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Friendly islands beckon prod’n

Friendly islands beckon prod'n

Hawaii wants to be in pictures. That’s the film-friendly message the state’s film commissioners want to trumpet, er, toot from a conch.

To that end, Hawaii’s five individual film offices — Hawaii, Big Island, Maui, Kauai and Honolulu — have joined forces to create the Film Offices of the Hawaiian Islands (FOHI) to establish a more positive perception for filming on the islands, thus increasing film and TV production statewide.

Joint efforts, partially funded by the Hawaii Tourism Authority, include creating an extensive marketing campaign with Hollywood film and TV focus groups and developing an advertising campaign featuring Hawaii’s variety of settings, in addition to sponsoring a filmmakers’ reception at Sundance and a statewide and international public information campaign.

The focus groups — composed of Hollywood film and TV execs, Hawaii labor union production reps and the lieutenant governor — identified the island’s filming strengths, such as the varied topography of its many islands, some spots as yet untapped. Hawaii’s drawbacks were also addressed, such as the perception of expense associated with island film production.

Canada, Australia, Thailand and Mexico are the islands’ chief competitors for film work.

According to Georgette Deemer, Hawaii Film Offices, legislation is being considered for an increase in tax credits, and negotiations with hotels are also underway to offer the same.

“Hawaii’s climate and unique landscapes are a natural draw for producers in the film and television industry,” Deemer added. “Unfortunately, some negative perceptions have developed about filming in Hawaii, so we have joined forces and developed this new campaign to dispel those influences and attract new business and revenue to our state.”

The film offices have each contributed to production growth over the last decade, culminating in a record-breaking $99.1 million for 1999.

Film revenue for the year 2000 is off to a good start with Jerry Bruckheimer’s $135 million, WWII epic, “Pearl Harbor.”

The pic, helmed by Michael Bay, is based on the events leading up to the Japanese attack and involves two brothers — aviators in the U.S. Army Corps and the British Royal Air Force.

Military assistance was approved for the film by the Dept. of Defense in February. Lensing begins in April at four Hawaii military bases and a San Diego-based Navy aircraft carrier, the USS Constellation, a focal point in the production.

The historical Army buildings at Honolulu’s Fort Shafter and Wheeler Army Air Field, which was an active WWII base bombed during the 1941 Japanese attack, are two of the locations for the pic skedded for a Memorial Day 2001 release.

* * *

New Mexico’s state legislature approved a funding measure last week to invest in film production companies and thus encourage filming in the “Land of Enchantment.”The measure is awaiting the governor’s review and approval.

“This (bill) is significant in that we worked closely with production crews and unions to provide direct incentives,” said Nancy Everist, director, New Mexico Film Office.

The legislation authorizes investment of up to $20 million in companies that make films, ads or other media productions either wholly or partially in New Mexico.

According to the film office, a project must have one-third of its financing in place as well as a valid contract and completion bond and hire the majority of its crew in the state.

* * *

The Welsh Development Agency is banking on a little name recognition to boost the country’s film production.

Anthony Hopkins and Catherine Zeta-Jones hail from Wales, and one of 1999’s Oscar nominees for best foreign film is Wales’ “Soloman and Gaenor.”

To bolster the agency’s goal, it held a celebration and promotion of recent Welsh film industry growth last week at the Fairmont Miramar Hotel in Santa Monica.

The event was attended by Paul Dimond, British consul general; Nia Roberts, star of “Solomon and Gaenor;” John Houlton, British Film Office director; Geoff Sheppard, Welsh Development Agency executive director; Berwyn Rowlands, Sgrin chief executive; and Stan Golden, Saban Pictures Intl.

(Tim Ryan in Honolulu contributed to this article.)

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