Wainani Young-Tomich’s first name means “beautiful water” in Hawaiian, and the 2nd assistant director is no stranger to challenges of the aquatic kind. In 2006, the Oahu-based hit TV show Lost, where she is a 2nd unit key 2nd assistant director, experienced 44 straight days of rain and never lost a single scene. There was also the tsunami warning last April, the sea turtle that crawled out of the ocean to snooze where the dolly tracks were supposed to be, and enough swollen rivers, mud and slippery rock faces in remote jungle locations to last a lifetime.
“Only in Hawaii can you get behind schedule because your cast sneaks off to go surfing,” jokes Young-Tomich. But waves are one thing; extreme weather is another. To organize cast, crew and paperwork on Lost’s jungle locations, Young-Tomich wears knee-high, ripstop nylon covers with a waterproof bottom on her boots just to make sure they stay functional. “It’s a challenge keeping your paperwork dry with all the humidity,” she adds. “If you drop something, it disappears into eight inches of mud and water, and it’s pretty much lost.”
Being prepared for the unexpected is what a 2nd 2nd AD’s job is all about. Young-Tomich’s week begins with a full day of prep with the 1st assistant director, confirming scene order, cast and any special equipment needed for the show’s rugged locations. She’ll burn up cell minutes calling cast and crew members with time and location reminders, and then be the first on the set the next day to shepherd actors into hair and makeup. She also tracks actor’s timecards, moves the extras into place, and typically completes her daily production reports hours after camera wraps.
Her family prompted the professionally risky move of returning to Hawaii in 2003. “When I came home, all of the TV shows had been short-lived, so I didn’t hold out much hope of AD work.”
So with Lost on hiatus, Young-Tomich had planned to spend the summer on the beach with her two kids. But when a feature, Forgetting Sarah Marshall, shooting at the Turtle Bay Resort, came along, she couldn’t say no. “Moving back here was the best thing I ever did,” she says with a sigh of relief, “because having a work/life balance was difficult in Hollywood.” And then there are the joys of being a native, like when the tsunami warning sirens are tested the first day of each month at 11:45 a.m. “Where else can you see haole [non-Hawaiian born] crew members running for cover? So it’s easy to tell the locals from the Mainlanders,” she laughs.