The Big Island: What’s Next for Hawaii County?

By T. Ilihia Gionson, Acting Big Island Film Commissionerilia

From daredevils kayaking down East Hawaii waterfalls in Brazil’s Planeta Extremo, to episodes of A&E’s Duck Dynasty and the History Channel’s American Jungle, over 60 projects filmed on Hawaii Island in 2013, bringing in $3 million. Hawaii Island is looking forward to growing our film industry even more.

I come to the Big Island Film Office from the office of Mayor Billy Kenoi, where I served as one of his executive assistants handling media and public relations. My work in this industry was at Paliku Documentary Films on Oahu, and with Walt Disney Imagineering at Aulani, a Disney Resort & Spa in Ko Olina. The summation of my experience is that I am a storyteller, and I’m excited to support storytellers from around the world bringing their work to life on Hawaii Island.

I thank our retired film commissioner, John Mason, for his seven years of dedication and commitment to growing Hawaii Island as a film destination. His shoes are big ones to fill, but I will do all that I can as an advocate and facilitator to support the growth of our industry. In the very near future, I look forward to meeting with the men and women of Hawaii Island’s film industry to identify the obstacles in getting more projects and address them together.

We are also looking forward to the GVS Transmedia Accelerator, a unique project spearheaded by David Cunningham to bring media entrepreneurs together with the expertise and capital they need to build a thriving enterprise. The county of Hawaii is committed to the success of this project and we will be working with the Hawaii Strategic Development Corporation and the private investors that will bring this accelerator to Hawaii Island.

It is an honor to join my colleagues Tracy Bennett on Maui, Walea Constantinau on Oahu, Art Umezu on Kauai, and Donne Dawson in the Hawaii Film Office. We will be working together with our respective counties, the state, and the production industry to keep Hawaii film on the move.

If you have any thoughts that you would like to share with me, please feel free to call the Big Island Film Office at 808-961-8366 or email It is an exciting time for film on Hawaii Island, and I am looking forward to keeping the momentum alive. Aloha!

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