Written by on Nov 15, 2016. Posted in Contributors

Hawai’i - More than Just a Tropical Paradise

Hawai’i has long established itself as an idyllic location for productions of all kinds. Known as “Hollywood’s tropical backlot”, over 100 feature films have been shot in the islands over the last century. In addition to full length features, Hawai’i has been host to an assortment of TV shows, commercials, photo shoots, documentaries and more. The Land of Aloha is the perfect place for productions of all sizes.

For Producers of projects large and small, Hawai’i is much more than just palm trees, beaches, and Mai Tai’s. The islands are host to 9 of the world’s 13 climate zones. The diversity of location types and different looks is astounding. All of this diversity is packed into an area that can be covered one end to the other in little over an hour on a commuter flight. Often, dramatically different landscapes can be found relatively close to each other.

Hana Productions helped produce a German documentary a few years ago, and the story was set in Tahiti, New Zealand and Micronesia. 75% of the locations were within a 10-mile radius of each other. On one particular beach, we filmed with the camera looking one way in the morning for a Tahiti scene and in the afternoon, we swivelled the camera around 180 degrees and shot the New Zealand scene. Last month we produced a shoot for an international hotel chain that did not even have a hotel in Hawaii. For budgetary purposes, we produced the beauty shots for Thailand, Tahiti, Indonesia, Maldives and Ireland all on one island.

The island chain is a group of volcanic islands stretching from North-West to South-East along the Pacific rift zone. They all have similarities; incredible beaches, jungle terrain, waterfalls and residential/commercial areas can be found on every island, yet each offers unique locations and its own vibe with varying amounts of production infrastructure. The private island of Ni’ihau is furthest north and is inaccessible without special invitation.

Moving South, we find the “Garden Isle” of Kaua’i which is home to steep, verdant mountains, white sand beaches, beautiful canyons and more. Next is O’ahu, which is the most populated island and home to about 75% of the state’s population. Here you will find the city of Honolulu and the famous Waikiki beach with the iconic profile of Diamond Head crater in the distance. This is the best island to find urban city landscapes. Moving further South are the small island communities of Lana’i (95% of which is privately owned by Oracle founder Larry Ellison) and Moloka’i.

Maui is next in the island chain. Maui is home to numerous waterfalls, Haleakala Crater and a stunning array of beaches. It’s the only island with a red sand beach and one of only two with true volcanic black sand. The “Big Island” of Hawai’i is the last island in the chain. Hawai’i Island is still forming every day as the active volcano, Kilauea, sends molten lava running down its vast slopes and into the ocean, enlarging the island by a few meters every day.

With an abundance of beaches, waterfalls, jungles and gorgeous year round weather, Hawai’i has all the ingredients and is considered throughout the world as paradise. When on location, crews need not worry about the dangers common to other tropical locations. Hawai’i has no snakes, no large predatory mammals, no deadly insects or critters on the islands to be concerned about.

Hawaii’s amazing location variety makes it a perfect production destination for shoots that want more than the typical tropical vistas one would expect. There are arid, desert landscapes, upland old growth forests and vast pasture/ranch land. You can also find underground caves, skyscrapers, traditional Hawaiian thatch roof structures and the highest sea cliffs in the world rugged coastlines. Add to these unique locations the fact that Hawai’i is primarily English speaking, very safe, functions on the US dollar and welcomes tourists from all over the globe. This means that many of the logistical challenges that film and photo productions face in other places are not significant factors here.

Hawai’i offers excellent tax incentives for larger productions. Producers can reap the benefits of a 20% tax credit on the island of O’ahu and 25% for all the other neighbouring islands. Every island provides varied and unique possibilities. There are talented people, readily available equipment and spectacular locations on all islands. Our clients reap the benefits of far less crowded and rare locations, reduced traffic, experienced crew and a higher (25%) tax incentive when we shoot on the neighbouring islands.

Though O’ahu has the most crew and production infrastructure (the only currently functioning soundstage is on O’ahu, with others planned for Maui and the Big Island) - the other islands should not be overlooked. Hana Productions is experienced in coordinating the movement of equipment and crew between islands, and can save a client’s money by sourcing everything locally.

One recent commercial shoot took us to epic locations on four islands in eight days. We put together a travel team of essential crew from each island and hired additional local support crew on each island we visited. Production and grip equipment was rented locally to keep our travel expenses down. We delivered that job under budget.

Maui in particular is home to a vibrant and growing production community. There are photographers, camera assistants, videographers, digital techs, wardrobe stylists, hair and makeup artists, caterers, prop stylists, editors, gaffers, key grips, water safety professionals, producers, location scouts and managers, and more – all local to the island and extremely knowledgeable and skilled at what they do.

As always, having a local company to help with locations and logistics is essential. The Hawaiian culture is alive and well and needs to be an important consideration when planning a shoot. There are traditions, customs and sensitivities that must be addressed and respected. A local production company can help navigate these issues and keep things running smoothly.


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