TV, Film Are Crucial For Hawaii

Mufi Hannemann
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July 13, 2011 | Hawaiian Airlines Discount Share

I’ve long been a proponent of synergy in our local economy, particularly in linking the strengths of the travel industry with businesses that complement and supplement it.

One prime example is the film and television industry, which not only attracts outside revenue and creates jobs here, but showcases the beauty of our islands to millions of people across the globe.

When Hawaii’s film and TV industry is hot, as it is now, we see remarkable results. Last year alone was a record-breaker, with direct spending by production companies totaling more than $400 million and with a statewide economic impact of more than $600 million.

Among the high-profile movies and television shows filming in the Hawaiian Islands were the final season of Lost, a reborn Hawaii Five-0, Disney’s fourth installment of Pirates the Caribbean, the fantasy adventure Journey 2: The Mysterious Island, a prospective blockbuster for 2012 called Battleship, Oscar-winning writerdirector Alexander Payne’s The Descendants, based on a novel by Kaui Hart Hemmings and starring George Clooney, and Soul Surfer, a film based on Kaua’i's Bethany Hamilton.

A production company creates hundreds of wellpaying jobs and purchases goods and services from a host of local companies.

The cast and crew fill hotel rooms, often for extended periods. Lost, for example, had a fulltime equivalent staff of 250 local folks and worked with 1,200 different businesses. Pirates booked thousands of hotel room nights during its stay on Kaua’i.

Every time the islands are shown in a movie theater or on TV, it’s an advertisement for Hawaii.

The millions of people who will see Hawaii Five0 or Pirates of the Caribbean all see beautiful images of the Islands. That’s invaluable, incalculable exposure for Hawaii.

I recall broaching the idea of having each county open a film office to promote the industry during my tenure as director of the Department of Business,

Economic Development and Tourism. Little did we realize the impact this state-county synergy would have.

Later, as a city councilman and Honolulu mayor, I worked closely with Honolulu film commissioner Walea Constantinau in supporting the industry. In particular, we understood the importance of personal relationships, of one-on-one talks with producers and movie studio executives to assure them of Hawaii’s interest in welcoming them to Hawaii.

Whether we were meeting with studio chiefs and union officials in L.A., welcoming producers to City Hall, using Sunset on the Beach to promote the premiere of Lost or Hawaii Five-0, or participating in film festivals, our overriding goal was always to lure more productions.

The film industry is like tourism. It’s not a matter of “build it and they will come,” to use a line from Field of Dreams. We have to build upon the groundwork we’ve laid and expand the infrastructure, promote and support it because it’s a proven winner.

With just about every state in the nation, not to mention other countries, competing for film-TV productions, we must be aggressive and committed in marketing ourselves.

This is a fundamental part of doing business, and helped Hawaii keep its starring role in production after production. Now is not the time to rest on our laurels.

Barbara Branvold
Position: Cocktail Waithelp
Location: Hyatt Regency Waikiki Beach Resort and Spa
Island: Oahu

Barbara Brandvold can remember the names and faces of the Elegant Dive’s innumerable guests, recall their favorite drinks and thank them in 30 languages, including sign.

This remarkable employee of Hyatt Regency Waikiki Beach Resort and Spa, who’s been with the hotel since it opened, has been known to help visitors plan their itineraries, going so far as to escort some to local attractions. She befriended one longtime guest who stays at the hotel three times a year, and treats her like a member of the family. After talking to guests, she proposed installing Jacuzzis on the pool terrace, to the delight of everyone.

In one noteworthy gesture that’s symbolic of her people-centered attitude, Barbara donated her Hyatt employee-of-the-year prize to Shriners Hospital for Children, which used it to generate $2,000 at a fundraiser. She did so because she lost a daughter many years ago and the California children’s hospital had paid most of the medical bill, prompting her to vow to repay the kindness.

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