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Update: Maui Film Studios Plans Expansion

New facility to add 40,000 square feet.

October 3, 2013
Susan Halas - Contributing Writer ( , Maui Weekly

In March, Maui Film Studios (MFS) announced opening Maui's first production facility in the building it leases in Maui Lani. At that time, owner Socrates Buenger said the hi-cube warehouse space consisted of roughly 22,000 square feet of what will become a sound stage, and has an adjacent one-acre paved lot that serves as flex space and parking.

In September, Buenger said that he is in the process of finishing the interior and expects to soon finalize the lease on an additional 40,000 square feet, bringing the total to over 60,000 square feet.

He said his company's investment in the new facility and equipment rental totals about $10 million--not counting the value of the lease.

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Maui Film Studios owner Socrates Buenger, a 48-year-old San Pedro, California, native, has long been active in the film business.

Basically, he said, "We're a rental operation. Productions coming to town sublease space and equipment from us."

His current full-time payroll consists of himself and one assistant, but the number of people working on the premises may go as high as 150 when production gets into full swing.

The 48-year-old San Pedro, California, native has long been active in the film business. He moved to Maui 12 years ago adding, "I guess I just never left."

Earlier in the year, the news that Buenger was now offering services that have been long-desired here was greeted enthusiastically.

"The reception was fabulous," he said.

Though Maui has portrayed itself for decades as a good place to make movies, and over the years has become a part-time home or getaway for countless celebrities, actual production facilities have been elusive.

In June, the Hollywood Reporter devoted extensive coverage to Maui's first new studio. Buenger also took an active role in advocating legislation favorable to the production and facilities on the Neighbor Islands. In response to testimony provided by MFS and others, the legislature passed a 20 percent tax incentive for O'ahu production and added an additional 5 percent more for work done on the Neighbor Islands.

Maui Mayor Alan Arakawa sent a letter of congratulations, and more recently, Managing Director Keith Regan commented that the county is delighted to have the studio in operation and has a big stake in its success.

"If we want other production facilities to follow, this one has to succeed," Regan said.

"We're ready to film now, "said Branscombe Richmond, who is affiliated with MFS as an associate vice president. Richmond, an actor, director and entertainer, is also the moving force on the equipment rental side, providing a great deal of the gear that MFS offers. These include trailers, generators, all kinds of trucks, all-terrain vehicles, dressing rooms and many other items needed in film and television production. He was reluctant to put a dollar figure on the total value.

"Let's just say it's substantial," he said.

Sitting in his trailer at the studio, he fielded questions, interrupted by a steadily ringing phone, and laced his conversation with a vernacular Yiddish not often heard in these parts. His office included the standard Hollywood paraphernalia such as scripts, budgets, people waiting to say hello and copies of Variety.

Richmond, who is of native Hawaiian ancestry, is a nine-year Kula resident who divides his time between Hawai'i and California. He is probably best known as an actor who has appeared in hundreds of hours of television and over 100 movies. He also heads a separate company known as Branscombe Richmond Productions.

Like Buenger, Richmond was optimistic about the future employment potential in the motion picture industry here. He called it a "green industry" and stressed that providing training and jobs for local residents is among their top priorities.

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