Sunny Shore Shoots

Oahu and the U.S. Vir­gin Is­lands beckon Hol­ly­wood and pro­duc­tions from around the world with beaches and in­cen­tives

Variety - - Focus - By IAIN BLAIR


With its wide range of looks and lo­ca­tions, ex­pe­ri­enced crews, and the best in­fra­struc­ture in Hawaii, Honolulu and the is­land of Oahu are widely re­garded as the pro­duc­tion cen­ter of the trop­ics.

The is­lands’ cin­e­matic ap­peal and long tra­di­tion of pro­duc­tion have at­tracted an im­pres­sive list of films and TV se­ries, in­clud­ing two cur­rent net­work tele­vi­sion se­ries: the re­booted hit “Hawaii Five0,” now in its ninth year, and the re­booted pro­ce­dural “Mag­num, P.I.,” in its first year.

Both CBS se­ries are overseen by pro­ducer, writer, showrun­ner Peter Lenkov and shoot at least 22 episodes per sea­son.

Other Oahu- shot projects in­clude Abc/touch- stone’s in­flu­en­tial hit se­ries “Lost,” co- cre­ated by J.J. Abrams and Da­mon Lin­de­lof, which show­cased the is­land’s di­verse lo­ca­tions.

“All but four scenes in its six-year run were shot on-is­land, with Honolulu and Oahu dou­bling for set­tings in­clud­ing Korea, Los An­ge­les, Syd­ney, the Aus­tralian Out­back, Mu­nich, Afghanistan and even Buf­falo, N.Y., in win­ter,” says Walea Con­stantinau, film com­mis­sioner, Honolulu Film Of­fice.

Oahu also dou­bled for the Costa Ri­can Isla Nubar in the “Juras­sic Park” mega-fran­chise, and pro­vided lo­ca­tions for “Godzilla,” “Kong: Skull Is­land,” the 2017 box of­fice jug­ger­naut “Ju­manji: Wel­come to the Jun­gle,” and South Amer­ica- set Net­flix film “Triple Fron­tier.”

Con­stantinau adds that the is­lands’ many pro­duc­tion ser­vices com­pa­nies also as­sist global pro­duc­tions of all sizes from Europe, Asia, Ocea­nia and Canada. Net­works trav­el­ing to Oahu and Honolulu in­clude the BBC, Fuji TV and Aus­tralia’s Nine Net­work. Nu­mer­ous com­mer­cials are shot there every year as well.

Ge­orja Skin­ner, divi­sion chief at Cre­ative In­dus­tries Hawaii, De­part­ment of Busi­ness Eco­nomic De­vel­op­ment & Tourism, re­ports that Hawaii has seen a big surge in pro­duc­tion over the past two years, with 2018 spend­ing hit­ting an es­ti­mated $438 mil­lion and gen­er­at­ing some $757 mil­lion in eco­nomic im­pact, in­clud­ing house­hold im­pact, and an es­ti­mated $48 mil­lion in state taxes. To­tal jobs are es­ti­mated at over 4,800.

“To keep up the mo­men­tum, we’re ex­tend­ing for an­other seven years our re­fund­able tax credit,” says Skin­ner. The credit, which has been in ef­fect since 2007, equals 20% of qual­i­fied pro­duc­tion costs on Oahu, and 25% on the other Hawai­ian Is­lands.

The is­land also sup­ports its Cre­ative Lab pro­grams, an ini­tia­tive de­signed to de­velop home- grown tal­ent. Also in the works: plans for a 30-acre stu­dio fa­cil­ity.


With its post­card land­scapes and unique cul­ture, this small U.S. ter­ri­tory is con­sid­ered by many a gem of the Caribbean. And to the film and tele­vi­sion in­dus­try — as Film Of­fice di­rec­tor Luana Wheat­ley notes — it of­fers “lo­ca­tions, con­ve­nience and the Amer­i­can Flag.”

But she stresses that while the U.S. Vir­gin Is­lands are known for their stun­ning coast­lines, their ap­peal lies “way be­yond beach. Here you’ll find a di­ver­sity of lo­ca­tions, rang­ing from ru­ral farm land, ranches with cow­boys, and scenic New Eng­land- or Cal­i­for­nia- style shore drives.”

The U.S. Vir­gin Is­lands also boast long coun­try roads, African sa­van­nah-like land­scapes, flat plains, gorges, lush rain forests and rolling hills. Some of the towns hark back to old-world set­tle­ments and re­sem­ble quaint Euro­pean vil­lages.

Also avail­able to film­mak­ers: Cos­mopoli­tan set­tings, col­or­ful Caribbean ar­chi­tec­ture and, of course, the leg­endary and ubiq­ui­tous breath­tak­ing white sand beaches sur­rounded by turquoise wa­ters.

The is­lands have dou­bled for such var­ied lo­ca­tions as Greece, Afghan- is­tan, Mex­ico, Brazil and Key West, and cred­its in­clude such high-pro­file films, TV se­ries and com­mer­cial clients as “The Cu­ri­ous Case of Ben­jamin But­ton,” “The Twi­light Saga: Break­ing Dawn” and “The Shaw­shank Re­demp­tion.”

Other no­table projects: “Ghost Ship of St. Thomas” (Travel Chan­nel), HGTV’S “House Hun­ters In­ter­na­tional” and “Beach­front Bar­gain Hunt,” as well as ABC’S “The Bach­e­lor.”

Com­pa­nies that have shot on the is­lands in­clude E! En­ter­tain­ment, Food Net­work, Directv, T. Rowe Price, Tar­get, Maxim Mag­a­zine, Nord­strom, Ital­ian Vogue, Lands’ End, Tar­get and REEF.

“You’ll al­ways find an ex­pe­ri­enced film in­dus­try with English- speak­ing crews and the use of U.S. cur­rency,” Wheat­ley notes.

The archipelago con­sists of four main is­lands: St. Croix, St. John, St. Thomas and Water Is­land. Ad­di­tion­ally there are count­less outer is­lands and cays. Each is­land has its own char­ac­ter and unique lo­ca­tions and all can be scouted by he­li­copter within an hour.

The of­fi­cial lan­guage of the U.S. Vir­gin Is­lands is English and right-to-work laws ap­ply. Plus, no visas or pass­ports are re­quired for U.S. cit­i­zens.

The des­ti­na­tion wel­comes year-round shoots, with an av­er­age tem­per­a­ture of 80 de­grees Fahren­heit and water tem­per­a­ture of about 77 de­grees. There’s no sales tax and pro­duc­tions get spe­cial ex­cep­tion from ex­cise taxes, duty, bonds or car­nets on im­por­ta­tion of equip­ment and ac­ces­sories.

The U.S. Vir­gin Is­lands film­ing in­cen­tive re­quires a min­i­mum spend of $250,000, and has a fund­ing cap of $2.5 mil­lion per year.

You’ll al­ways find an ex­pe­ri­enced film in­dus­try with English-speak­ing crews and the use of U.S. cur­rency.”

Luana Wheat­ley

Film Of­fice Di­rec­tor, U.S.V.I.

Stiff on the Sand

CBS hit “Hawaii Five-0” has been shoot­ing on Oahu for nine years. The se­ries’ ear­lier it­er­a­tion also shot there from 1968 to 1980.

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