Cultural, environmental knowledge may be required to get film tax credit

Cultural, environmental knowledge may be required to get film tax credit

HONOLULU (HawaiiNewsNow) - A tax credit that's offered to producers to film motion pictures and television shows in Hawaii may come with new requirements, including one to show respect and compliance with Hawaii's cultural beliefs and the environment.

Last year, movie productions brought in an estimated $260 million to Hawaii's economy.

"They were lured here because of a tax credit given out," said state Sen. Glenn Wakai. "Last year it was $44 million. And it's jut our way to help sweeten the pot to help lure more films here."

The state offers a 20 percent tax credit to film on Oahu, 25 percent to film on the neighbor islands. But Wakai has introduced a bill to take things further before a producer can get the tax break.

"There's a requirement that a film tax credit recipient hire a cultural expert to kind of orient the crew as to what's acceptable or not acceptable in this state," Wakai said.

"We appreciate the Legislature's understanding that the film industry in Hawaii is an important component of a diversified economy, and that protecting our natural and cultural resources are extremely important," said Georja Skinner of the state Creative Industries Division. "As the volume of film and TV production increases in Hawaii, the need for cultural and environmental sensitivity is essential to help producers navigate in our community."

The division has already featured a "Guideline for Filming in Sensitive Hawaii Locations" in the Hawaii Production Directory for more than ten years, according to a division spokeswoman. The division's Film Office is currently developing a more comprehensive resource to serve as a cultural and environmental protocol guide for film and media makers.

Last year, Oscar-winning actress Jennifer Lawrence angered Native Hawaiians when she joked about using sacred rocks to scratch her backside while filming "The Hunger Games" here. She later apologized.

Wakai also wants movie productions that claim more than $8 million in tax credits to hold a free public screening of the completed film -- much like the free season premieres that the TV series "Hawaii Five-O" has each year on Waikiki Beach.

"'Pirates (of the Caribbean)' makes a gazillion dollars. 'Jumanji' makes big bucks. And we don't get to have the excitement, other than 'I'm going to pay 12 bucks or whatever it is to pay to see that movie," said Wakai. "To me, there should be a little more giveback from the movie producers."

The bill goes before the state House Economic Development and Business Committee on Friday.

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