Location pros praise Hawaii’s benefits

Resources abound as production grows

The legendary beauty of the Hawaiian Islands has long attracted filmmakers. Over the years their increased activity has led to the growth of a robust production infrastructure that has benefited many movies and TV shows.

“There’s more equipment and more resources here now,” says Val Kim, a location scout who has been working locations in Hawaii for more than 20 years. “The (issue) is managing the location, because it’s so beautiful here and the environment is highly impacted by everything we do. You have to allow extra time to work with those requirements.”

Kim, who scouted for “The Tempest,” praised the help offered by Hawaii State Film Commissioner Donne Dawson and recommends making contact early in order to work out any environmental concerns.

“The film commission has to protect what they have so people keep coming back,” Kim notes.

Tim Hillman, a veteran location scout who worked on “50 First Dates” on Oahu, says he’d be happy to go back to the Aloha State. “The beauty of the place goes without saying,” Hillman notes, “and the people are so nice. In a lot of other locations, you might get beauty but not a local population that’s happy to see you, (plus there are other benefits) like not having to deal with international customs.”

Mike Fantasia, who scouted and managed locations for “Indiana Jones and the Kingdom of the Crystal Skull” in Hilo, found similar advantages. “In most of the world where there is accessible jungle, that jungle has been cut down,” Fantasia says. He used some of the crew and equipment from “Lost” while that show was on hiatus. “We needed that deep jungle look and roads to bring in equipment. That meant Hawaii won out.”

Though they were able to find some resources in Hawaii, Fantasia says the large feature production brought in most of its own equipment and crew. “We came with 85% of what we needed,” he reports. “You have to remember you’re on an island in the Pacific, so you plan ahead.”

Productions smaller than “Indiana Jones” may be able to find more of what they require. Kent Matsuoka, who is scouting and managing locations on Kauai for a low-budget sci-fi film, says Hawaiian crews are as professional as those in Los Angeles.

“It was a great help when ‘Lost’ came here,” Matsuoka says. “It encouraged the development of local crew to the standard that the industry expects, so that when other productions come here, some of what they need is already here.”

Matsuoka adds that Hawaii’s hospitality business, already in place for tourists, is also a plus for incoming production. “Right now the economy is down and there’s an abundance of hotel rooms and great food here,” he says. “They’re very happy to have us here.”

Matsuoka has scouted for features, TV, commercials and print on the Hawaiian Islands, and advises those going there to keep an open mind about the versatility of the locations. “It’s not just what you saw on ‘Hawaii Five-O’ a long time ago,” says Matsuoka. “There’s a lot hidden here if you just take the time to look.”

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