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Big Island Filmmaker Connects the Hawai‘i Film Industry With Studios Worldwide

A new fiber optic cable allows real-time collaboration with studios worldwide.


Michael Cioni, president of post-production company Light Iron, speaking at the “Hawai‘i Meets Hollywood” event in October.
Photos:  Psalm Oines Photography

On screen and behind the scenes, the film industry in Hawai‘i keeps growing. It’s taken big steps over the past decade, from establishing the Academy for Creative Media at UH and Creative Lab Hawai‘i while shooting popular shows that include Lost and Hawai‘i Five-0, to transform Hawai‘i from a Hollywood backdrop to a complete producer of creative content. The most recent advancement? A new, private fiber-optic cable that connects Hawai‘i to more than 450 studios worldwide, so filmmakers can collaborate with colleagues remotely in real time without having to physically mail hard drives or wait hours to send files via broadband.


“There’s a whole underserved market in the Islands with visual effects and post-production,” says Big Island-based filmmaker David L. Cunningham, president and founder of GVS Connect, the company responsible for bringing this technology to Hawai‘i. Production studios usually come to the Islands to shoot footage, then head back to Hollywood to process it. “There’s a great [tax] incentive, 20 to 25 percent, that’s not being used,” he says. 


To change that trend, GVS Connect has partnered with Sohonet, the private fiber-optic company, as well as the state’s HI Growth Initiative, the Department of Business, Economic Development & Tourism’s Creative Industries Division and others, to allow filmmakers to send gigabytes of high-definition data, such as raw video footage, to partners across the world—at speeds 100 times faster than a standard Internet connection, according to Sohonet. That way, filmmakers can collaborate with their home studios or others and finish up their projects here without sacrificing video quality or time to upload/download files. As Cunningham puts it, “Would you rather be in the Midwest and taking advantage of some incentives there, or would you rather be here, taking advantage of the same kinds of incentives, but collaborating with the world?”


SEE ALSO: Hawai‘i Five-0 Season 6 Premiere Sunset on the Beach in Waikīkī


David L. Cunningham (left) says hello from Warner Bros. in Hollywood to the Big Island’s Honua Studios.


The way it works is basically plug and play: Go to one of GVS’ connected studios (one in Kona, one in Honolulu at Pier 2, and more planned on Maui and Kaua‘i) to send data once or on a regular basis. It’s “more or less Skype on steroids,” Cunningham says. He and his team demonstrated this at a recent event, where Honua Studios on the Big Island worked on color timing and editing live in collaboration with Warner Bros. in Hollywood, all while videoconferencing.


This is a good step forward, but Cunningham still hopes Hawai‘i will develop its own facilities down the line and become a hub of creativity, like New Zealand. He compares this cable to America’s railroads in the 1800s and says, “I think what it does is create opportunity. They didn’t know all the stuff that was going to spring up along the [railroad], all these towns, but all these things started happening. The first thing is getting people to collaborate together, and then we think people would like to live and work here.”


Cunningham says this fiber has applications in the astronomy and telemedicine industries as well, and beyond. “We’re open to any industry. We know the entertainment industry, that’s our niche, but that’s kind of step one,” he says.


Did you know? Kong: Skull Island was the most recent Hollywood project to film in Hawai‘i. It’s slated to premiere in March 2017.


Learn more at globalvirtualstudio.com




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