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‘Temptation Island’ lays out plan for filming on Maui

Producers say they will test before flying, avoid contact with hotel staff

Celia Lavilla of Waikapu (from left), Janine Arlidge of Kihei and Theresa Kapaku of Kipahulu protest the upcoming filming of the reality TV series “Temptation Island” in Wailuku on Thursday morning. “The most critical question is not being answered, and that is what happens if someone gets seriously ill or hurt?” said Kapaku, the organizer. “There’s no satisfying response for that, which means that they will use our already overloaded health care system.” She also objected to the show’s premise. “Essentially, the show content is about people who are together, monogamous, cheating on each other, and infidelity, and sex,” she said. “We want things to be pono, and yes, you can film here, but not during a pandemic, and no, not this kind of show.” The Maui News / COLLEEN UECHI photos

Producers of the reality TV series “Temptation Island” said they are prepared to test cast and crew before flying to Maui, quarantine upon arrival and avoid face-to-face contact with cooks and housekeepers once they’re allowed to move ahead with filming.

“We’re not coming for fun but rather to work and will do so in a manner that has us taking extreme measures to not endanger anyone and leave no traces when we’re gone,” said David Goldberg, president of Banijay Studios North America, the show’s production company.

Maui County Mayor Michael Victorino confirmed last week that “Temptation Island” had been given the green light to film at the Andaz Maui at Wailea Resort, angering residents who worried about a production of that scale coming to Maui during the pandemic. Cast and crew were expected to arrive over the weekend and planned to live, eat and film at the Andaz for two months.

However, following community and health concerns, producers, the resort, the hotel workers’ union and the county film office jointly agreed to delay production.

Maui County Council Member Kelly King, who hosted a virtual town hall with show producers, state and county film commissioners, union representatives and a physician on Wednesday night, said that “when I first heard about this project, I was as outraged as many of you are.”

Judith Carroll of Kihei protests the filming of “Temptation Island.” Organizer Theresa Kapaku said that six people joined the demonstration on Thursday morning.

However, she added that the film industry could play a role in Maui’s economic recovery and is one of the few that can afford to carry out strict protocols that local leaders want to see.

“I’m not advocating for or against this project happening, but I think it’s worth exploring whether it presents the potential for Maui to set a real standard for controlled reopening of certain industries and also ask the question, what’s in it for us?” said King, who holds the South Maui residency seat where “Temptation Island” plans to film.

The show brings couples to an island with a group of single men and women to test the strength of their relationships. It aired on Fox from 2001 to 2003 before rebooting on USA Network in 2019, according to IMDB.com. Both seasons of the reboot were filmed on Maui.

Maui Film Commissioner Tracy Bennett said that the show had planned to come to Maui in March, but when the pandemic hit, they postponed. After Oahu got a modified quarantine program for film and TV approved in June and Maui County followed suit, producers started rehiring local crew and recasting the show, Goldberg said. They had mapped out a plan with medical consulting firm Medcor and were preparing to come in August when production was delayed.

Goldberg said that they don’t want to postpone until after the pandemic because they’re losing money and hope to absorb those costs by moving forward with production. “We don’t expect anybody to feel sorry for us, but that’s just the reality,” he said.

“If it’s a matter of we just have to wait until after the pandemic, I think our opportunity to shoot in Maui is gone, because we can’t keep extending,” he said. “We will have to find a place to go and a place to go quickly. And that is in no way a threat because our druthers are to come back and do this in Maui because we have a history there, we have a track record there, we’re comfortable with the people.”

Currently, there’s no start date set and no Mainland crew on Maui yet, but if and when they do get the go-ahead, cast and crew will be tested within 72 hours of their flight and required to self-quarantine after the test, according to state Film Commissioner Donne Dawson and Medcor Chief Medical Officer Dr. Sharon Moise.

