A big Hollywood movie born in a little house in Hawaii

The minds of Prox13 craft an epic film from Manoa Valley

Travis Quezon

HONOLULU—There’s something big being born in Hawaii from the minds of a small group of individuals brought together by an amazing concept. It’s the latest endeavor of film company Prox13 Productions to bring to the silver screen what they see as the greatest story ever told that you probably haven’t heard. Now, what looks to be one of the most promising film projects to ever come out of the islands is being brought to life from a little house in the lush valley of Manoa.

Every good movie starts with a good solid story, says filmmaker Zach Thomson, who first moved to Hawaii in 2008 to escape the distractions of the Los Angeles scene. At 30 years old, Thomson had just finished working on the most successful movie ever made: Avatar. It was a dream come true for Thomson, who got to see the intricacies of producing a big budget film and assist director James Cameron while picking shots ...  literally holding the camera for the Oscar-winning director.

Following the experience, Thomson was determined to see his own big blockbuster come to fruition.

“I felt like I was ready to make my Titanic,” Thomson explained, well aware of the tremendous undertaking—both creatively and logistically—but confident that he had honed the necessary skills as a film producer.

Thomson’s refuge in Hawaii was accompanied by an inward focus on the vision of a film project that he had always wanted to tackle—a story about the rise and fall of a great civilization that existed from approximately 600 BC to about 430 BC.

“It’s just a story that’s interesting, captivating, and relevant,” Thomson says. “It’s a story that audiences have been waiting for.”

The film, titled End of an Empire, is the first of a planned 6-film epic war saga based off of a historical record of civilizations that inhabited Central America over 1600 years ago. The film is planned to receive a PG-13 rating and feature lots of action, epic special effects, ancient landscapes, elaborate cities, war scenes, and romance. The core of the story revolves around the age-old concepts of greed versus sacrifice, love versus hate—ultimately the classic good versus evil struggle with many interesting, engaging, and unexpected twists.

The film is a captivating story that is relevant to all people and cultures, Thomson explains: “It is a story that audiences have been waiting for.”

“It’s a story that’s been waiting to be told for over 1,600 years, and what better time than now, at the end of the Mayan Calendar, to tell it.”

Hawaii was a key component in his visualization of the film, both thematically and visually.

“We just did some location scouting of some great potential locations here on Oahu that could double as Central American landscape environments.” Thomson says.

Since moving to Hawaii, Thomson started to finalize necessary story elements while observing his surroundings—learning about Hawaii’s culture and natural beauty on hikes with friends.

“I just felt like I could feel the environment and got to the point where I could tell the story the way it needed to be told,” Thomson says.

After sharing this vision with a short list of individuals, on- and off-island, Thomson found that he had a core group of capable and talented friends that could see what he saw.

Working from lanais, studio apartments, and Skype conference calls, the film project began to take rudimental form. Led by Thomson, Prox13 Productions was formed as the production company housing development. 

As a small business, Prox13 is taking a giant first step with End of an Empire and is looking to make a lasting impact on the movie industry. But they’re not alone. Through surgically careful planning, efficiency, and an endless supply of creativity, Prox13 has managed to get the green light from some of Hollywood’s best talent and most influential people. The award winning Weta Workshop, whose work you’ve seen in films like The Chronicles of Narnia and King Kong, have helped to visualize and create Thomson’s Hawaii-influenced world.

Even with the industry’s best on hand, a well executed pre-production process is key in retaining the most important elements that come together in telling a story, according to Thomson.

“It’s almost like passing on a baby, no matter how much you want him to succeed, you have to send him to school,” Thomson says, explaining that in creating something big that involves a lot of minds, you have to be as prepared as you can be. The more fleshed out the details are, the truer a film stays to its most creative roots.

A walk into Thomson’s home office—his house is small, cozy, and looks like it was built in the 1940s—after stepping over his 6-month-old son’s toys and rolling chairs, and the preparation is clear. The office walls are draped with years of sketches and artwork for the film. A life size replica of a character’s sword created by Weta Workshop is on display. Drafts of graphic novels that accompany the storytelling of the film rest in stacks. The visual and physical presence of a big Hollywood blockbuster in the making ... in a quiet street-side home in Manoa Valley.

“It’s a story that’s been waiting to be told for over 1,600 years, and what better time than now, at the end of the Mayan Calendar, to tell it,” Thomson says—End of an Empire is slated to be released in 2012. “If the story is good, everything else just lines up.”

For more information on Prox13 Productions, visit www.prox13.com.