A producer who alleged the Hawaii Film Office unlawfully withheld tax credits from his production because the office’s manager didn’t like the content of his movie has settled a lawsuit against the state.
Tim Chey, producer and director of a historical drama about Hawaii’s Chiefess Kapiolani, said the office has awarded him 100 percent of the credits he sought.
“I’m glad to have resolved the issues with the Hawaii Film Office and looking forward to release of this important movie,” Chey said.
Bryan Yee, a deputy attorney general who represented the state, confirmed that the state certified Chey’s film as eligible for the credits.
The Los Angeles-based lawyer and producer created a stir in Honolulu’s production community last year when he sued the film office; Donne Dawson, the office’s film industry development manager, and Benita Brazier, a former economic development specialist.
Hawaii provides a rebate of 20 to 25 percent of production expenses for movies, commercials and television shows filmed in Hawaii, as long as the productions have a budget of at least $200,000 and meet other criteria.
Chey’s suit, filed in U.S. District Court in Honolulu, alleged that the film office discriminated against his film because it shows how a prominent Native Hawaiian rejected the native religion and helped establish Christianity in the islands in the 1800s.
Chey’s film credits include a number of faith-based movies featuring actors like Stephen Baldwin, Malcolm McDowell and Cuba Gooding Jr. The movie in dispute, “The Islands,” stars the Oscar winner Mira Sorvino as a missionary who helps convert Chiefess Kapiolani to Christianity. It’s due in theaters in March, Chey said.
The suit alleged Chey also received “a strange message” from an employee of the film office expressing concerns about the movie.
In its response to Chey’s complaint, the Hawaii Attorney General’s office denied that the Film Office had discriminated against the filmmaker. The state said Chey had failed to fulfill the requirements to obtain a tax credit certification letter from the Film Office. The state also denied that Chey’s application had been rejected.
Federal court records show that the parties agreed to dismiss the suit earlier this month but do not mention the tax credits. Chey provided a copy of the certification showing that the office approved the production to receive the tax credits in December, approximately 11 months after Chey submitted a production report requesting the certification.
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