Hawaii has always been an attractive location when it comes to movie and TV shoots, paradise for locals and tourists, but a shortage of tax credits has made it financially more appealing to shoot elsewhere.
Two major entertainment companies, Relativity Media LLC and Shangri-La Industries, are trying to change that. And now they have a powerful political ally: Former President Bill Clinton, who added testimony to a bill that would drastically increase tax incentives for those choosing to shoot there.
Clinton, who is on Shangri-La's advisory board, wrote, "The Shangri-La/Relativity commitment to build the most environmentally friendly stages in existence, coupled with the economic benefits of this bill and Hawaii's timeless appeal, will make Hawaii the most attractive place in the world to shoot a film."
Shangri-La founder Steve Bing and the former president have known each other since at least 2002, and it's an understatement to say that they share common interests. Bing donated between $10 million and $25 million to the Clinton Foundation, an organization interested in climate change, among other initiatives.
Beyond his financial connection to Bing, Clinton may have a more favorable view of the industry in general, having recently filmed a cameo for the upcoming film The Hangover: Part II.
Clinton has not yet made a personal appearance in Hawaii, though the possibility apparently did cause quite a stir. Hawaii's KHON 2 reports that when those in the state capitol saw the letterhead of William Jefferson Clinton on the bill, as well as a line of limos, they assumed the former president would make a personal appearance yesterday. It turns out the limos were for industry executives, who promised that if the bill passes they'll build production companies in Hawaii, on Maui and Oahu specifically
According to the Honolulu Star Advertiser, the bill would increase the film production tax credit by 20 percentage points on Oahu and the neighboring islands (15 percent to 35 percent on Oahu and 20 percent to 40 percent on the others), with five percent bonuses for productions using computer-aided special effects an animation. There would also be a credit for new infrastructure, rebates for a local crew training program, and exemptions from hotel room taxes for productions that take more than a month.
Hawaii's Department of Taxation estimated the state would lose about $46.3 million on revenues annually, but supporters think that additional film and television productions will more than offset the loss. Relativity, behind films including 300, Burn After Reading, and Hancock, said if the bill passes, it would film 20 more movies plus added TV content in the state.
Hawaii's House committee reportedly put off a decision until next week, but signs are positive.