Film industry leaders worry tax credit limit will turn away potential filmmakers
Lights, camera, cash.
A Hawaii film industry expert says the state had a record year in production last year and is close to reaching half a billion dollars in direct spending this year.
Hollywood blockbuster "Jumanji" showed the world a glimpse of Hawaii. It was a big hit that came with huge production costs. To help lower those costs, the movie's production company took advantage of Hawaii's tax credit program, which refunds a portion of what they spend to film in the islands.
"In exchange for giving out that amount of tax credit, we are getting a substantial amount of household income coming in. Tax revenue coming into the State of Hawaii so it balances out," Donne Dawson, State Film Commissioner, said.
The state legislature passed a bill that put a $35 million limit on the credit, which went into effect at the start of this year. That's about one-third of tax credits filmmakers received last year. Industry leaders worry the drastic drop in credits will turn away potential filmmakers.
"They're not going to make these multi-million dollar decisions to come to the state if they have any question or any doubt that they're going to get their projects done on time and on budget," Dawson said.
From small local films that are viewed on the internet to movies on the silver screen, Dawson said about 45 to 50 projects take advantage of the tax credit each year. She believes future growth will only succeed if there's a stable tax incentive.
We've already seen some expansion of local films at the Hawaii International Film Festival, which features Hawaii movies as well as international ones.
"The film making community has really been pushing themselves over the last 10 years and we're also seeing these stories coming out of Hawaii that are really authentic to Hawaii and that's really exciting," Beckie Stocchetti, HIFF executive director, said.
Stocchetti is a filmmaker herself. She believes more Hawaii films will make it to a bigger stage like the Oscars as the industry expands in islands.
"I'm so impressed with the filmmakers coming out of Hawaii right now, I think the stuff coming out of here is showing such incredible depth," she said.
There could be even more expansion of the industry, according to Dawson, who says the next studio could be completed in West Oahu in five to six years.