The Turtle Bay Resort created a "Forgetting Sarah Marshall" package because much of the film takes place there. Two-thirds of the movie, starring Jason Segal, right, was shot on Oahu.
‘Sarah Marshall’ movie gives Turtle Bay a boost
To ease the inconvenience of a major motion picture shoot during someone's honeymoon or long-awaited Hawaiian vacation, officials at the Turtle Bay Resort mailed a "fancy backstage pass" inviting guests to participate in "Forgetting Sarah Marshall," a Universal Pictures feature that opens today.
"They loved it," said Turtle Bay's vice president and general manager, Robert Boyle, who estimated that 150 guests and 100 resort employees earned roles as extras. In addition, Tom Cross, Turtle Bay's director of operations, plays the minister (and the rabbi) in every wedding scene, and there are several in the film.
With Turtle Bay and Oahu portraying themselves, Hawaiian music filling the soundtrack, worldwide press attention and word-of-mouth publicity the successful shoot could generate in Hollywood, the comedy is poised to affect both tourism and future productions in the islands.
It started last year when the cast and crew booked 100 room nights over 100 days, something Boyle called "a nice piece of business." Many producers approach Turtle Bay because of the setting, but Boyle said this project garnered their attention, especially because the "Sarah Marshall" team promised to retain the Turtle Bay name in the final product but also because they immediately established a mutually beneficial relationship.
"They came to us because they wanted this true Hawaii setting," he said. "But they also wanted to film a lot within the hotel ... the check-in, the guest rooms, experiences in restaurants. So they were all over the hotel, and that presents a number of different challenges because they treat their space like a movie set, and we treat our space like a resort. It takes tremendous cooperation to make it work."
Obviously, it did. Over the three-month period, Boyle said he received only three complaints about the disruption.
The movie is expected to resonate with travelers so much that the Turtle Bay staff developed a "Forgetting Sarah Marshall" package and will monitor a potential spike on the resort's Web site over the weekend. Visitor buzz began months ago, when guest comments about their experiences during filming started appearing on tripadvisor.com.
Now with the movie ready to open, Boyle indicated that "it's a virtual postcard for Turtle Bay," a postcard millions of people could see.
"It looks like it's going to be a great movie," added state Film Commissioner Donne Dawson. "This is a Judd Apatow ('The 40-Year-Old Virgin,' 'Knocked Up,' 'Superbad') film, and he's got a strong following. And I know they were able to get around and showcase the island in a really positive way."
Music From Israel Kamakawiwo'ole, the Brothers Cazimero, Martin Pahinui, Daniel Ho, Hawaii Tattoo and the Tradewinds supplements the alluring visuals. According to an e-mail message from record producer Bobby Pileggi of the Aloha Music Group, "One Groove" by One Groove is an "original title composed by the original (Hawaii) artist" in the movie.
Dawson believes that something of this magnitude will attract future business, especially because it was one of the first feature films to take advantage of the tax credit.
"A lot of it is word of mouth," she said. "These producers know each other. When they find out about one production shooting in Hawaii, it begets the next project. I feel it bodes well in terms of Hawaii being showcased so prominently. And playing itself is always nice."
First-time director Nicholas Stoller said that budget restrictions demanded they shoot on Oahu. "Turtle Bay was the only place that fit the bill," he said from Los Angeles. "I wanted it to look like the country, and I think Turtle Bay is one of the prettiest pieces of land I've ever been on."
Furthermore, he added, "(the staff) could not have been more accommodating; they let us do whatever we wanted."
But the resort benefited, too. Enormous exposure accompanied last month's press junket, which attracted 300 domestic and international reporters, according to Boyle. In addition, carpenters set up a workshop on the grounds and created so many attractive additions to the lobby, such as screens and flower boxes, that Boyle negotiated with producers to retain them. They are now part of the hotel.
But nothing was quite as exciting as the number of young hot stars gracious enough to pose for pictures and sign autographs for everyone in the vicinity.
"All of this is fun for the staff, too," said Boyle. "It's not like having IBM in here."