Hawaii on camera: An average year for film industry

  • The cast of reality dating show “Are You the One?” gather for a photo. The show’s seventh season was filmed in Keauhou. Courtesy photo

HILO — The Big Island was ready for its closeup in 2018.

About 75 projects permitted through the county filmed on the Big Island in 2018, according to Hawaii County Film Commissioner Justin Finestone.

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“Typically here on Hawaii Island, we get a lot of travel shows and a lot of reality-type shows,” he explained. The island also draws “a lot of international production,” especially from Japan.

Firestone said the biggest budget project was an MTV dating program, which was filmed in Keauhou.

The reality dating show “Are You the One?” brought a group of 20-somethings together to live and date in a tropical location. For the show’s seventh season, a private residence in Kona hosted the competition, West Hawaii Today reported in August when the season premiered. Kona was also used as the location for the show’s third season.

According to Finestone, a portion of an untitled Amazon program also shot on the Big Island last year, along with a few car commercials, Southwest Airline commercials and an episode of the “Real Housewives” franchise.

Last year also was notable in that the Hawaii Island Film Office “did pretty well despite the eruption,” he said of the Kilauea volcano eruption, which began in May in Leilani Estates and continued with vigor until early August, when lava flows began to cease.

While there were “a lot of cancellations and productions that didn’t come because of the eruption,” Finestone said there were also a lot that did come to the island “because they wanted to document it.”

However, many of those were small documentary crews, “not ones that hire a lot of local folks or spend a lot of money on the island.”

“I would say dollar-wise, it was an average year,” Finestone said. “It wasn’t too bad despite the eruption. (But it) could have been better if we had not had the event.”

According to the county permit data for 2018, Finestone said there was a reported $7.4 million spent on Big Island projects, which include expenditures such as car rentals, food, lodging and supplies.

The actual number, however, may be higher because the $7.4 million total doesn’t include productions that obtain permits only through the state and not the county, or productions filmed on private land, which do not require permits, Finestone said.

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While he couldn’t name the projects, Finestone said a couple of “big feature films” scheduled to go into production this year had scouted the island in the latter part of 2018, but “no word yet whether they chose the Big Island for part of their production.”

Email Stephanie Salmons at ssalmons@hawaiitribune-herald.com.