Lights, camera, action! The state's movie industry is expecting to get a big boost in business with a new and bigger tax credit that takes effect July 1.
When that happens, movie productions will be able to claim a credit of up to $15 million, what state film commissioner Donne Dawson said is needed to stay in the game.
“If Hawaii is serious about wanting to be in the film industry and create a thriving industry, this is the cost to do business,” said Dawson.
While critics question the effectiveness of the tax credit, Dawson said the exposure and economic benefit to the state is immeasurable.
According the film office, the film industry generated roughly $250 million in direct spending in Hawaii last year and created 2,500 full time jobs.
While these tax credits are a major benefit to Hollywood and their big budgets, it’s not the break local film production companies said they need to tell their stories.
Local film director Dave Rosen is working on a movie about local fishermen who try to protect their beach from development using some familiar faces in the starring roles.
Rosen said the tax credits for the big studios provide jobs, and that's a good thing. But to qualify for the credits, a company has to spend a minimum of $200,000 which he said is way above the budget for the smaller, local players.
"If the state really wants locally originated productions, I think they need to help it along," said Rosen of Shooters Film Productions.
Rosen said an investment tax credit like one that expired three years ago would benefit local independent filmmakers.
“We would like to see local stories coming out, playing in theaters not just in Hawaii, not just in film festivals, but nationwide,” said Rosen.
Until that happens, local filmmakers will have to rely on grants and private donations to help tell a story on the big screen.
The new tax credit rises from 15 to 20 percent for films made on Oahu, and up to 25 percent for films made on the neighbor islands. And the credit is good through Jan. 1, 2019.