Hollywood blockbusters hold open casting call as lawmakers consider new rules for film industry

Thousands of hopeful applicants turned out Saturday for a chance to be a part of two major Hollywood productions filming in Hawaii.

Casting director Katie Doyle was at the Olelo Mapunapuna Studio and told us she saw over 3,500 people, the first few already lined up before 4 a.m. She says she plans on calling over a dozen people for a follow-up in the days ahead.

“This is my first time,” said Lynette Harris. “I actually came because I was going to edit video, and then I saw the line and thought people aren’t normally here. So I asked what is going on and now I’m really anxious to be part of this. Here I am in line with other aspiring actors and actresses!”

One is for a movie starring Channing Tatum and Tom Hardy, and another is for a successful franchise film from Universal Studios, details of which have yet to be released.

Doyle said she was looking for the following: stand-ins (for this and other 2017 projects), photo doubles (for this and other 2017 projects), Latino/Latina-looking Spanish speakers, active-duty military and veterans, military spouses, field workers, MMA fighters, tourists of all ethnicities, street vendors, athletes, bikini girls, farmers, families of all ethnicities, gang members, Native Hawaiians and Pacific Islanders; teenage-looking, Spanish-speaking males; men and women with weapons training, and truck drivers.

Only those who are ages 16 and over and legally able to work in the U.S. were eligible. All positions are paid, and no experience is necessary.

Some candidates will be pulled from the open call to audition for speaking roles.

New rules for filming?

As these movies prepare for filming, Hawaii lawmakers are considering new rules for the industry.

Even if you’re not part of the business, they could still have an impact on you.

Last year, film production companies spent $260 million while working in Hawaii. In return, Hawaii paid out about $44 million in tax credits.

“That creates not only the jobs on film and TV, but also trickles through the economy to help benefit vendors, smalls businesses that aren’t necessarily associated directly with the production,” said Georja Skinner, head of the state’s Creative Industries Division “It’s really important that we continue to collaborate with our visitor partners, and I can tell you that the tourism association as well as our hotel association and partners have been wonderful in supporting productions for so many years now, and I think they see the benefits as well directly to their bottom line.”

Sen. Glenn Wakai, who chairs the Economic Development, Tourism, and Technology committee, co-introduced a bill that would extend the sunset date for the film tax credit from 2019 to 2024.

“I think it could become something twice the size that it is today,” he told KHON2. “Hollywood’s not going to come unless if you give them incentives, so if we were to get rid of this tax credit, I would imagine the $260 million would drop to $100 million.”

The bill would keep the incentive at 20 percent for filming on Oahu, and 25 percent for the neighbor islands.

But it also aims to make three big changes in part based on recommendations from the auditor.

First, film production companies would have to have a third-party accountant validate the numbers.

“We want to make sure if you’re going to use taxpayer monies for a for-profit entity like a film company, that the numbers they’re giving us are true and accurate,” Wakai said.

Second, big film productions would have to hire a cultural or environmental expert.

Wakai mentions the Jennifer Lawrence incident in which she said she scratched her butt on a sacred rock at a heiau while filming “Catching Fire,” the second installment in the “Hunger Games” series.

“That obviously is totally unacceptable, but we hope that having a cultural expert guide the crew as to what is and what isn’t acceptable in Hawaii on a cultural and environmental level will help alleviate these types of embarrassing situations from happening in the future,” Wakai said.

Third, any production company that gets a tax credit of more than $8 million would have to hold a premiere or screening in Hawaii, even if it’s after the big Hollywood premiere.

“They’re all added expenses for the filmmakers, but (we hope) none of these will be deal killers and we can continue to enjoy a very vibrant and growing Hollywood presence here in Hawaii,” Wakai said.

The Motion Picture Association of America is all for extending the film tax credit another five years, but in submitted testimony for the bill, it voiced concerns about the changes being proposed.

It says the bill would “limit qualified expenditures to only those purchases made in Hawaii. This is a significant change that may adversely affect the production tax credit program. Production companies will always prefer to buy or rent goods and services for production locally. However, there may items that may not be available in Hawaii, or may be in use by other productions and unavailable. Producers will make best efforts to source goods and services locally but limiting qualified expenditures to only those goods and services purchased/rented locally will unduly burden productions and may make the Hawaii’s production tax credit program less appealing to some productions.”

Instead of a required premiere or screening in Hawaii, the association recommends that “an advance screening be among a menu of options for a production to select to promote and market Hawaii as well as provide a give-back to the community. Contractual agreements may prohibit an advance screening of certain productions, particularly of feature length motion pictures.”

“We’re just trying to be responsible with the public’s funds and also create excitement for our community as well,” Wakai responded.

Senate Bill 1086 passed out of the House Economic Development and Business committee and is expected to be next heard by the House Finance Committee.

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