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In Hawaii, it's aloha, and action

The state is enjoying a filming boom. Steven Spielberg's new `Indiana Jones' and Ben Stiller's `Tropic Thunder' are among movies being shot now.

July 24, 2007|Jaymes Song | Associated Press

HILO, HAWAII — Steven Spielberg was reluctant about returning to Hawaii because the islands already served as a backdrop for his "Jurassic Park" series and "Raiders of the Lost Ark."

Yet following a worldwide search, Hawaii was cast again. This time as a South American rain forest in the fourth installment of "Indiana Jones."

"We've had a lot of success shooting in the Hawaiian Islands," said Kathleen Kennedy, executive producer of the still-untitled film. "I think once we started looking at the various locations and logistics involved in going other places, it just made sense to come back here."

The state is experiencing a film boom after a three-year dry spell of major motion pictures. Besides "Indiana Jones," which is wrapping up production on the Big Island, Ben Stiller's "Tropic Thunder" is being filmed on Kauai. Earlier this year, the romantic comedy "Forgetting Sarah Marshall" and "Pirates of the Caribbean: At World's End" filmed in Hawaii.

"It's been the busiest we've had in a long time," state film commissioner Donne Dawson said.

She said Hawaii's TV and film industry this year could break the banner year of 2004, when a record $164 million was spent, mostly from three network TV series. Of the group, only ABC's castaway drama "Lost" has survived.

Dawson said 2004 was the year for TV, and "this is the year for feature films."

Industry officials say a major reason for the increase in activity is the state's new tax credit, known as Act 88, which boosted the state's 4% production tax credit to 15% on Oahu and 20% on other islands.

The tax credit, capped at $8 million per production, was implemented a year ago to compete with other film-friendly states with similar incentives, such as New Mexico, Louisiana, New York, New Jersey, Arizona and Connecticut.

Dawson said the credits were "absolutely critical" in order to compete. More than three dozen states have some form of incentive for the film or TV industry or are looking to create them, according to the National Conference of State Legislatures.

"It put us in the ballpark with the rest of the states, and other countries," said Brenda Ching, executive director of the local Screen Actors Guild.

A total of 27 productions that are expected to spend $127 million have applied for the tax credits since the program began July 1, 2006. That doesn't include "Indiana Jones," which is spending $15 million here and has hired more than 120 locals. But producers of the action adventure say they will take advantage of the credits.

"That really tipped the balance over for coming here," said Frank Marshall, the film's producer.

There were other factors, including access to available hotel rooms, experienced crew, equipment and access to the airport. The main selling point, however, was the scenery.

Indy IV's creators were looking for "old-growth jungle," and the options were limited.

"After looking in probably 14 or 15 countries, a couple of states, here we are," said Mike Fantasia, the film's location manager. "We found a couple of locations here we couldn't match anywhere else."

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