Hawaii: Lights, Camera… Aloha!

December 2020 

While the entertainment industry continues to adjust to the post-Covid world, Hawaii is one of the first states to begin safely reopening for production. And who wouldn’t want to shoot in Hawaii? The state has some of the best tropical and natural locations on the planet. In fact, Hawaii is home to almost every one of the world’s climatic zones, nearly all of which can be found on the Big Island alone! Filmmakers can shoot exotic locations without exchanging currency or hiring translators. 

Most filmmakers seek to take advantage of Hawaii’s spectacular exteriors, but the state-owned Hawaiian Film Studio boasts a 16,000 square foot soundstage, production offices, storage facilities, and a large inventory of props as wellEach of the major islands has a range of conveniently located options available for crew housing – from 5-star hotels to hostels. Hawaii has it all. 

Aside from the intoxicating views and experienced crews, the state is offering some nice incentives to productions who choose to shoot there.    

An overview of the incentive program: 

  • Offers a refundable tax credit equal to 20% on all qualified production costs incurred on Oahu and 25% on the neighbor islands (Big Island, Kauai, Lanai, Maui, and Molokai). 
  • Allows a maximum credit (per project) of $15 million.
  • Qualifies both resident and non-resident labor, subject to HI tax.  

To access this incentive program, a project must meet a number of requirements. In addition to registering with both the Film Office and the Department of Commerce and Consumer Affairs in Hawaii, a production company must: 

  • Meet the minimum in-state spending requirement of at least $200,000. 
  • Obtain a general excise tax (GET) license from the Department of Taxation.
  • Make (and document) reasonable efforts to hire local talent and crew. 
  • Submit a production report (along with a verification review) to the Film Office no later than 90 days following the end of the calendar year in which the qualified production costs were made. 
  • File all tax returns (including amended tax returns with the HI Department of Taxation) within 12 months of the close of the production company’s taxable year (the one in which production expenditures were made). 
  • Provide evidence of a financial or in-kind contribution equal to at least 0.1% of qualified HI expenditures or $1,000 (whichever is greater) or educational or workforce development efforts toward the furtherance of the local film, television, and digital media industries. 

In 2019, the annual funding cap was increased from $35 million to $50 million (per calendar year). It’s a rolling credit, meaning once the aggregate of $50 million is reached, the filers can claim for the subsequent year. This program is scheduled to sunset on December 31, 2025. However, legislation may extend the program. 

The state is carefully following all official coronavirus-related guidelines in order to protect their population (and their crews, of course). Through regular testing, social distancing, the wearing of PPE, and the cleaning of sets, Hawaii has positioned itself to be one of the safest places to shoot. Its incentive program (one of the most generous in the country) is simple to access. With all of the variety the location has to offer, few destinations offer a production more bang for its buck. 

Partial list of feature films produced in Hawaii: 

The Descendants, Just Go With It, Forgetting Sarah Marshall, Jurassic World, From Here To Eternity ,Marvel’s Inhumans, South Pacific, A Perfect Getaway, 50 First Dates, Blue Hawaii, Pearl Harbor, Tora! Tora! Tora!, Blue Crush, Jumanji: Welcome to the Jungle. 

Partial list of TV shows produced in Hawaii: 

Magnum, PI (CBS), Hawaii Five-O (CBS), Lost (ABC/Disney), Blind Date (NBC), The Amazing Race (CBS), Baywatch Hawaii (NBC), Johnny Tsunami (Disney), Jake and the Fatman (CBS), From Here To Eternity (NBC), Fantasy Island (ABC). 

State of Hawaii Film Office 
Donne Dawson, State Film Commissioner
Telephone: 808-586-2570
Fax: 808-586-2572
Email: info@hawaiifilmoffice.com
250 South Hotel Street, Suite 510-A, Honolulu, HI 96813
filmoffice.hawaii.gov. 

Mailing Address:
P.O. Box 2359
Honolulu, HI 96804 

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