It’s been a long-time goal for business and government to broaden Hawai'i’s economy beyond its main driver of tourism. One growth area in recent years: film and television production. That’s true across the state—and also on Hawai'i Island. HPR contributing reporter Sherry Bracken has more from Kona.
Hawai'i County Film Commissioner Justin Finestone says the state’s film commissioners have a three-part job: marketing and showcasing their island, issuing film permits, and acting as a concierge.
“If there’s a production in town and they run into problems or need something, they can call me and I’ll try to get them what they need. We help them connect with local people in the industry behind the scenes or in front of the camera.”
Most states offer tax incentives to encourage their state to be used for TV, film, and still photography projects. Hawai'i is no exception.
“Hawai'i has had a film incentive since 1997, 20% tax credit for Oahu, on the neighbor islands, it’s 25%. “
He says the tax credits are crucial—helping attract productions and offset the high costs of doing business here. By comparison, the state of Florida used to offer tax credits—when they stopped, many productions and jobs that support them left the state.
Finestone says there are direct financial benefits.
“From 2006 to 2015, production expenditures statewide were $2.2 Billion dollars, in 2015 alone, $243 million dollars. Since July of 2016 here on Hawai'i Island we permitted over 50 productions and they’ve spent about $3.5 million dollars here on Hawai'i Island.”
In addition to great outdoor locations, Hawai'i Island has a 6,000 square foot studio, a green screen stage, a first-rate sound studio, a production support company, and a stunt training studio. Recent productions filmed on the Big Island include the films Jumanji and Joe the Medicine Runner, and Paradise Run, coming to Nickelodeon this Fall.