Hawaii could strike it big in TV, film production after labor strife avoided

  • SARA MALLY/CBS Trina Njoroge, left, and Jeremy Hershberg appear in an episode of ‘Love Island.’ The reality dating show filmed most of its third season at a mansion in Ninole earlier this year.

Despite the COVID-19 pandemic, 2021 could be a record year for film and television production in Hawaii — especially now that a looming labor strike has been averted.

After days of marathon negotiations, representatives from the International Alliance of Theatrical Stage Employees and from the studios and entertainment companies who employ them reached the three-year contract agreement before a Monday strike deadline, avoiding a serious setback for an industry that had just gotten back to work after long pandemic shutdowns.


The union’s members still must vote to approve the tentative.

“We’re on pins and needles right now,” said State Film Commissioner Donne Dawsons said before Saturday’s agreement was reached. “We don’t know what’s going to happen, and what the strike will do for productions here for the rest of the year.”

“We’re hoping for the best, but bracing for the worst,” Dawson said.

Now it could be the former.

“It would probably be a record year for production in the state …,” Dawson said, adding that the state could clear half a billion dollars spent on film productions this year. The previous record was set in 2018, when about $450 million was spent on Hawaii productions.

In addition to reality dating show “Love Island,” which filmed most of its third season at a mansion in Ninole earlier this year — and was the biggest project to film on the island since “Indiana Jones and the Kingdom of the Crystal Skull” in 2007 — Dawson said other major productions this year included a new season of the “Magnum P.I.” reboot series, and the first seasons of “NCIS: Hawaii” and “I Know What You Did Last Summer,” all of which were filmed on Oahu.

Ironically, Dawson credited the strong year to the IATSE itself. After a year of pent-up demand driven by quarantine, she said, the union was able to put in place production practices that allowed productions to resume safely, without risking the spread of COVID-19.

Those practices were implemented on the Big Island earlier this year during the production of “Love Island.” However, that production was contentious among some nearby residents, who complained of excessive noise from the shoot as well as disruptive lights potentially affecting endangered birds in the area.

Later thus week, a Hawaii County Council committee will discuss with the Big Island Film Office how productions such as “Love Island” are permitted and whether changes can be made to prevent controversies in the future.

“There’s a lot of cloudiness in the process right now, and we have to sift through how it all works and what needs to be changed,” said Puna Councilwoman Ashley Kierkiewicz, who requested the discussion.


Email Michael Brestovansky at mbrestovansky@hawaiitribune-herald.com.

The Associated Press contributed to this report

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