The good news is that the economic impact of Hawai‘i’s film industry generated $250 million in direct in-state spending in 2012. When the multiplier of residual spending is calculated, the industry weighed in at $400 million.
The caution is that as the industry grows, so does the demand for film locations. The imminent challenge upon us is that our island landscapes and culturally important historic properties are more frequently coming under siege as film crews work with scripts that tempt film producers to want to alter or otherwise impact these precious environments in ways that threaten the cultural and historic integrity of the site without proper monitoring. The worst case is if the site is impacted in some way that renders the altered or impacted condition irreparable or requires a long recovery time.
While I am a new observer to industry growth, I know enough about stewardship of Hawai‘i’s historic and cultural resources to comment that there’s an immediate collective challenge for the state, the counties, and private land owners, who have kuleana (responsibility) over historic and cultural properties to get on the same page with a much better articulated system of protocols and compliance monitoring that helps the industry grow in ways that are community friendly and sustain goodwill.
Raising the public policy bar on the joint stewardship of these precious spaces begs for action. The properties function as time tunnels of our community heritage and remain fundamental to our psyche as being people of Hawai‘i and they are too important to sacrifice to the whims or short-term goals of any industry. A heightened stewardship model should start with far more state support of the Hawai‘i Film Office whose $175,000 annual operating budget (salaries not included) appears to be a desperately low ratio when contrasted to the $400 million goliath the industry has become. The Film Offices operated by each County are also in need of additional support.
Two other important institutions critical to the stewardship equation are the State Historic Preservation Division and the Historic Hawai‘i Foundation. It would seem to this writer a good idea to shape an opportunity for leaders of these organizations to dialogue toward a puwalu (conference) to address the challenge of articulating a comprehensive set of official guidelines and a compliance strategies for location filming. It would seem a good idea for the Office of Hawaiian Affairs and the Hawai‘i Tourism Authority to fund such a conference as consistent with their individual missions. Perhaps the Historic Hawai‘i Foundation and the Hawai‘i State Film Office would assume the role of co-conveners.
In the meantime, if you need assistance in navigating a request to use your property as a film location, I recommend you call the Hawai‘i State Film Office (808-586-2570 or www.hawaiifilmoffice.com) as your first step. Finally, remember the one overarching guideline…leave it better than you found it.