Turning the camera around: Hilo TV, film star pursues role as producer

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Courtesy Ash Ell-Aid/Adiwood Studios Kristina Anapau
Courtesy photo Kealani Warner and Kristina Anapau in a scene from "Kuleana."
Courtesy photo Kristina Anapau as Rose Coyle in Kuleana.
Courtesy photo Kealani Warner and Kristina Anapau, from the film "Kuleana," pose for a photo at the Honolulu International Film Festival.
Courtesy photo Kristina Anapau waits in between scenes during filming of "Kuleana."

HILO — After years of acting in critically acclaimed TV and film roles, Hilo native Kristina Anapau might be undergoing a career renaissance: producing critically acclaimed TV shows and films.

This month, the actress — who appeared on the hit HBO vampire series “True Blood” and in the Oscar-nominated 2010 film “Black Swan” — will appear in the first feature film she executive produced, “Kuleana,” which will see a theatrical run after receiving glowing reviews from critics and audiences alike throughout the festival circuit.

Then, about a month later, a second season of the television show Anapau produces, “The John Kerwin Kids Show,” will begin airing on network television.

“I’m really focusing on writing and producing these days,” Anapau said. “I have a lot more respect for producers now that I’ve seen how difficult it is.”

Anapau said she was drawn to “Kuleana” in part because of its setting — the film is shot on location on Maui and takes place on that island in 1959 and 1971. The film is a noir thriller that follows a Vietnam veteran struggling to clear his father’s name against a backdrop of unrest after Hawaii’s admission into the U.S. and the near-obliteration of the Hawaiian language.

“(Director) Brian (Kohne) was working on the script for like 12 years,” Anapau said. “The final script was incredible — well, the script was always incredible — but the one we shot with was so moving.”

Meanwhile, Anapau helped create “The John Kerwin Kids Show” after seeing a gap in “late-night” programming for children and child stars.

“There are these kids on Disney or Nickelodeon who have huge followings but don’t have any outlet to really connect with them,” Anapau said.

Anapau suggested a child-oriented talk show to Kerwin, host of “The John Kerwin Show” on JLTV. Kerwin, who Anapau called “a master of the interview,” loved the idea and the two produced a first season of the kids’ show for DirecTV.

“I think kids are more interesting than adults sometimes,” Anapau said. “They have a lot more going on, they have all these hopes and dreams and things they’re working on and trying to do.”

The upcoming new season will feature plenty of child stars who kids will know and love, Anapau said, and will air on a network that Anapau is contractually obligated to not disclose until the deal with the network is finalized, although she did say the network is larger than DirecTV.

Anapau said the often-draining process of negotiating deals can seem like the dark side of production. “Making the show is like a big party, but now we have to clean up, get the trash out of the pool, clean the stains out of the carpet,” she said.

Outside of producing and acting, Anapau hopes to find new ways to stretch her creative muscles.

“I’d love to write more,” Anapau said. “I don’t know if I have the patience to do any novel writing, but it’s a romantic thought, isn’t it? Living in the south of France, writing novels.”

Before she retires to the French Riviera with pen in hand, Anapau has several upcoming projects she hopes to develop, one of which is a script for a feature film she co-wrote with “Kuleana” co-star Sonya Balmores. Anapau cryptically described the script as “appealing to a demographic that needs more representation,” but declined to offer any more detail.

Anapau was similarly vague about plans for another future television series.

Although Anapau never considered herself to be someone who prefers to work with children, she will visit several Hilo schools in March to discuss her career and encourage students to not be afraid to follow risky dreams off the island.

“I remember being a kid and thinking that the only way to get the work I wanted would be to leave the island,” Anapau said. “Kids get island fever, and there’s limitation with what kids can do here.”

Much of the business of breaking into the film industry has changed drastically since Anapau’s first role in 1997, she said. Social media offers new ways for talented people to be discovered by agencies on and off the islands, and a growing Hawaii independent film scene makes it easier to make projects closer to home.

“I like to think more and more things are going to happen on Hawaii,” Anapau said. “The world really loves to see Hawaii.”

Email Michael Brestovansky at mbrestovansky@hawaiitribune-herald.com.