for TV, film
The state may create a special
fund to attract productions
Film, television, sportsBy Tim Ryan
take Capitol spotlight
April Masini says she will not let "Baywatch Hawaii" die and will not let a bill that sets up a fund for television production die.
"'Baywatch Hawaii' is coming back one way or the other, and this bill will pass," Masini, a partner in Al Masini Productions, said yesterday outside a state Capitol conference room.
The bill is being considered by the House Committee on Culture and Arts. It would create a special fund of $5 million a year for three years to attract television series to Hawaii, $2 million a year for two years for a capital improvement fund for film production infrastructure, and a committee to select television shows that promote the state best.
While there were few opponents yesterday to the bill's concept, all four Hawaii film commissioners, the director of the Department of Business, Economic Development and Tourism and two unions opposed the measure as written.
The bill is being called the "Baywatch Bailout Bill" since the show's producer, Gregg Bonann, said this week that the program needs $2.5 million in state financial assistance or it won't return for a second season here.
"This is not a bill for 'Baywatch,'" Al Masini told the committee. "If this bill is passed, it doesn't mean any money will automatically go to 'Baywatch.' They'll stand in line with everyone else."
University of Hawaii coaches Riley Wallace (men's basketball) and June Jones (football) told the committee that the worldwide audience a show such as "Baywatch" captures has made it easier to recruit mainland and European athletes.
Furthermore, producer Bonann "immediately plugged into the Hawaii community" as soon as he arrived here, Wallace said.
"I asked him if he could help us plug our 'Midnight Ohana,' and he couldn't do enough for us," Wallace said.
Criticism of the bill centered on limiting the $5 million annual fund to only a television series, and other restrictive conditions such as having to have a guaranteed full season of shows, 22 episodes, before a series would receive financial assistance.
Judy Drosd, Kauai County film commissioner, said the bill would be "more helpful" to neighbor islands' productions if it would include a variety of productions such as documentaries.
Walea Constantinau, Oahu film liaison, suggested details of the bill be more "flexible" to allow a variety of TV series to film here with state aid.
Al Burns, business manager for Local 665 of the International Alliance of Theatrical and Stage Employees, which represents about 300 members who work as technicians on productions, strongly opposed the bill, saying it would attract low-budget productions that pay low wages and often expect union concessions.
In written testimony, Seiji Naya, DBEDT director, said the $5 million should not be taken from the state's general fund. "The bill offers a good start but could be broadened to include other highly desirable film and television projects," he wrote.
Al Masini said a television series is the most cost-effective method of promoting Hawaii because it is shown weekly and then in reruns throughout the United States and internationally. "The advertising return from 'Baywatch' this year was sensational," he said.
Gov. Ben Cayetano said yesterday that it is up to "Baywatch" "to control costs."
"There comes a time where there's a point of diminishing returns," he said. "We have already done a great deal" for the show. "This (financial crisis) can't be going on every year."
Republican Sen. Sam Slom on the floor of the state Senate attacked the bill, saying the state should not have to prop up unprofitable private enterprises.
"We've already given them $6 million" including infrastructure, tax rebates and cash, Slom said.
Unity House leader Tony Rutledge suggested that the state should create a loan guarantee program to give "Baywatch" the funds it needs to continue.
The committee was to meet again today in Room 329 at the state Capitol to vote on the bill.
Film, television, sportsBy Tim Ryan
take Capitol spotlight
Two of Hawaii's fastest-growing industries -- film and television, and sports marketing -- will take center stage tomorrow at the state Capitol.
County film offices -- Maui, Big Island, Kauai and Oahu -- as well as the state film office and Hawaii Tourism Authority will showcase their industries with panel discussions and question and answer sessions.
Hawaii's film and television industry since 1996 has undergone double-digit growth annually and is close to breaking the $100 million mark.
"With the aid of our colleagues in the Senate, we stand ready to help build film, television and digital production in Hawaii to double or triple its size," said House Speaker Rep. Calvin Say.
"Location Hawaii: Entertainment in the New Economy" is the second of three special industry presentations organized by the House of Representatives and state Senate in partnership with the Targeted Industries Growth Report, a publication sponsored jointly by City Bank and Hawaii Business magazine.
The sessions are designed to educate the Legislature on how their efforts have affected these industries and identify ways to continue their growth.
Each group will make a 30-minute public presentation detailing the impact of their industry on Hawaii and the economy.
The film offices' presentation will include a video and panel discussion on moving the industry forward.
Panelists will include Lt. Gov. Mazie Hirono, Teamsters Secretary/Treasurer Leo Reed, Local 399; Al Burns, business agent, IATSE; and filmmakers Dennis Christianson and Joe Moore.
The film and television industry has paid the state $15 million a year in tax revenues since 1996.
Established in 1998, the HTA serves to promote Hawaii as a prime location for major sporting events and competitions, including the NFL Pro Bowl, Sony Open and PGA Mercedes Championship.
The schedule is:
10:00-11 a.m.: Film offices and the Tourism Authority will display industry materials and collateral in the reception area of the Chamber Auditorium.
11:00-11:30 a.m.: Film offices will show a 10-minute video followed by a panel discussion.
11:30 a.m.-noon: The Hawaii Tourism Authority will present a video followed by a panel discussion.
Noon-1 p.m.: Lunch and entertainment on the Capitol Rotunda. Entertainment will feature a variety of displays and demonstrations, including a performance by a professional stunt crew.