“The Descendants” was filmed on Kaua‘i and O‘ahu in the Spring of 2010. The movie was directed by Oscar-winner Alexander Payne and stars Oscar-winner George Clooney. It was shot using a crew of 78 percent local hires.
Hawai‘i’s crew was headed by one of the islands’ top production supervisors, Renee Confair-Sensano. Renee was involved before the producers and director arrived.
“I was hired part-time for 7 months before the shoot and full-time the last two months before,” she said.
It is Renee’s job to “give honest assessments as to the caliber of crew and cast and equipment available in the Islands. Each show has different expectations. If you over-estimate, there will be a lot of disappointment.”
The best thing is the crew is treated very well by the director and film’s star. Renee noted that “great movies can be made without yellers and screamers. People can be treated well. Hours can be reasonable. All of this helps create the magic”.
I was interested in any special challenges that may arise when you’re working with a well-known director like Alexander Payne (“Sideways”). Renee gave me great insight.
“As a production supervisor, I’ve worked with many different ‘known’ filmmakers,” she said. “That said, Alexander Payne is in a league of his own. His work revolves around the ‘art of the story’. It is important to AP to make it ‘real’. If it rains in Hawai‘i, shoot in the rain. If there’s chickens on Kaua‘i, make sure there is chickens in the Kaua‘i scenes.
“If wealthy people wear shorts and slippers, then that’s what those characters will be wearing. Dress Clooney in downtown Honolulu business attire, even if it’s not the standard business outfits the mainland is expecting.”
After Renee mentioned this, I realized what made being on-set special (I was fortunate to work for Renee for a week): the director respected Kaua‘i and its people.
Renee said, “Alexander Payne doesn’t come into town and tell you what his perception of Hawai‘i is; he researches and investigates so he can portray Hawai‘i in a more ‘real’ sense.”
Since the film’s marketing campaign has been in full swing, I personally love seeing Hanalei Bay on national TV.
It was also fun to see George Clooney in Aloha attire (especially since we usually see him in a tuxedo or dressed down at film festival Q and A’s).
At the press conference for the Nyff closing night gala, a film a reporter told Payne, “For someone who dresses as well as you do, you really know how to put Clooney into the ugliest pants he ever wore on screen.”
Payne said the first time he saw Clooney with a Hawaiian shirt tucked in his pants, he knew it would be the end of Clooney’s career as the seducer.
Clooney said wearing the high-waisted khakis was hell. “The higher they went, the more uncomfortable I felt,” he said. “But, hey, I’m from Kentucky.”
“The Descendants” is an interesting “Clooney movie,” where at no point is he the sexy leading man.
It was a lot of fun to see Renee Confair-Sensano’s credit (and a few other people I know) at the end of the movie. To see stuff I saw Renee orchestrate on set gave me a new appreciation for her job.
As someone who worked for Renee twice and considers her a friend and mentor, I thank her, and it’s a blessing that she gave the people of Kaua‘i her time and wonderful insight to this magical film that captured our island like no film to date.