The No. 1 syndicated show inBy Tim Ryan
the world will decide by tomorrow
whether to film here for up to
6 years, spending $780,000
"Baywatch," the No. 1 syndicated television show in the world, will decide by tomorrow whether to relocate production to Oahu.
It would be for at least two years to film a guaranteed 44 episodes -- 22 each season -- costing about $34.3 million, or $780,000 an episode.
The production would spend at least $20 million in the first year of filming here and "a couple of hundred million dollars" if the show stays six years, said executive producer Greg Bonann in a telephone interview from Los Angeles.
"We wouldn't make this enormous kind of move just for two years," Bonann said.
But before producers for "Baywatch in Hawaii" -- a possible name for the relocated show -- make a decision, they will study a financial incentive package put together by the state, county, local labor and visitor industry to offset the 30 percent higher cost of filming here.
Hawaii was never considered before as a relocation because of the higher costs, Bonann said.
The show, starring David Hasselhoff, had been leaning toward moving to Australia.
That country was offering enormous incentives, including free air fares, hotel rooms, production support and infrastructure, as well as $1 million from the Australian government.
"Avalon was a perfect beach for 'Baywatch,' and a few people spoiled it," Bonann said.
According to Australian news reports, some Avalon residents were upset over "Baywatch's" alleged security tactics when it filmed there last year.
Late yesterday, Gov. Ben Cayetano gave tentative approval to an incentive package designed to persuade "Baywatch" to film in Hawaii instead, sources said.
The package was presented to the governor by Al and April Masini; Tony Vericella, president of the Hawaii Visitors and Convention Bureau; and Cayetano's executive assistant, Joe Blanco.
Part of the deal with "Baywatch" requires producers to include the name Hawaii in the title of the show, Bonann said.
"The name Hawaii does have value, but what it's worth we have no idea," he said. "But it's our feeling that our loyal audience would love to see 'Baywatch' from Hawaii."
As a result of Cayetano's decision, "Baywatch" executive producers Bonann and Maurice Hurley, and Syd Vinnedge, senior executive vice president of North American Productions for Pearson TV, which owns the show, are arriving today for a final inspection of film locations. They return to Los Angeles tomorrow.
"This show is going into the 10th year because we do it to the dollar," Bonann said. "We don't have network money. If we go over budget, it comes out of our pocket."
If "Baywatch" films here, it would bring only a skeleton crew of about 20 from Los Angeles while hiring at least 150 locals, Bonann said.
And the show would feature many of Hawaii's premier sporting events, he said.
The International Alliance of Theatrical Stage Employees, Local 665, which provides most of the crew for film and television productions, is "seriously considering" reducing wages about 30 percent for those who would work on the show "to make this deal work," said Al Burns, the union's business representative.
The major incentive is the guaranteed length of time the show would film in Hawaii, he said.
"Baywatch" producers Frank Conway, Craig Kwasizur and Bonann scouted several Oahu locations Saturday with Hawaii Film Office manager Georgette Deemer, Oahu film liaison Walea Constaninau, local location managers Randy Spangler and Rene Confair, and the Masinis. The producers also met with Cayetano, Mayor Jeremy Harris, Vericella, Blanco and Burns.
It was April Masini who made the initial telephone call to "Baywatch" producers asking them to visit Hawaii after she learned about the protests in Avalon Beach.
She called producers and convinced them to scout Hawaii.
If Hawaii is selected, the production crew would come here later this month to begin building sets for filming to start in June, Bonann said.
"Baywatch" would use the original sound stage at the Hawaii Film Studio at Diamond Head where "Hawaii Five-0" and "Magnum, P.I." filmed, he said. The company also would build, outside the stage, a big water tank for underwater filming.
Producers would also want to establish the "Baywatch" lifeguard station -- an integral part of each episode -- somewhere on the North Shore, where filming would be done about two days a week.