Hollywood courts Kaua‘i, no commitment yet

Officials from the Office of Economic Development indicated yesterday that there is “a strong possibility” Kaua‘i will host a major Hollywood film shoot this summer.

According to Kaua‘i Film Commissioner Art Umezu, scouting and production crews associated with an unnamed, big-budget production have been on the island since December.

“They’ve already spent a considerable amount of money on pre-production costs including numerous chartered helicopter flights, hotel accommodations, car rentals, meals and incidentals,” Umezu said.

OED officials have declined to offer the details of the project, including its title, as arrangements have yet to be finalized, but Umezu said he was optimistic that Kaua‘i will be selected for the shoot.

“We’re being diligent and respectful until their publicist makes it official,” Umezu said.

The project would be a shot in the arm for the island’s stalled movie industry.

After a flurry of big-name movies were filmed on Kaua‘i in the 1990s — “Honeymoon in Vegas,” “Outbreak,” “6 Days/7 Nights” and all three installments of the “Jurassic Park” series — Hollywood’s tropical back lot quieted.

Umezu attributes the drop to a number of factors, including the rising cost of production, better special effects technology and 9/11.

The last major motion picture filmed on Kaua‘i was “Dragonfly” in 2002 starring Kevin Costner.

Renewed interest in the island may be attributed to the recent passage of Act 88, according to Umezu.

The law, which took effect in July 2006, grants a 20 percent tax break to movies shot on the Neighbor Islands and a 15 percent tax break to O‘ahu productions whose film-related expenditures total more than $200,000.

“Word is getting out that Hawai‘i is once again a viable film location,” Umezu said.

Umezu added that in addition to the aforementioned project, his office is in discussions to bring two other major projects to the island; a children’s adventure film and the big screen adaptation of local teen surfer Bethany Hamilton’s autobiography “Soul Surfer.”

In 2006, film production on the island totaled $1.64 million.

Though a 46 percent increase over 2005 totals, the numbers are significantly lower than previous years in which a major film was shot on the island.

In the first three months of 2007, however, producers have already spent more than half a million dollars on Kaua‘i projects, according to the OED.

In February, a small film crew led by Oscar-winning director James Cameron shot three days of live-action work in a “tropical rainforest” setting for his upcoming sci-fi flick “Avatar.”

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