House Hunters International Easter Island behind the scenes, Ahu Tongariki sunrise, moai statue silhouette

Behind the scenes: House Hunters International Easter Island

By Marcus Edensky

After me, my wife and our son had moved from Sweden to Easter Island, American TV show House Hunters International of the HGTV channel made an episode about it. They later came back to do a follow-up and see how we were doing in our new home. What was it like to be on the show? How did we get on it? Find out here!

Easter Island moai statues at Rano Raraku quarry
Easter Island is known for its hundreds of mysterious statues called “moai”, scattered all over the island.

What is House Hunters International?

House Hunters International is an entertainment show on HGTV channel, based on true stories of couples and families that move from one country to another. The protagonists of each episode are presented with three houses and weigh pros and cons as the viewer is invited to their life and new home.

How did we get on House Hunters International?

For logistical and economical reasons, past events in people’s lives are reconstructed and formatted to fit the entertainment format of the show. The HHI team wanted to do an Easter Island episode. They contacted the film studio Marafilms, owned by a Rapa Nui (person from Easter Island, or Rapa Nui) that lives in the USA. They asked if he knew of anyone that had moved to Easter Island recently, and he mentioned us – Marcus Edensky from Sweden and my wife Alicia Ika from Easter Island.

The House Hunters International producer then emailed us, asking if we knew anyone that had recently moved to the island. I responded that we had.

Filming House Hunters International: Easter Island

Our first episode of the HHI show when we actually moved to Easter Island started with one day of filming in Sweden. To save in on airline tickets, the studio sent over a freelancing European team (mainly from England) to not have to fly all the way from the USA. A fixer from Stockholm was hired to help out.

Filming interview in Vejbystrand, Sweden.
Filming interview in Vejbystrand, Sweden.

 

At the beach in Sweden, designing the logo of the new travel company.
At the beach in Sweden, designing the logo of the new travel company.

Things during this day were pretty straightforward. They interviewed us about our background story. After a few tries, the awkwardness of repeating the same improvised dialogue with a big camera in our faces diminished. We reconstructed a few events (packing for the move etc) and went to the beach to film us designing the logo of our new company Easter Island Travel. In truth, we actually ended up using this new logo we came up with during the shoot, instead of our old one. Please find both the old and the new logo below. What do you think? Please comment below!

Old logo
Old logo
New Easter Island Travel logo
New logo.

I don’t believe these shots made it into the final episode though. It’s hard to fit 5 full days of filming in 22 minutes.

A couple of months later we received the House Hunters International team at Easter Island for the final four full days of shooting. It was of high importance to shoot the Easter Island footage soon after that of Sweden to not have our son Nils grow too much, which babies tend to do when they’re newborn.

Preparing for the filming and actually filming the Easter Island part was quite an adventure. Easter Island, or Rapa Nui, is not like the rest of the civilized world. To get things done, you have to be here. As they had hired a fixer from the USA, they had problems getting the filming permits. Since we were on the island ourselves, we were in the best position of helping out, so we volunteered, working with the administrator of the national park to get the filming permit for scenes in archaeological sites that have moai statues. He didn’t give us the permit until the filming crew were at our doorstep and he met up with them all. Better late than never!

Alicia Ika and James Grant-Peterkin with reflector in House Hunters International shoot.
Getting the right light might take some effort sometimes.

We already had a house of our own at Rapa Nui, bit it had big problems – especially the roof. As earlier additions to the house hadn’t been well planned, the roof was built in separate sections. This resulted in a strange solution with a gutter being inside the kitchen, which in hard winter rains caused it to rain heavily into the kitchen. Now being a family, in the show we wanted to find a good, solid house to rent, ready to move in to.

At Rapa Nui we don’t have real estate agents. If we want to buy a property, we simply ask around until we hear about someone that’s selling. The producer asked us: “But what would you do if you need to find several houses quickly?”, and I said “We’d announce it on the radio!”. So that’s what we did.

Sound engineer Matt and producer Erin Fitch playing with Nils.
Sound engineer Matt and producer Erin Fitch playing with Nils.

We needed a central house, a remote house and one in between. I got several calls from people that were interested – mostly from people that wanted their hostel or similar to appear on the show for promotional purposes, which of course wasn’t what we were looking for. The concept of House Hunters International is foreign for people at Rapa Nui, so it’s quite hard to understand what it’s all about. In the end, we bumped into friends of ours (of local restaurant Kuki Varua) that had heard about my announcement on the radio, and their house was perfect as the first, central house.

The third house, in between being remote and central, had been arranged by a local British friend of mine who helped out during the production, so we had yet to find the second house – the remote one. We had a few to choose from as a last resort, but weren’t very happy with them. In the end, during the shooting days it occurred to us that a good friend of Alicia has the perfect house in the middle of nowhere, complete with chickens and ocean view, far away from the island town Hanga Roa (far away at Easter Island meaning a 15 min drive). We had found what we were looking for.

