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Henry Panza

Text: Daniel Ikaika Ito
Image: Courtesy of Ecila



t’s usually the natural beauty of Hawai‘i that inspires filmmakers, but for Darieus Legg, it was the dirty, man-made side of O‘ahu that appealed to the 26-year-old writer/director. Legg’s debut feature film, Ecila (pronounced Eh-key-lah), is a work of art that displays the grimiest parts of Honolulu.

He purposefully and poetically used the filthiest parts of Hawai‘i’s largest city to create a fictitious urban sprawl full of larger than life characters and plagued by a drug called Love. According to Legg, other than the buildings and streets of O‘ahu, Ecila has nothing in common with the 50th State.

“There’s no reflections of Hawaiians, no reflections of local people, and there’s nothing that you could associate Hawai‘i with in the film and it’s done that way with a purpose,” says Legg, who is originally from Kailua, Kona. “I wanted it to be its own world. The way the city will come off is nothing like Hawai‘i because it’s a fucked up city. It’s Gotham City meets Detroit.”

The aforementioned city is Bocino—a metropolitan wasteland of pornographers, prostitutes, poverty, gangsters and addicts—where the majority of the action takes place in the movie. Legg has been infatuated with the structural aesthetics of Honolulu for many years and Ecila showcases his obsession with building design.

“I love the architecture of Honolulu,” admits Legg. “I always thought it was amazing because a lot of it is old ‘70s, Japanese architecture. The city looks like old Charles Bronson films […] like San Francisco in the ‘70s. So, I really wanted to exploit that in my film as much as possible.”

The surreal style of architecture allowed Legg to create a “Wonderland” setting for this indie movie, that is an adaptation of Lewis Carroll’s novel, Alice In Wonderland. According to Legg, there are a lot of parallels to how both stories are built structurally.

“Ecila” is “Alice” spelled backwards and the name of the protagonist in Legg’s movie. There are also various other characters borrowed from Carroll’s iconic book, like twin pornographers that resemble Tweedledee and Tweedledum, as well as a Persian drug runner that drives a pink moped who is similar to the White Rabbit character.

In Legg’s film, Ecila is a young, up and coming journalist chasing a juicy story about Love, the drug that runs rampant in Bocino. Her key interview is with a Persian drug runner and she’s willing to do almost anything to get the scoop on the Love epidemic. Along the way, she encounters characters that are the scum of society, dangerous situations and identity issues which all force Ecila to grow up quickly.

If the story doesn’t captivate the audience, then the mind-blowing imagery in Ecila will keep people’s eyes glued to the screen. Legg was fortunate to use the—very expensive and very tech—RED ONE camera to shoot the movie. This revolutionary piece of equipment allowed him to digitally produce a movie that has the same quality of picture as shooting with film while being relatively inexpensive.

“[The RED ONE] enables an independent filmmaker to make a million dollar film with no money,” says Legg. “You get to shoot for cheap, if you have access to it. You get to make mistakes and cover them up in post-production.”

The following four people were some of the main players in Ecila and all saw the project evolve from a script to a full-length motion picture. While the whole cast and crew generously worked on this movie pro-bono, the following four people did this movie for love– the feeling that is, not the drug.



“Love is like their Ice that’s plaguing the city.”

On the set of Ecila, director Darieus Legg is the equivalent of Billy Walsh from Entourage. Like the HBO series character, Legg is willing to tell someone, “Go to hell,” if they don’t agree with his artistic vision.

“I think being a director is one of the last real dictatorial posts left on the planet with an ever growing democratic world,” says Legg. “Being a director is one of the last dictatorships you can hold as a job and I like that.”

Like Billy Walsh, Darieus digs absolute power. Unlike Walsh, Legg is actually a nice guy in real life.

Besides directing and writing, Legg also acts in Ecila, playing a Persian gangster named Amir who is the heir to the drug empire in Bocino. According to Darieus the character is a “brat” and is very proud of his heritage.

Besides being Legg’s debut feature, Ecila is also a way for the young, half-Persian director to address the current stereotypes in society about Middle Eastern people since 9/11. Ecila is both an ethnic catharsis and a dream come true for Legg, but he also wants this film to be an inspiration for his peers in the Honolulu film community.

