Keeping It Local

Hawai‘i Film Partners creates jobs, opportunities and grows Hawai‘i’s indigenous film industry

They’ve rubbed elbows with Clint Eastwood and lunched in Beverly Hills
with Francis Ford Coppola, but Rann and Gina Watumull are far from starstruck.
As founders of the local production company, Hawai’i Film Partners (HFP),
the Watumulls are skipping Hollywood to keep the benefits of filming in
Hawai’i in Hawai’i. “Production companies often come to the Islands and
leave-bringing in many of their own people and leaving with much of the
money,” Gina Watumull says. HFP is changing that.

co-founders, Gina and Rann Watumull.

Photo: olivier koning

The company, backed by local investors, raised half the production cost
and became co-producers of Flight 29 Down with cable network Discovery
Kids. The new fall TV series about 10 castaway kids finished filming its
first season in March. As a co-producer, HFP played a major role in hiring
the cast and crew. “We can produce a first-class production in Hawai’i,
by a local company,” Rann Watumull says. The Flight crew was about 90
percent local and three cast members are also from the Islands.

Locals were hired by HFP for key positions on the Flight set, creating
an opportunity for them to step up in the industry. Although working on
a lower-budget project often meant pay cuts for crewmembers, many plan
to return for the proposed second season. For most crewmembers, working
for a local company relieved a lot of pressure, says Matt Locey, a Big
Island native and 20-year veteran of the local film industry. He compares
it to “working as a family instead of as a production company.”

Having the support of local property owners was also beneficial, as the series was shot on the North Shore. “[Property owners] felt the sincerity and tended to kökua a lot more because this was truly a local production,” Locey says.

Rann Watumull says the company plans to become a “mini major,” expanding into feature films and other television shows. Also, as Hawai’i’s first exclusive international distributor, HFP is keeping the distribution revenue flowing back to the state. Above all, the Watumulls are keeping it local, and making Hawai’i more than just a gorgeous backdrop.