Cameraman Mike entering the kitchen.
Cameraman Mike entering the kitchen.
Director David in the kitchen, discussing light.
Director David in the kitchen, discussing light.

It’s hard to plan far ahead at Easter Island, as people usually don’t plan much here and are quite impulsive. One has to be flexible and have both a plan B and C.

Marcus Edensky discussing the shoot with the producer.
Marcus Edensky discussing the shoot with the producer.

After four tiring but incredibly fun days of filming at Easter Island, the crew went back to New York to edit the episode.

Seeing the result and filming follow-up

As we have no chance of seeing the HGTV channel at Easter Island, we didn’t see the result until almost a year later, when the DVDs at last arrived by snail mail (which in Chile really emphasizes on the word “snail”). We were very impressed with the quality of the production, so we immediately contacted the producer to let her know of our interest in doing a follow-up in the format called Where Are They Now?. Luckily, they were just planning the coming season of follow-ups, and they said they were glad to have us back as the first episode was a success. Only two months later the film crew was back at Easter Island.

SPOILER ALERT – Don’t read any further if you haven’t seen the first episode

Nils gets overwhelmed with gifts from his life-long friend, HHI producer Erin Fitch.
Nils gets overwhelmed with gifts from his life-long friend, HHI producer Erin Fitch.
Totally renovated, fresh bathroom. The window used to lead into the kitchen instead.
Totally renovated, fresh bathroom. The window used to lead into the kitchen instead.

As we in the first episode in the end chose to stay in our own home and fix the problems the house had, instead of picking one of the houses we visited in the show, we had an enormous project ahead of us. We had to remove the entire roof, joining and extending the beams, connecting the whole roof as one and putting it back in place while raising most of the walls of the entire house. Some walls were taken out and some were added to create new rooms, reusing as much material as possible. The bathroom was totally renewed and a second bathroom was added.

Nils is part of the younger generation of actors.
Nils is part of the younger generation of actors.

We had a lot to show the House Hunters International crew when they came back. They would reuse footage from the first episode, and the follow-up episode was also going to feature two other couples. This meant that only one day of filming would be necessary, which was fortunate since Alicia was almost bursting of being 8.5 months pregnant.

To see the result of our renovations, be sure to keep an eye out for reruns of HHI: Where Are We Now? – This Land Is Island.

The roof was removed in sections, in case of rain fall.
The roof was removed in sections, in case of rain fall.
Crew and actors of the follow-up episode.
Crew and actors of the follow-up episode.

Conclusion on the experience

We are very happy and thankful for the opportunity of being part of House Hunters International. It was very exhausting with lots of preparation and long days of filming, but still very rewarding. For appearing as actors and protagonists, we received 1500 USD for the first episode and 500 USD for the second one, but more than that, the fun experience and the nice people we met made it well worth the effort!

Did you see our episodes? What did you think? Please drop a comment below!

Alicia and Nils at the time of the HHI follow-up shooting.
Alicia and Nils at the time of the HHI follow-up shooting.

 

Our little princess Kiara was born only two weeks after the shoot of the HHI follow-up.
Our little princess Kiara was born only two weeks after the shoot of the HHI follow-up.

Marcus Edensky

Marcus is owner of local Rapa Nui travel agency Easter Island Travel. He is one of the few foreigners that has learnt to speak Rapa Nui fluently. He is founder of local Easter Island newspaper Tāpura Re'o - the only newspaper written entirely in Rapa Nui language.

9 thoughts on “Behind the scenes: House Hunters International Easter Island

  1. Hello, Alicia and Marcus, I loved your story on HGTV, how nice you fixed up the house and have grown your family!

    All the best!

  2. Hi Alicia and Marcus, I just watched your first episode on HHI. It was fascinating to see the houses on Rapa Nui, and so much fun to “meet” your family! I had never thought of Easter Island/Rapa Nui as a travel destination, but your show made me very curious. I will look for your follow up episode, and will visit your travel web site. Thanks! Gretchen

    1. Hi Gretchen, I’m glad you enjoyed the show, and getting to know our family! Please do have a look, and I hope that we’ll have the opportunity to receive you here in the near future. Cheers!

  3. Hi Tom, I’m glad you’ve come across 180 South as well! I actually hadn’t seen the movie before we met. We met simply by living at the same small island and having common interests. Cheers!

  4. I saw the HI way back 2015, but not the follow up..I’ve been wanting to come and visit EI
    for ages, and finally we (my friend Esther ) are coming this November..
    She booked our reservation and hoping to hear from you soon.

  5. I was on Saturday’s tour with you and I was wondering why your story sounded and you looked somewhat familiar. Bingo! I saw the first episode of HHI as a rerun. It was very nice meeting you and your passion for the island definitely shows.

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