Gathering Places


Wednesday, March 20, 2002


Hawaii’s Act 221
will draw film,
TV productions

There are a great many questions concerning the legislative tax incentive program pass-ed last year known as Act 221, which concerns high-tech business and tax credit-based incentives. It is, in my opinion, one of the only ways for Hawaii to compete with other domestic and foreign locations to host the production of a television series or feature film.

The state Legislature is proposing to amend Act 221 to require that at least half of the postproduction work on a film or TV show be completed in Hawaii in order to get the tax break. But Hawaii has few such labs or technicians trained in postproduction.

I was one of those responsible for bringing "Baywatch" to Hawaii in 1999, and I know something about what it takes to produce a television series here, in Los Angeles and elsewhere. I have the experience to translate what Act 221 -- in its present form -- means for TV and film production in Hawaii.

Hawaii no longer can compete with other locations. The cost of production in the islands is almost 30 percent more than in Los Angeles, and 50 percent more than in Canada and Australia, which are aggressive in their tax codes to allow for many productions to make their homes there.

If Hawaii wants to compete, the state must aggressively create an infrastructure -- both physical and financial -- that can help level the playing field. Act 221 will do this. Tax incentives to attract high-tech business (which includes motion picture and television production) will make it possible for producers to write, shoot, edit and deliver a television series from Hawaii. Without efforts such as Act 221, the opportunities are going to be limited.

Act 221 was not law until after "Baywatch Hawaii" had been canceled, but it was one of the reasons it was enacted. Hawaii saw great benefit in having a television series set here. "Baywatch" brought in more than $30 million to the local economy, mostly in the form of salaries. Eighty percent of our "Baywatch Hawaii" crew were local professionals, not from the mainland.

We were the first series ever to hire local actors as major leads. We were the first series to use Hawaii's musical talent in every episode. We employed more than 140 people for up to 2 1/2 years. The "cash" contributed to the series by the state did not go to the show, but to improving the local filming infrastructure. The underwater tank we used, which also was just used by the film "Surfer Girls," is one example.

The private sector that contributed to the series (Hilton Hawaiian Village, Hawaiian Airlines and Dollar Rent-a-Car) received advertising and promotion in exchange for their cooperation. That advertising and promotion solicited itself twice a week, 52 weeks a year for two years. If you like to watch the reruns you may do so for the next 25 years, at least.

I would argue that in these times, when local employment is an ongoing concern, when at any time another terrorist attack may shatter our sense of normalcy, the smooth operation of the tourism industry is more essential than ever.

This makes it extremely important to support Act 221.

I love living and working in Hawaii. Like many others, I appreciate its God-given majesty and the overwhelming aloha spirit of its people. I am working hard to bring another series here, and am helping others who wish to do so. Please support Act 221 and those who have authored it. Without legislation of this type and an organized effort of recruitment, the state of Hawaii will not be able to compete in the television and movie production industry.

Gregory J. Bonann was creator and
executive producer of "Baywatch Hawaii."

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