Hawaii’s film and television industry appears to be healthy as production crews prepare — for the third summer in a row — to begin work on a pair of network TV shows that will pour millions of dollars into the state economy.
But it could get even better.
As the CBS hit "Hawaii Five-0" prepares for a third season and ABC readies its drama "Last Resort" — the network’s third new series here since 2010 — the Hawai‘i Film Office is awaiting final word about a third series.
"It would be a major production," said Donne Dawson, state film commissioner. "It will be difficult for us to land it but we definitely have a third show looking at us."
Dawson declined to elaborate further but hoped to know the fate of the new series by the end of July. Securing a third series would be a good start for Dawson, who was laid off during state cutbacks in 2009 but given back her old job this May.
"Things are at that very delicate stage of looking," she said.
Television production has dominated 2012 but as long as viewer ratings hold up, hosting the production of a TV series is like owning the goose that keeps laying golden eggs. In general, a network will spend between $2 million and $2.5 million an episode, with much of that staying in the local economy.
Last season, 23 episodes of the popular CBS police drama "Hawaii Five-0" were shot. Dawson said that ABC has ordered 12 episodes of its new submarine series "Last Resort" and has contracted with Sony Pictures Television to produce the series at Oahu locations that include the state film studio at Diamond Head.
"Last Resort" is ABC’s most recent attempt to find a successful series it can base in Hawaii.
After ABC ended the popular series "Lost" in 2010, it tried twice to create successful dramas in Hawaii: "Off the Map," which aired in 2011, and "The River," which aired earlier this year. Both were canceled.
But consistently hosting a second series is a good measure of industry stability, said Walea Constantinau, Honolulu film commissioner. Although Hawaii briefly hosted three series in 2004, having more than one production in town is a recent phenomenon, she said.
"We are part of the discussion and we continue to mine opportunities," she said. "If you are not able to have those discussions and be on the radar and be part of the dialogue, you are out of the game. This shows we are in the game."
Similarly, statewide production spending in the film and TV industry has continued to show growth, Constantinau said. Prior to the introduction of tax incentives in 2006, it was unusual to have a year with $100 million in production spending. Now the state annually hovers between $180 million and $200 million.
"There is no doubt there will be fluctuations just as there are in other industries but our base level of what we consider to be our annual production spending is rising and all of that is a great sign of growth," Constantinau said.
State film office figures through the first half of this year show $155 million in production spending, which is about the same as it was this time last year, said Georja Skinner, administrator for the state’s creative services division, which oversees the Hawai‘i Film Office.
"With two series coming in July, we should have a pretty solid year," Skinner said. "A series is the bread and butter of our landscape. We are fortunate to have two."
Hawaii actors also are benefiting from the current production climate and especially from "Last Resort," said Scott Rogers, a local acting coach who sits on the national board of directors for the actors union, SAG-AFTRA.
The series, whose episodes begin filming July 30, cast Hawaii actors as series regulars, Rogers said.
"No one has auditioned for series regulars here," he said. "That was unheard of."
Rogers regularly teaches acting classes across the country and has not encountered a working environment similar to what Hawaii is experiencing — even in Portland, Ore., which is hosting three series, he said.
Hawaii actors once labored under the impression, favored by Hollywood productions, that they did not measure up, Rogers said. No more.
"Ten years ago we were just like Portland, but I think actors have been taking this seriously and training and we have been changing the stereotype," he said. "It’s a sea change."