Hawaii State Film Commissioner Donne Dawson said like so many industries in Hawaii, film and television production has taken a large hit due to the coronavirus pandemic, but more work is coming back.
“We’re starting to see productions coming back, we’ve already had three or four productions that had successfully come and gone during the midst of this pandemic and we have more coming,” Dawson told Spotlight Hawaii.
The industry hit a record year of production in 2018, with close to a half a billion dollars in district spending and nearly 5,000 jobs created. The numbers are nowhere near that now, but Dawson said that the potential is there.
“Things are looking bright, and I think that it is in large part due to the film industry, the studios, the labor unions that have been working diligently with medical experts all over the country, to determine how best to reopen the film industry globally, across the country, and in Hawaii in the safest manner possible,” she said.
With the legislature coming back into session in January, Dawson said it is vital that lawmakers support and value the industry. That means keeping the refundable production tax credit intact, despite the enormous budget deficit the state is facing.
“It [the tax credit] is a vital tool to our ability to market the state in a fiercely competitive climate globally,” Dawson said.
Omar Sultan of Sultan Ventures joined the second half of the broadcast to talk about Aloha Connects Innovation, a program funded with CARES Act funding that connects job seekers and local companies, to help those unemployed learn new skills. The workers are paid through the program, being paid up to $25 an hour plus health benefits, at no cost to the employer. At the same time, the employer is compensated for taking on that new hire.
“Can we find a way to serve our displaced workers, our furloughed workers, those that are out of a job because of the pandemic, and provide them with this upskilled, reskilled opportunity? Can we get them out of that unemployment line, put them into jobs to earn wages, to get health benefits and to help diversify our economy?” Sultan explained.
So far, the program has employed nearly 300 workers, but has funding to cover double that number. The challenge is timing. Because the program is funded through CARES Act money, it runs out at the end of the year. But Sultan said that he and others running the program are hopeful that the CARES funding will be extended.
Individuals or companies interested to learn more can visit www.edahawaii.org.
Spotlight Hawaii, which shines a light on issues affecting Hawaii, airs live 10:30 a.m. every Monday, Wednesday and Friday on the Honolulu Star-Advertiser’s Facebook page. Join Ryan Kalei Tsuji and Yunji de Nies this month for a conversation with guests. Click here to watch previous conversations.