TV takes advantage of Hawaiian beauty

Island Locations: Hawaii

In ABC’s “Lost,” each character has an elaborate backstory that takes place in myriad locations worldwide, such as the Iraqi desert, where Sayid Jarrah (played by Naveen Andrews) is a member of the Iraqi Republican Guard. But, instead of shooting in Iraq, the scenes were actually filmed in the Diamond Head Crater on the Southeast Coast of Oahu, Hawaii — overlooking the Pacific Ocean.

“Hawaii has doubled for Korea, Iowa, Kuwait and London,” says Barry Jossen, executive vice president of Touchstone TV, which produces the show. “It has such a wide array of looks. It’s just one of the gifts the island has given us.”

“Lost” joins a long list of television series that have shot on the Hawaiian Islands, starting with “Hawaiian Eye” in 1959 and followed by “Hawaii Five-O” and “Magnum P.I.,” to name a few. More recently, NBC’s “Hawaii” and Fox’s “North Shore” each took a turn there, and MTV, which first went to Oahu with reality skein “The Real World” in 1999, has gone back numerous times for shows including “Living Lahaina,” “Island Fever” and “Meet the Barkers”.

Stephen P. Jarchow, founder and CEO of Here! Networks, also succumbed to the siren call of Hawaii when he was looking for a place to shoot the second season of “Dante’s Cove.” He says it’s typically an expensive place to shoot, but the decision was made easier because he was able to take advantage of Hawaiian Act 221. Legislation, which gave Hawaiian taxpayers who invested in the series a dollar-for-dollar tax credit, allowed Jarchow to raise half the capital he needed.

“We were attracted to go over there because of this,” he says. “It’s not for amateurs, though. You need to understand tax issues, accounting issues and partnerships.”

Donne Dawson, state film commissioner for the Hawaii Film Office, says Act 221 was not designed for one-off productions but “for larger companies.”

Act 221 went into effect in 2001 and Dawson observes that although a number of productions have used the incentive in the last few years, the process was often too convoluted for them. Hawaii’s competitors, such as Australia and New Zealand, were offering easy-to-use production rebates, so Dawson wanted Hawaii to also have one in order to stay in the game.

Last May, a production tax credit of 15% for Oahu and 20% for the other islands was signed into law. Dawson says there’s a minimum spend of $200,000 and a cap of $8 million. “There are a lot more productions wanting to come to the island because of the credit,” she adds. “Everyone we have been talking to said it has put us back into a competitive position.”

Even though the production credit wasn’t in place yet, it didn’t keep director Anthony Russo, along with his brother Joe, from shooting the first 10 minutes of Universal’s “You, Me and Dupree” on Oahu.

Anthony Russo’s assessment of the experience sums up what most likely has drawn productions to the islands since two silent black-and-white one-reelers, “The Shark God” and “Hawaiian Love,” first ventured over in 1913: “It’s not so bad being able to direct barefoot in the surf,” Russo says.

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