Stoke, the Lava Drama

A look into the Hawaiʻi-made film, Stoke, how it came to be, and when it hits Hilo

Staff Writer Holly S. Trowbridge Photo Courtesy of Phillips Payson

overhead shot of three people laying on a lava flow

Are you a closeted movie buff? Or do you enjoy various film festivals? What about Hawaiʻi-made films? Stoke is a film made to be seen and enjoyed by others.

“Stoke is a Big Island road trip film about regrowth. Entitled tourist Jane hires two wannabe tour guides to take her to an active volcano. They get into a series of misadventures along the way. Our main goal with the project was to create authentic, modern Hawaiian characters, a minority that often gets overlooked or whitewashed on screen,” said Phillips Payson, director and editor of the film.

The show has been screening since Saturday Nov. 10th, on Oʻahu at the Hawaiʻi International Film Festival and continues to show to viewers throughout the islands. Beginning Sunday, Dec. 2 there will be showings at the Hilo Palace Theater. This will continue through the dates of Friday, Dec. 21, Saturday, Dec. 22, and, Sunday, Dec. 23. The film will also be hitting Honokaʻa, the Doris Duke Theater on Oʻahu, the Aloha Theater in Kona, the Volcano Arts Center in Volcano, and finally, the Waimea Film Festival on Kauai.

“Stoke is really a love letter to Hawaiʻi Island and the people here - those who live here and those who feel called to visit,” said Zoe Eisenberg, writer, producer, and co-director for the Hawaiʻi-filmed Lava Drama movie.

The film has also been well-viewed, as it, “was recently awarded Best Women in Film Feature from the Austin Indie Film Festival,” Payson pointed out.

When describing the movie, Eisenberg said, “The film is definitely weird and wild, so I hope it's fun to watch and that it makes an audience think a little about why people are called to visit Kīlauea or some of the more nuanced aspects of living here on Hawaiʻi island.”

Eisenberg continued, “Like any other storytelling art, what makes a film unique is the voice behind it and the way it's told; for filmmakers, that's mostly visual. Filmmaking is a unique art form in that it demands collaboration--you can't make a film alone.”

On top of its creative roadtrip angle, the film was, “shot all over Hawaiʻi island, including several locations now covered by lava. Main scenes took place in Waimea, Pāhoa, and Kalapana, and other recognizable areas include Aliʻi Drive in Kona and the Tin Shack Bakery in Pāhoa, although we cheated that scene as if it took place in Kona,” Eisenberg stated with jest.

Stoke also has a Facebook page and a website dedicated to sharing information about showings, and also spreading the trailer for the film around online. “Creating a trailer is like creating a short film. It has to be engaging, informative, but ambiguous enough where your audience wants more. It’s a difficult process to boil down the essence of a feature into just two minutes,” Payson said.

Payson continued, “What makes film unique is that it is a culmination of all art forms. Film is a beautiful mix of painting, theater, music, history, science, philosophy, and the cinema itself provides a gathering space where people can put aside their worries and share a dream for a few hours.”

Altogether, the Stoke Lava Drama Film is ready to hit Hilo like never before. Folks all over the island are gearing up. Payson and Eisenberg will be present at all showings, and will host a Questions and Answers Panel after each show. So if the idea of hearing more about the process or about the film itself is interesting, feel free to attend a showing or a few!