Ever since Burt Lancaster and Deborah Kerr shared their surfside passion in 1953’s “From Here to Eternity,” people have been aware that Hollywood often chooses Hawaii as a location for romance, adventure, mystery — and even comedy.
Less well known is the Aloha State’s homegrown production activity, which has ramped up of late, as Hawaii’s incentives program and growing production infrastructure have provided an environment that now nurtures all areas of content creation.
Honolulu-based Hawaii Film Partners recently lensed “You May Not Kiss the Bride,” a romantic comedy from helmer-scribe Ron Hedden, currently in post. The indie film company developed the project inhouse and will distribute internationally via Showcase Entertainment, its international distribution arm. “You must have local ownership to truly build an industry,” says producer Rann Watumull, a third-generation Hawaiian.
In 2001, the state passed Act 221, which provided tax credits for equity investments in designated high-tech companies. Per Watumull, HFP was able to raise capital because of the legislation.
Another local company, Island Film Group, financed and co-produced “Barbarian Princess,” starring “The New World’s” Q’orianka Kilcher, and is also developing a 22-acre soundstage complex in Kapolei along with L.A.’s SHM Partners.
“While we are working hard to make Hawaii attractive for productions,” says IFG’s Roy Tjioe, “the ultimate goal is to be self-sustaining, which will enable us to tell more indigenous stories — and to rival Vancouver and New Zealand.”
When IFG’s facility is completed, it will help Hawaii offer “more than just exteriors, and film companies will not have to move,” says IFG’s Ric Galindez. Currently, the company operates a smaller soundstage facility in partnership with Hawaii Media, the state’s largest grip and electric house.
Both Tjioe and Galindez point out that Hawaii can also work for period and urban stories. “Lost” utilized downtown Honolulu for Buffalo in winter; IFG shot the Victorian-era “Barbarian Princess” on Oahu, including interiors at the Iolani royal palace. The indigenous drama recounts the life of Hawaii’s crown princess who fought against the monarchy’s overthrow at the turn of the last century.
Locally made productions include more than just high-profile features. HFP produced Discovery Kids’ “Flight 29 Down” and is now doing animation work, per Watumull. “Ape Escape,” which will air on the Nicktoons Network this summer, is the first broadcast show to be animated and created in Hawaii. Also upcoming: “Guardians of the Power Mask,” a 26-episode animated series co-produced with companies in China and Korea.
Another homegrown Hawaiian company is Honolulu’s 10:13 Integrated, which specializes in commercials and production services. It was formed in 2008 when advertising and design firm Lewis and Montgomery merged with Pacific Focus, the production company founded in 1976 by d.p. Dennis Burns.
Prexy Jason Suapaia says the company’s business model now includes creating branded Internet content. “Our strong suit has always been managing productions; now we have the ability to brand a client and deliver that message cohesively across all broadcast platforms and online.”