Senate discusses film production in Hawaiʻi as SAG-AFTRA ends strike
The Senate Ways and Means Committee visited a site being considered for a potential multi-acre film studio in Kailua-Kona and heard updates on the local film industry for its last stop on a three-day visit on Hawaiʻi Island.
Committee members heard from Georja Skinner, Chief Officer of the Creative Industries Division in the Department of Business, Economic Development & Tourism and Aulani Freitas, Hawaiʻi Island Film Commissioner, on various challenges and opportunities presented in filming in Hawaiʻi.
Skinner highlighted DBEDT’s intentions to grow the film production industry, including efforts to increase job training and workforce development. Committee members encouraged Skinner to prepare any legislation necessary for the Committee to consider during the upcoming legislative session that will aid the industry.
Freitas recognized that Hawaiʻi Island has 10 of 14 microclimates, making it a near universal option for film and television storytelling. Additionally, Freitas discussed efforts to amplify culturally appropriate productions and support local filmmakers, including expanding studio capabilities and providing facilities to house film sets to attract more productions to be made in Hawaiʻi. Committee members expressed interest in Freitas’s ideas.
“In Hawaiʻi, we have unique stories that have often captivated the world,” said Senator Chris Lee, Chair of the Senate Committee on Transportation and Culture and the Arts in a news release update. “The Senate is committed to helping our film industry and art agencies continue to tell these stories and perpetuate our culture.”
Considering yesterday’s agreement reached by SAG-AFTRA and film studios, the visit’s timing proved to be especially relevant.
“The conclusion of the strike allows our local productions, performers and entertainment workers across the industry to return working,” said local SAG-AFTRA president Andrea Sikkink. “The film and TV industry in Hawaiʻi generates millions of dollars for our local economy each year while providing incomes and earnings for tax paying workers around our island state. This industry, with support and infrastructure, can continue to grow to become an even bigger revenue generating part of our state economy.”
“Unions are the backbone of many industries in Hawaiʻi, and film and television production is one of those industries” said Senator Sharon Moriwaki, Chair of the Senate Committee on Labor and Technology in the release. “I am excited that our local actors have been offered a fair deal and can get back to work creating art and telling stories. Development of new dedicated infrastructure will allow our artists to make local productions and provide opportunity for larger non-local producers to utilize our great local resources and artists.”
Senators said they look forward to integrating updates from the community to inform legislation for the upcoming 2024 Session.