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Maui County's film czar puzzled she was let go after banner year

By Mike Gordon


After a $62 million record year for film and television production spending in Maui County, new Mayor Alan Arakawa replaced longtime Film Commissioner Benita Brazier and changed the focus of her former position to now include sports events.

Brianne Savage, a recent marketing graduate, was named the county's "sports, recreation and entertainment specialist," said Teena Rasmussen, the county's new coordinator for the Office of Economic Development.

"The new mayor wanted to come in and basically shake things up a bit, and he has new people in here," Rasmussen said. "We've had some areas that were lacking — assistance for sporting events, assistance for large entertainment events."

Savage has no film or TV experience, but Rasmussen said "she is going to be a superstar."

Brazier, a former Hollywood production executive, was named commissioner by Arakawa after he was elected to an earlier term as mayor in 2002.

Brazier had been a script supervisor on dozens of films and TV movies for 25 years. Her production credits include "Boomtown," "South Central," "I Spy,"' "Doctor Dolittle," "Private Parts," "Big Easy" and "Girls Just Want to Have Fun."

Production spending increased dramatically in the past three years, according to state film office records. Maui saw $1.1 million in spending in 2008, $4 million in 2009 and then this year's record total.

In 2010 Maui hosted Clint Eastwood's "Hereafter," which started pre-production in 2009; Adam Sandler's "Just Go With It," due for release next month; and the locally produced "Get a Job."

Rasmussen stressed the film office is not closed and that the county will continue to provide services for the industry.

"I don't want to sound like film is being diminished in any way," Rasmussen said. "We are looking at the whole entertainment, music and sports industry along with film. Benita did a great job here for the county, and we just want to continue her good work."

Arakawa was not available for comment, said Rod Antone, county communications director.

"We had some tough choices to make because of the economy, but Mayor Arakawa does care about the film industry and we are hoping to have some big changes and get some good projects here in the future," Antone said.

Brazier said she was not asked to interview for the position and learned about the change when she received a form letter Dec. 17.

"I did expect an interview with the new administration based on the fact that it was same administration that hired me to do the job," Brazier said. "I was a little surprised I wasn't even consulted."

Brazier was never given any formal explanation, which she expected given the record year on Maui, she said.

"I'm very happy that if it had to happen this way, I went out on top," she said. "You know in any other industry I would have been given a vice presidency and a huge raise — or at least a watch."

Brazier hopes to return to working on film and TV projects.

IN THE SIX months that cast members of "Off the Map" have been in Hawaii, shooting the series that premieres Wednesday on ABC, they've found themselves working hard to slow down.

Several actors have rented homes on the North Shore, which is close to the show's main set in Wahiawa. But convenience is only part of the attraction, said Jason George, who plays the tough-talking Dr. Otis Cole.

"A few of us are on the North Shore just for the chillness of it," he said.

George has found a second home at Haleiwa Joe's while actress Caroline Dhavernas, a Montreal native who plays Dr. Lily Brenner, is learning to surf at Haleiwa and Sunset Beach. She's a goofyfoot who rides a 9-footer.

"I love the community," she said. "I can see myself living here for a couple of years if the show goes that well."

Zach Gilford, the actor playing Dr. Tommy Fuller, needed time to adjust. Hawaii is nothing like his hometown of Chicago.

"We're on aloha time, which takes a little bit of adjustment, but once you tune in to it, it's very nice and laid back," he said. "It's a little slower."

AND that's a wrap ...

Mike Gordon is the Star-Advertiser's film and television writer. His "Outtakes" column appears Sundays. E-mail him at

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