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ABC’s drama doubles isle TV exposure

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    The cast of ABC’s new Hawaii-based drama, “Off the Map,” includes, front row, Caroline Dhavernas, left, Martin Henderson, Mamie Gummer and, back row, Valerie Cruz, left, Jose Julian, Enrique Murciano and Jason George.

The local film and television community is ecstatic about yesterday’s announcement that ABC will produce a new prime-time drama in Hawaii, a decision that gives the state two network TV series at the same time.

"Off the Map," a medical drama from the same creative team behind "Grey’s Anatomy" and "Private Practice," will begin shooting at roughly the same time as the CBS remake of "Hawaii Five-0."

ABC’s decision comes less than a month after the series finale of "Lost," which filmed here for six seasons.

"We’ve really enjoyed working with the state of Hawaii and our amazing crew during the past six seasons on ‘Lost,’ and we look forward to continuing those relationships on ‘Off the Map,’" said Barry Jos- sen, executive vice president, Studio Creative and Production, ABC Entertainment Group.

In "Off the Map," Hawaii will double for the Amazon in what ABC described as "an uplifting medical drama" about doctors who have lost their way and "will go to the ends of the earth to try to remember the reasons they wanted to become doctors in the first place."

The show stars New Zealand actor Martin Henderson, who had a leading role in the 2004 romantic musical "Bride and Prejudice."

Pre-production work is expected to start soon, but the network could say only that "Off the Map" is a midseason replacement, meaning that it could come any time after the fall season starts in September.

"Hawaii is blessed to have two series coming to our state this year," said Georja Skinner, administrator for the state’s Creative Services Division, which oversees the Hawaii Film Office. "Not only does that help our economy and our production community, but it’s a tremendous boost for our tourism industry."

A second series could put millions of additional dollars into the Hawaii economy. The Honolulu Film Office has estimated that a network typically will budget between $2 million and $2.5 million per episode and spend two-thirds of that in the islands.

And a long-term series is big money: The state estimated earlier this year that "Lost" spent nearly $400 million during its time in Hawaii.

Honolulu Film Office Commissioner Walea Constantinau said ABC’s decision to continue filming here speaks to the network’s experience in here.

"If we were not delivering, if we were not doing a good job, if we were not able to facilitate their needs, then they wouldn’t be looking to come back," she said. "This is really a statement about everyone who has worked with ABC, from the vendors to the crew people."

The last time Hawaii hosted two major network TV shows was in the spring of 2005, when "Lost" and the Fox show "North Shore" were shot at the same time. "North Shore" was canceled in March 2005, just a few months after NBC pulled the plug on a third network show, a cop drama called "Hawaii."

"Off the Map" was initially a victim of bad timing.

In January, as film industry officials here wondered whether they would be able to replace "Lost" after its finale, ABC began discussing "Off the Map." But there were too many projects in the pipeline, including the final, frenzied episode schedule of "Lost," the big-screen movie "The Descendants" with George Clooney," and the pilot for "Hawaii Five-0."

"They wanted to film the pilot here, but we were so busy at the time with multiple shows that we were reaching capacity with facilities and available equipment," Constantinau said.

Instead of Hawaii, ABC filmed the "Off the Map" pilot in Puerto Rico.

"I am just glad they had such a positive experience that we are the location of choice," Constantinau said.

Busy is good, said Renee Confair Sensano, a local production supervisor who just finished working on "The Descendants."

"It helps to keep the qualified crews in town as well as the equipment," she said. "When we have slow times, people to have to make a living, and they will go to the mainland."

ABC’s decision to continue working in Hawaii is a compliment, Sensano said.

"It shows we have expertise," she said.


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