Kauai flush with films

LIHUE — Officials statewide are predicting an excess of $400 million in Hawaii revenues for film and television production, and Kauai’s film commissioner said The Garden Island is doing its part.

“We started out this year with Disney’s ‘Jungle Cruise’ and we’re getting ready to start with the ‘Fast and the Furious’ offshoot — ‘Hobbs and Shaw,’” said Randy Francisco, Kauai film commissioner. “So with 2018, we’ll have these two bookend blockbusters.”

Predictions coming from Hawaii’s Creative Industries, which accelerates economic development toward filmmaking and TV production, as well as other creative arts, are that 2018 will be a record year for the state’s film industry.

Francisco said his most recent numbers are from 2016, and they reflect a film-friendly community on an island that’s quite often entertaining a production crew from TV, print or the silver screen.

“It’s a team effort of Kauai,” Francisco said. “The people here, they appreciate it, they come together and there’s immense pride. Kauai is a film-friendly place.”

One way Kauai County keeps track of media production is to issue revocable film permits for usage of county property and Francisco said most recent numbers from 2016 show they issued $2.7 million worth for production that year.

That resulted in 213 film production days with 141 local people working on set out of a total production crew of 655 people.

And while film is gearing up to be have heavy-hitting economic year, Francisco said his goal is to appeal to more than just the silver screen.

“For me, it’s trying to create an innovation economy that has a pipeline of local individuals who can work,” Francisco said.

In addition to feature films, Nat Geo Wild’s “The Adventures of Dr. Buckeye Bottoms” was filmed in 2018. Kauai has also been featured in print ads and commercials for companies like Japan Airlines and Hawaiian Airlines.

The island has been on the network BBC and is being used to pitch their Great Planet Earth series, and has been featured in the travel section of Coastal Living Magazine.

The Kauai Marathon and Half Marathon brings video production to the island for sports.

“The whole thing is cross discipline,” Francisco said. “We’re part of a large picture of a creative industry.”

Statewide, those in the industry are concerned about the upcoming 2019 cap on tax-credit reimbursements to $35 million per year.

The concern is that would put a dent in the expected $58 million production companies expect back from the state this year and deter future productions.

“This incentive is a big deal to make us cost competitive,” Francisco said. “We film commissioners and other industry partners have been working on it.”

Meanwhile, Francisco acknowledged a trickle-down effect that happens after a movie has been filmed on Kauai, with film tourism.

“Here we are in 2018. Someone sees a movie and maybe they won’t come right away, but maybe they will in two or three years,” Francisco said. “A successful Jungle Cruise might cause a second Jungle Cruise and either way, we all benefit.”


Jessica Else, staff writer, can be reached at 245-0452 or at jelse@thegardenisland.com

  1. MisterM September 18, 2018 11:34 am Reply

    No, we don’t all benefit – lost tax revenues affect all tax payers. There are very few alternate locations that can substitute for the scenery and ease of access/facilities that Kauai offers. As such, the tax give-aways to deep pocketed corporations is simply idiotic fiscal policy and should stop immediately.

  2. Joe kaneoe November 24, 2018 10:44 am Reply

    The local people make minimum wage. Let’s stop pretending local people get major revenue from the film industry. More likely there are kick backs to large land owners and county officials. I know about 30 people who worked on jungle cruise and the conditions were terrible. Nasty toilets, long hours and poor pay. And of course, the local people will end up fitting the tax bill, just like the hotels in the island. Lots of patting on the back, but the truth is a different story

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