for starring as Ola in the Netflix series “Sex Education.”

Her character, Ella, is a young woman who seeks justice — and revenge — when her family, friends and beloved hometown Paradise are threatened by powerful forces.

“She was special and unique and brought tons of energy to the role,” said Carver, who described the film as “a punk tropical western.”

“It is surprisingly funny,” he added. “It’s a treatise on violence that also incorporates violence. And it’s about youthful rebellion.”

The film also features Arjun Gupta, best known for the Syfy series “The Magicians,” and Honolulu-born actress-singer Tia Carrere, best known as love interest Cassandra Wong in “Wayne’s World” and “Wayne’s World 2.”

“Tia has a crucial role — and hopefully, a surprising one,” Carver said.

Playing the mayor of Paradise is veteran actor Tate Donovan, known for a prominent role as Jimmy Cooper in the early 2000s series, “The O.C.” Since then, he’s been cast in blockbusters such as “Argo” and “Rocketman” — and was recently seen on the big screen as the late Columbia Records exec John Hammond in the Aretha Franklin biopic “Respect.”

“Tate is a professional actor who is collaborative and came prepared,” Carver noted.

Numerous locations in the Hilo, Paukaa, Keaau and Pahoa area are featured in “Paradise,” and Pahoa village became the downtown main street of the film’s fictional town.

“‘Paradise’ has existed in my head for nearly a decade. I’m incredibly pleased to have Hilo be the focal point of this film,” said director Isaacson. “The town of Paradise in our film has two traits: It’s an odd, slightly off-kilter reality, an anachronism of the old west in our modern world; and it is anti-authoritarian, not unlike this part of the island.

“Watching our characters come to life in this setting is incredibly exciting, and we couldn’t be more grateful to Hilo and its residents for helping us make this dream a reality.”

Of Pahoa, Carver said, “It really feels like an old western town.”

“The Big Island added so much texture and character,” he added. “Hilo has a little grit, which is really good for our story, because we weren’t trying to showcase the shiny side of Hawaii. We were trying to showcase something more, something with a dark side, but also the natural beauty and something with some history, because this is also an anti-colonial western.”

More than 40 residents were employed by the production as crew, cast and background performers, the producers said.

The film has a shoestring budget of $1.1 million.

“One of the great things about that is that people are self-selecting. That means the people who want to work with us, really want to work with us,” Carver said. “We couldn’t have asked for a better cast and crew. Everyone worked so hard.”

The film now goes into post-production, and until a distribution deal can be struck, there is no projected release date, according to Carver.

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“We’ve got a lot of work ahead of us,” he said.

Email John Burnett at jburnett@hawaiitribune-herald.com.

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