The filmmakers of Rising Sons Productions are working on their biggest project to date, a story set in ancient Hawai‘i about the value of tenacity.
Text by Brad Dell | Images by Laura Aguon
Best friends Yamato Cibulka and Kenji Doughty have been making films together since ninth grade. Raised in Yokosuka, Japan, the two parted ways after graduating from high school—Cibulka headed to Las Vegas and Doughty to O‘ahu. In December 2009, Cibulka moved to join his friend in Hawai‘i. “We would always talk about making films over the phone. Now we’re here together and we say, ‘Let’s go for it,’” Doughty says. “We dropped out of college without a safety net and went full throttle.” Today, they own an award-winning film production company called Rising Sons Productions.
They found their first audience at the 2010 Showdown in Chinatown, a competition in which filmmakers have 24 hours to create a short film. “We didn’t win or place. But we got the hunger. Every Showdown, we started making a film,” Doughty says. “It got to the point where we made a short film every month.” Cibulka and Doughty created Rising Sons Productions shortly after the first Showdown. “At first it was just [Cibulka] and I filming each other with one video camera,” Doughty says. “But with each project, we picked up more people willing to help. Now we have a whole film crew, people that are masters at their craft in each department.”
Rising Sons Productions finds much of its support at Lana Lane Studios, where it has been headquartered since the studios opened in 2012. The workspace first appealed to Cibulka and Doughty because of its affordable costs, but they soon found other benefits, collaborating other artists in the studio collaborating to create film scores, concept art, and graphic designs. “You’re surrounded by artists who might not have the same creative backgrounds as you, but every single person here shares that same pursuit of an almost unattainable dream,” Doughty says. “You see other people succeeding, and it makes you hungrier. You see people working and it makes you want to work harder.” When not at Lana Lane, both Cibulka and Doughty work as production assistants for Hollywood blockbusters that film in Hawai‘i, including Battleship, Jurassic World, and The Hunger Games: Catching Fire. “Seeing how sets were run, it was like a front-row seat to a film school,” Cibulka says. The two have the ultimate goal of making their own Hollywood wide-release features.
Ho‘omau is Rising Sons Productions’ next step toward this. “It is the culmination of all that we have learned,” Doughty says. “We’ve taken two years to work on bigger projects and study film techniques, and now we think we’re ready to put out our best film yet.” The short film is set on Hawai‘i Island in the days of ancient Hawai‘i, and follows a heroine who must choose between perseverance and surrendering to a dark fate. “It’s packed with action. Underwater fight scenes, struggles in caves, huge battles on lava fields,” Doughty says. “We started shooting in late June. We threw in a couple hundred bucks each, but decided it was much bigger than originally planned, way too expensive.” Rising Sons Productions has shot two days’ worth of footage, and successfully raised over $35,000 on Kickstarter by August 6. The film is set for completion by mid-September and release in early 2016.
Rising Sons Productions has made strides to keep Ho‘omau as authentic to ancient Hawai‘i as possible, hiring cultural advisers and exclusively using ‘ōlelo Hawai‘i in the dialogue. Cibulka and Doughty plan to submit Ho‘omau to film festivals across the world. “We want to get rid of that commercialized view of Hawai‘i,” Cibulka says. “We want people to know that there is a real, living culture, there are stories attached to the land everywhere. We don’t want people to think of Hawai‘i as just this tourist destination. Hawai‘i has a spirit.”