×
You will be redirected back to your article in seconds

Hawaii Battles for Film Production With Incentives

Hawaii competes with other tropical locales with incentives

“Godzilla” paid a visit to Hawaii’s Waikiki Beach on the island of Oahu in early July, strewing thousands of cubic yards of debris across the sand, from large chunks of cement and bricks (carved from foam) to sinks and bathroom fixtures. Less than 30 hours after production wrapped, all visible evidence of the Legendary Pictures/Warner Bros. reboot — set to open May 16 — had been removed from the area, but Hawaii state film commissioner Donne Dawson says its impact will be felt long after, and not just from the economic ripple effect of the tens of millions in production dollars spent.

“It becomes the latest calling card for Hawaii and it gives us bragging rights in terms of our ability as a production center to handle a film of that magnitude,” Dawson says.

Since enacting a 15%-20% tax credit in 2006, Hawaii has attracted a string of high profile productions, including “Tropic Thunder,” “Indiana Jones and the Kingdom of the Crystal Skull,” “Pirates of the Caribbean: On Stranger Tides,” “Battleship,” “The Descendents” and CBS’ “Hawaii Five-0,” which recently began productions on its fourth season.

But with other tropical locales such as the Dominican Republic, Malaysia and Fiji establishing generous incentives, and Puerto Rico juicing its own last year with an added a 20% credit for above-the-line talent, Hawaii was losing its competitive edge. So earlier this year the state Legislature enacted a new law, effective July 1 and retroactive to Jan. 1, bumping the tax credit 5% across the board to 20% for shoots on Oahu, which hosts the bulk of production, and 25% on the neighboring islands, and extending credit’s sunset date from 2015 to 2019.

“The timing of the increase was very opportune,” says Honolulu Film Office commissioner Walea Constantinau. “It allowed shows that were either on the fence or needed a little bit more to come to the island.”

That includes a trio of features coming this fall: Tim Burton’s “Big Eyes,” Angelina Jolie-directed “Unbroken,” and writer-director Cameron Crowe’s romantic comedy “Deep Tiki,” starring Emma Stone, Rachel McAdams and Bradley Cooper.

“Godzilla” made the decision to come to Hawaii in November, before the improved incentive was approved. Although several set pieces in the film were scripted for Hawaii, producers considered raining destruction on other seemingly cheaper tropical locales, including Puerto Rico, which offers a 40% tax credit. But in the end it was decided that shooting the scenes elsewhere would be penny wise and pound foolish.

Hawaiian production happens to be marking two major milestones in 2013. This year is the 100th anniversary of film production on the Hawaiian Islands. It also happens to be the 20th anniversary of the filming of the landmark blockbuster “Jurassic Park” on Kauai, the Garden Island, which is planning its own series of celebrations and festivities in October. Like all island production, shooting on Hawaii has pros and cons. “Because you’re thousands of miles away from the mainland, a lot of materials are more expensive, and the cost of living is high, so there’s that downside,” says the film’s location manager Mike Fantasia. “But if your show requires ocean, beaches, jungle and beautiful mountains, you get incredible bounty in those areas.”

Crew capability — an area in which Hawaii excels — is another consideration. “We could pretty much count on being able to get quality crew people when we got here,” Fantasia adds. That’s not something that can be said of most runaway production destinations.

Historically, one of the downsides to shooting in Hawaii has been the dearth of soundstages. Until now, the state’s only major production facility has been Hawaii Film Studio at Diamond Head, where “Hawaii Five-0” now shoots.

The state recently approved $250,000 for a feasibility study for a new studio. In the meantime, two new soundstage complexes are set to open on neighbor islands.

The first is Maui Film Studios, featuring five soundstages, the largest topping out at 22,000 sq. ft. Maui County film commissioner Harry Donenfeld characterizes it as a “moderate-sized” facility, perfect for TV production and mid-size features.

Over on the Big Island, construction is under way on Lokahi Studios at the U. of Nations campus in Kona. Due to be completed late this year, its centerpiece will be  the Transmedia Center, a 30,000-sq. ft. facility featuring sound-recording studios, soundproof practice rooms, greenscreen, motion-capture stages and multiple edit bays. The complex will also boast a broadcasting studio, a chamber concert hall, a 600-seat cinema, and a multipurpose facility containing two studio shells that can serve as soundstages or live performance venues.

“We’re going to be able to say we’ve got the largest film complex in the state,” says Big Island Film Office commissioner John Mason. “It’s going to change the game here.”

Related Stories: Scout and About: The Islands:

More Film

  • Alexander Skarsgard in the front rowGiorgio

    Film News Roundup: Alexander Skarsgard Joins 'Passing' With Tessa Thompson

    In today’s film news roundup, Taryn Manning, Shane West and Alexander Skarsgård have new roles, and Warner Bros. unveils a modernized logo. CASTINGS Alexander Skarsgård has signed on to join Tessa Thompson, Ruth Negga and André Holland in “Passing.” The film marks Rebecca Hall’s directorial debut and is based on a screenplay that Hall adapted [...]

  • Spike Lee

    Spike Lee to Direct Hip-Hop Love Story 'Prince of Cats'

    Spike Lee will direct a big-screen version of the hip-hop love story “Prince of Cats,” based on Ron Wimberly’s graphic novel. Legendary has been developing the project with Janet and Kate Zucker of Zucker Productions. Lee, who won the Academy Award for adapted screenplay for “BlacKkKlansman,” will also re-write the “Prince of Cats” script with [...]

  • DOLEMITE IS MY NAME!, 2019, DOL_Unit_06284.RAF

    'Dolemite Is My Name' Writer Larry Karaszewski Recalls 10-Year Journey to Make Rudy Ray Moore Biopic

    “Harriet” writer-director Kasi Lemmons was in a reflective mood at Tuesday night’s “Behind the Scene” event at the Formosa Cafe in West Hollywood, sponsored by the Writers Guild of America West. The biopic, starring Cynthia Erivo as slave-turned-abolitionist Harriet Tubman, has been receiving buzz since its premiere at the Toronto International Film Festival. It’s Lemmons’ [...]

  • Writers vs Agents Packaging War WGA

    Abrams Artists Agency Signs Writers Guild Deal

    In a major triumph for the Writers Guild of America, the Abrams Artists Agency has signed the WGA’s Code of Conduct, allowing the agency to return to representing WGA members again. Chairman Adam Bold made the announcement Wednesday, saying that the agency wants to put its clients back to work. He also noted WGA West [...]

  • Taika Waititi and Roman Griffin Davis

    Holocaust Experts Debate 'Jojo Rabbit' at Museum of Tolerance Screening

    With its comedic, cartoonish portrayal of Nazis, Taika Waititi’s satirical Hitler youth tale “Jojo Rabbit” has polarized critics and audiences alike. And that division continued to be stirred at Tuesday night’s screening of the film at the Museum of Tolerance in Los Angeles, where Liebe Geft, director of the museum, moderated a heated panel discussion [...]

More From Our Brands

Access exclusive content