Upon arrival to Maui, they will go directly to the Andaz and quarantine in their own single-occupancy rooms. After a week in quarantine, they will be tested twice 24 hours apart; if all three tests are negative, they will be allowed to enter the “isolation zone” of the Andaz set and can interact with each other while wearing personal protective equipment, except while filming.

A COVID compliance officer, emergency physician and nurses will be on site, and Moise said that anybody who tests positive will be quarantined in their room. The production will bring its own supply of test kits.

Rules would limit contact with hotel staff — cast and crew will clean their own rooms while in quarantine, staff bringing room service will not enter while people are inside and cooks will prepare individual or grab-and-go meals that they will put out for cast and crew to eat.

Local residents working on the production will stay at the hotel. Housekeepers will not come to the property until the quarantine is over and will clean rooms only when unoccupied.

Goldberg said that the show previously filmed in a beach house in Kaanapali and in the hills above Lahaina and occasionally goes off set for activities like ziplining, picking pineapples or eating at luau. However, he said that “we’ve really curtailed and gotten rid of all that” for the third season and expected about 90 percent of the filming to take place at the Andaz.

If they do go off set, it would only be after quarantining and passing multiple COVID tests, and they would only take a small group in full PPE directly to the location with no interaction with the community.

The Andaz did not attend the town hall but said in a statement Thursday that the hotel follows Hyatt protocol that includes appointing a hygiene and well-being leader; cleaning high-touch surfaces, guestrooms and shared spaces more often; training and certifying staff; following enhanced food safety and hygiene protocols; installing hand sanitizers and requiring all guests to wear face coverings.

Jason Bradshaw, legal representative for the International Longshore and Warehouse Union Local 142, said that hotel workers will follow the same protocols as the cast and crew, getting tested before going to work, again on days five and six and randomly throughout the filming process. They will come in a week or two beforehand for training.

“We do feel there needs to be a way to somehow reopen the economy in a safe way, and we thought this was a good step in that direction,” Bradshaw said.

Tui Scanlan, president of the IATSE Local 665 that represents film and TV workers, said that about 40 to 50 union members would be working on the show and welcomed the chance for both workers and the local economy to earn some income. The show spent $15 million locally during its first two seasons on Maui, according to Goldberg.

“We have one chance to do this right, and if a plan as robust as this that’s going above and beyond the call of the baseline . . . is compromised by selfish actions of individuals, that could eventually degrade public trust in our industry for many years to come,” Scanlan said. “We don’t take that lightly.”

While producers did not share an exact number of crew that they planned to bring, Dawson said Thursday that she expected between 100 to 150 people who would arrive in smaller groups over the course of three weeks. The production would also likely hire around 150 local residents — including 15 from Oahu who would have to follow the same testing protocols as the out-of-state crew — and that there would also be about 75 hotel workers.

Dawson said that when crews come to film in Hawaii, they need permits to shoot on state and county land but not when filming on private property. Every production must also provide public access for beachgoers.

“There is no such thing as exclusive use of a beach anywhere in Hawaii,” Dawson said.

Producer John Ankwicz said that cast and crew would not go onto the beach until they have cleared two weeks of quarantine.

State Rep. Tina Wildberger, who lives near the Andaz and represents Kihei, Wailea and Makena, said she “started out extremely skeptical” about the project, but after seeing the safety measures at the hotel, “I’d like to see it be able to move forward.”

“We cannot continue in perpetuity for another 18 months or two years with this kind of numbers of people not working, and I feel like this is a path forward,” Wildberger said during the town hall. “It’s laying the groundwork with the appropriate safety, the appropriate protocols.”

After initially saying he was “not very happy about it,” Victorino changed his tune on Thursday.

“It’s about time that we take an opportunity to test out to see if these protocols that they’ve put in place will work,” the mayor said. “We have to test sooner or later. Why not now? Why not at the Andaz?”

He said the county would likely make an announcement in a couple of days.

* Colleen Uechi can be reached at cuechi@mauinews.com.

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