Hollywood hit helps Hawaii's film industry

Published: Jan. 25, 2012 at 3:37 AM HST|Updated: Jan. 25, 2012 at 3:47 AM HST
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Donne Dawson, acting manager of the Hawaii Film Office
Donne Dawson, acting manager of the Hawaii Film Office
Rep. Tom Brower, chair of the House Tourism Committee
Rep. Tom Brower, chair of the House Tourism Committee

HONOLULU (HawaiiNewsNow) - A Hollywood hit is shining the spotlight on Hawaii's film industry. "The Descendants," which was shot in Hawaii, has captured five Oscar nominations. Lawmakers hope to cash in on the movie's success by attracting new productions to the islands.

Several celebrities came to Hawaii last year in support of a bill to provide tax incentives for the film industry. That measure stalled, but several new ones are being introduced this year.

On the heels of its success at the Golden Globes, "The Descendants" has been nominated for best picture, director, writing and editing. George Clooney is also up for best actor.

"I think it's a once in a lifetime opportunity where you have something where the seeds of it started here in Hawaii from a Hawaiian writer who sees that story explode on the big screen," said Donne Dawson, acting manager of the Hawaii Film Office.

Dawson, the former state film commissioner, is back in the Hawaii Film Office since the state recently restored two positions after layoffs in 2009.

"I think the administration recognizes that there is the need for solid support at the film office. The situation has been challenged over the last couple of years," Dawson explained.

A bill to attract TV and film projects stalled in committee during the last legislative session. The measure would have enhanced film production income tax credits and provided tax incentives for new infrastructure.

"Often when we have bills at the legislature, they don't make it the first year, and there's a learning curve, and legislators should be concerned because we can't have too many tax credits because sometimes we don't generate enough money," said Rep. Tom Brower, chair of the House Tourism Committee.

Brower is co-introducing a bill to lure TV productions to the islands.

"Many states have tax credits for production companies -- anywhere from 5 to 35%. Currently in Hawaii, we have a tax credit of 15 to 20%," Brower said.

He recommends boosting the tax credit up to 30% for 10 years.

"This is as much about creating more tourism and creating state revenue as it is in showing off Hawaii's people and our beautiful scenery," said Brower.

During a recent trip to Los Angeles, Honolulu mayor Peter Carlisle met with studio executives to promote Oahu as a backdrop for filming.

"Between 2006 and 2011, there has been a direct spend in Hawaii by the film industry of $1.3 billion," said Carlisle.

"It's exciting because we're starting to see momentum building again," said Dawson.

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