Jordan and Aaron Kandell
Hollywood Screenwriters in Honolulu
Cover story by Liberty Peralta, PBS Hawaiʻi
Twins share DNA, but Jordan and Aaron Kandell share a whole lot more.
“We’ve always been interested in the same everything: same sports, same books, same careers,” says Aaron. “Anything that’s not sharing and having it, like us going to a movie theater by ourselves to watch a movie, feels weird.”
To date, the brothers have never confirmed whether they are fraternal or identical twins, but they suspect they’re the latter. Their parents, the brothers say, were only expecting one child.
“The doctors said, ‘Wait, we have another pair of feet in here,’” Aaron says.
Jordan and Aaron now have their own young families, and live next door to each other in the Mānoa neighborhood in Honolulu. Despite so many shared interests and so much time spent together, the brothers insist that they never tire of each other’s company.
“It was always supportive; we always liked to do the same things,” Jordan says. “It was kind of better together. There was never any other version of it.”
Among everything else they share in their lives: Hollywood screenwriting credits. The ʻIolani School grads co-penned the 2018 drama Adrift, based on a true story about a couple stranded in the middle of the Pacific after a hurricane.
They were also on the screenwriting team behind the 2016 Disney animated film Moana. The project existed for three years before the brothers came into the picture. They say that by then, the story had lost its way. The brothers helped flesh out the storyline and characters, and connect major plot points.
Disney’s Moana, released in 2016, was co-written by the Kandell brothers
Jordan and Aaron also got rid of previously written characters that Jordan says were “culturally insensitive.” They brought in cultural advisors to provide guidance on the film’s wayfinding elements, and “the cultural values we just grew up with that might drive Moana through her journey,” Jordan says.
The Kandells’ journey toward their dream career as screenwriters was not an easy one. “It took four years to sell our first [script],” Aaron says. “It took 10 [years] till Moana. That whole 10-year journey was informative and challenging, before you kind of figure out how to read the swells and steer the canoe.”
Says Jordan: “If you’re gonna take every ‘no’ personally, I don’t know how you move forward.”
The brothers credit their outlook on life to their mother, Sherri, whose curiosity and fearlessness they admire. Aaron says she would always tell them this when they were kids: “The only thing you can control in your life is your attitude. Everything else is a variable that you can’t predict or control.”