Films in Hawaiʻi can be good, but not for local residents

By: Megan Lucas

26 September 2019

  • Films in Hawai'i Can be Good, but not for Locals
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  • By Megan Lucas
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Many films and TV shows have been shot in Hawaiʻi over the years, and some of them were successful. In order to be successful, a lot of controversy has happened in some quiet neighborhoods. Local neighborhoods have been saturated by certain film productions, leaving them upset. Hawaiʻi State Film Commissioner Donne Dawson deals with the highs and lows of filming in Hawaiʻi.

“The Film Productions that film in Hawaiʻi  that are filming on public land have to have a film permit. Whether they get it from the state, the county, or the federal government. It's whoever has jurisdiction over the land," Dawson said.

“We're always trying to educate our productions on the uniqueness of Hawaiʻi. The uniqueness of our culture and the uniqueness of our environment, our natural environment because we want them to be able to be good to the environment. Be good to the communities that they work in and sometimes, most times, it goes great. But we do have situations where productions come and they don't embrace the notion that they are guests in our home.”

We met in her office which is covered with posters and awards from movies such as Jumanji, Moana, Lost, and of course, Hawaiʻi Five-O to discuss some of the pros and cons of filming on the island.

This tune established the Hawaiʻi  film industry in the 1960s and still supports a thriving industry today. 

Just last month gunshots used in a film production startled a quiet Kailua neighborhood.

“Neighborhoods, where they’ve been saturated with film production and they're kind of over it, and we have to give those neighborhoods a break. It's all over, you know the North Shore is a good example," Dawson said. "A number of our film productions that come in here have sort of water element to them and they want to be filming out on the North Shore and that can conflict with people who live out there to be away from it all but also you know users of the ocean. You know a good example was Lost because Lost had to set up their primary set right in the middle of a public beach.

Palolo resident Ryan Jacobson shares his thoughts on the situation.

“It would have been nice to have a heads up when they filmed like right down the street from where I live. You know it sucks because they took all the street parking.”

“I mean it is such a good industry for Hawaiʻi but we don't want people to get burnt out on it. I know, I remember one hell of a Five-0 sunset on the beach premiere where Alex Loughlin who plays McGarrett got up. He wasn't planning on saying anything at the event but he took the microphone and he thanked the residents of Hawai’i because we wouldn't have a show if you did not welcome us into your homes," Jacobson said.

“And we know it's a pain. We know we can burn out a neighborhood but we just want to tell you how grateful we are and appreciate how you allow us to make this show."

The next time you hit traffic because of a film production just remember it’s for the good of our islands.

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