Hawaii Fights Hard for Screen Time

Despite leaving paradise for New York City, Mynette Loui is still keeping an eye on the Hawaii film industry at the Hawaii Film Blog (which is now a labor of love, no longer affiliated with the Hawaii Film Office).

Today Mynette points out an article on Forbes.com about Hawaii’s aggressive pursuit of film and television projects. Specifically, this week’s season finale of Bravo’s “Top Chef,” filmed at the Hilton Waikoloa Village.

The HVCB lured “Top Chef” with some $600,000 in cash, wining and dining the network, providing travel, sets, local talent and food, even tossing in a helicopter tour that made it into the show. In short, HVCB marketing veep M. Jay Talwar notes, “We offset their production costs significantly.”

Of course the piece also mentions the current star of Hawaii’s film industry, ABC’s “LOST.” The show spends $3 million per episode, and splashes diverse images of Hawaii — from beaches and waterfalls to skyscrapers and Buddhist temples — across primetime network television… and around the world.

Hawaii has already boosted its film production tax credit from 4 to 20 percent, facing stiff competition from overseas locations and fellow American states like Louisiana and Rhode Island that offer a 25 percent tax credit. Clever accounting under the umbrella of “high technology” has allowed “LOST” to claim a 100 percent tax credit in the past.

Considering the high cost of doing business in Hawaii, and the state’s strong desire to diversify its economy beyond tourism and the military, incentives like these are vital. Touchtone Television’s Barry Jossen says, simply, “It has influenced our decision to stay in Hawaii.”

And with recent talk of the inevitable conclusion of the “LOST” series, the state is going to have to work even harder to keep the local film industry growing.

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