Hawaii Film Blog

Friday, December 30, 2005

2005 Hawaii Film and TV Reverie

Let me capitalize on my fleeting feeling of pensive reflection on this New Year's Eve's Eve and write about the year that was. And do me a favor: while you read this post, imagine, if you will, a bittersweet theme playing in the background (Iz's "Over the Rainbow," perhaps?) and Anderson Cooper doing voiceover narration.

My first full year at the Hawaii Film Office has been filled with much joy and much pain. Only three studio features shot here, and each only stayed a few days: "The Shaggy Dog" with Tim Allen; "You, Me, and Dupree" with Kate Hudson and Matt Dillon; and "Snakes on a Plane" with Sam Jackson.

Television looked much brighter with ABC's "Lost," Hawaii's first bona fide hit TV series since "Magnum P.I." And thanks to "Lost," folks like Entertainment Weekly, TV Guide, and the Oprah Winfrey Show came on down to Hawaii to cover the hit drama, spending a healthy chunk of change here themselves, and helping to attract visitors to our shores. At the start of the year, we lost Fox's "North Shore" and NBC's "Hawaii," but gained two new series, teen-targeted "Flight 29 Down" (Discovery/NBC) and "Beyond the Break" (The N). Of course, there's our scrappy underdog hit, A&E's "Dog: The Bounty Hunter," along with a(n) (in)decent helping of various other reality shows like "Blind Date."

Our bread continues to be buttered by TV commercial shoots like Lexus, Calvin Klein, Capri Sun, Campbell Soup, and Japan Airlines, and by still photo shoots like Outside Magazine, Talbots, REI Catalog, LL Bean Catalog, and Lucky Magazine. And we cannot forget the many many filmed sporting events, documentaries, local commercials and industrials, and independent and student films and TV shows that are shot here daily. The local post production and digital media industry has taken great leaps forward this year as well.

Clusters of stakebeds and honeywagons have become familiar sights around town, especially at Mokuleia and other North Shore beaches. With the North brimming with activity, the West side has grown in popularity this year. Then there are the always popular Nuuanu Pali and Windward rainforests and Kualoa Ranch, and thanks to "Lost," under-utilized downtown Honolulu has been mined for its varied architecture and urbanscapes, doubling as San Francisco, Sydney, London, Santa Fe, and New York.

The renovation of our state-run film studio facility at Diamond Head, which began in February and is slated to finish in Spring '06, is progressing quite nicely. The walls have come up on the two new buildings--a production office building, and a technical building that will house a construction mill among other things. Our state-owned props and set dressing pieces have finally been neatly de-molded, sorted, and organized, and items are now easily accessible and ready to be rented out (call Tammy at 808-733-9828). There are some really cool things like 60s-style phone booths, kitschy beaded curtains, and freaky-bizarre figurines.

The 2005 Legislative session started out with 18 film bills, which got whittled down to 3 by the end of the session: 15-20% refundable production tax credit bills HB 1590 and SB 541, and SB 1304, which requested grant funds for local independent filmmakers. Despite unprecedented consensus and support from the local and mainland film industry, local vendors, government officials, and some legislators, the 3 bills became zero, and next month, it's back to the drawing board for the 2006 Legislative session.

In existing tax incentive news, the Dept. of Taxation tacked on various administrative fees related to Act 221, our somewhat confusing 100% investment tax credit, which by the way, continues to brew controversy, with the Advertiser's Sean Hao and the Tax Foundation of Hawaii's Lowell Kalapa making the most waves. Still, the core purpose of the credit remains laudable, and film and TV productions--particularly cash-poor local independent ones--can and should use it (call me at 808-586-2570 for a layperson's explanation of how, or read my blog archives). And, for some productions, we still have our 4% refundable production tax credit and refund on hotel room taxes, which, while helpful, were not enough to attract loads of productions here, bringing me to my next point...

Productions ran away (a lot) this year from L.A., from the U.S., from Hawaii. Like flies to honey, they flocked and are still flocking to cheaper places like Louisiana, New Mexico, New York, Illinois, South Carolina, Canada, Australia, Romania, South Africa, and the Czech Republic. Hurricanes and bird flu be damned.

On a much lighter note, Hawaii's local film events are blossoming. This year, the Louis Vuitton Hawaii International Film Festival turned 25, and hosted stars and luminaries like Sam Jackson, Lee Byung-hun, Roger Corman, Roger Ebert, and Bai Ling. The Maui Film Festival, as always, had its share of superstars with Jake Gyllenhaal, Owen Wilson, and Helen Hunt. Cinema Paradise, our indie film fest, turned 4 and opened at its new permanent home, Next Door. The Honolulu Rainbow Film Festival continued its longtime tradition of supporting gay-themed films. GiRL FeST got even bolder in its second year, hosting former Black Panther leader
Elaine Brown.

As for the Hawaii Film Office a.k.a. state film commission, we've gone through a few changes of our own: Sharon Clark retired after a decade and a half here, Sandi Ichihara replaced her, Jackson Bauer is leaving next week, and so is Judy Drosd, who until then, heads up the Arts, Film & Entertainment Division at DBEDT (that's Dept of Business, Economic Development, and Tourism) under which the film office falls.

To sum up this year in Hawaii film and TV, I (like the hack that I am) will borrow a hackneyed phrase from Dickens: it was the best of times, it was the worst of times. (Sorry.)

You--yes you!--can help next year be better by coming to shoot here. It's lonely here with only the drunken, speeding cast of "Lost" to bore entertain me at badly catered industry parties. C'mon, all the hipsters are coming here (Do hipsters still exist? They're so 2003...), and it's not all palm trees and sunshine. Sure, you'll have a little acculturation to do, but frick, it's HAWAII! And I have a good feeling about improved film incentives this coming year, really I do, call me crazy.

So...see you next year!!! And thanks for reading!

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