“I really hope [Ecila] inspires other young, Hawai‘i filmmakers to say, ‘Hey I don’t need Hollywood or a million dollars to make a film,’” says Legg. “I just need a really good friend, a couple grand and connections, which is what Hawai‘i is all about.”

Image: Lancifer Visual
Image: Courtesy of Ecila

“Love is similar to ‘E’ because it comes in a pill form and is processed in a chemical lab. It’s addictive. It’s expensive. And, it makes people do just about anything for it.”

Some women dream of being the star of a feature film their whole lives and never get the chance. For Britney Sussman, the actress playing Ecila, the thought never crossed her mind before making this movie. The completely crushable, 24-year-old from Kaua‘i had no previous acting experience except for a few theater classes at the University of Hawai‘i, but Fate has a funny way of intersecting peoples’ lives.

Rewind two years. While pursuing a business degree at UH Manoa, Sussman crossed paths with Darieus Legg. During class Legg would work on the script for Ecila and bounce ideas off her. After the duo graduated in Spring 2008, Darieus offered Britney the lead role to his movie and the rest is history. After playing the character for a year, Britney knows the film’s protagonist the best.

“She’s a journalist and she’s willing to do almost anything for the story she’s after,” says Brit about Ecila. “She’s pretty dedicated and cutthroat.”

Ecila is chasing a drug runner driving a pink moped throughout the movie. He is the key interview to her story, but Ecila encounters shady characters along the way that are trying to jack the drug runner who is constantly transporting massive amounts of cash around Bocino. According to Brit, this movie is set in a universe of its own, but is a reflection of the current times.

“I think it represents our generation and pop culture,” adds the leading lady of Ecila. “A world that’s real, but with over the top, out of this world characters that a lot of people can relate to in certain ways.”

Image: Courtesy of Ecila


“Love is the drug and it’s above any other drug on the market right now.”

Robert Campbell got involved with Ecila through Tory Tukuafu’s Showdown in Chinatown film festival about a year ago. After working with Darieus’ brother on a short film called, Bang With Me, for The Showdown, Campbell had the opportunity to read the script for Ecila. He was sold after the first reading.

As the producer, Campbell was basically responsible for all of the logistics when it came to making Ecila. Cameras. Sets. Locations. Props. Wardrobe. Catering. Beverages. Permits. Robert got all of this and more for Ecila. Yet, he isn’t the type of producer to hog the glory and is quick to throw props to the talented but odd crew that worked with him on this project.

“This crew is very dysfunctional singularly, but when they come together it’s a family,” admits Campbell. “I would not pick anybody else, except this crew because they work so well together.”

Campbell is usually the first guy on the set and the last guy to bail. When everyone works a 14-hour day, you can bet your ass that Robert Campbell probably worked a 16-hour day. Despite dumping his life savings and laboring for long hours, he doesn’t regret a thing when it comes to Ecila.

“It’s been a great ride and I wouldn’t take anything back,” he says. “We’ve poured every sweat, ounce of blood and love into this thing, hoping and knowing that this film is going to turn out great.”

  EcilaImage: Gollestani Photography

Image: Gollestani Photography


“Love is probably like heroin.”

Out of all the actors in Ecila, Darieus’ brother, Cyrus Legg has the most formal training in creative arts. He studied stand-up comedy in San Francisco for a year, took several theater classes in college and did a few local plays and short films in Honolulu. Therefore, Cyrus was the only actor that could play Doyle, the comic relief in the movie.

“Doyle is a mentally challenged character that gets taken advantage of and is dicked around by his so-called friends,” explains Cyrus. “You kind of feel bad for him so I think he’s a pretty lovable character.”

Slightly autistic and oblivious to a lot around him, Doyle is the walking punchline in the movie. According to Cyrus, the character is based on a voice that he and Darieus would do for fun. While his character is the butt of many jokes in the movie, on the set Cyrus is a guru as an acting coach, helping the other players with their characters. Although Cyrus thinks Ecila is a work of art worth watching, he admits that this movie is more for entertainment than a life-changing film.

“I don’t think this is a movie to change lives,” he says. “To me, it’s just not that kind of script, but it’s a fun movie to watch. I hope people walk away saying that they were entertained.”


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