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Rejuvenating the Film Industry in Colorado
By Ken Custer (With the help of information from The Colorado Film Commission, Colorado Film & Video Association and other websites listed at the end.)
Not many people realize that Colorado was the first state to create a film commission back in the late 1800s and over the years many well-known movies were filmed here. A few on the list include Mr. & Mrs. Smith, Catch & Release, City Slickers, Indiana Jones and the Last Crusade and True Grit. Television came to Colorado to shoot shows like some of the Perry Mason series. These films employed many local production people, spent big money in local markets for lodging, food and equipment and featured many of Colorados scenic areas that then built tourism. Even today there are tour packages available to visit the filming sites.
So why did the film industry leave Colorado?
The production industry dwindled as it became almost impossible to compete with states like New Mexico, Utah, Louisiana and Michigan because their incentives to film in those states are robust and generous. When producers started looking for locations the first question they asked is what are your incentives to film in your state? Colorado had little or no financial incentive and the business went elsewhere. One that bothered me the most was, after the tragic death of John Denver, the John Denver Special was filmed in Vancouver, BC, because they offered great financial incentives.
The Colorado Film Commission (now the Office of Film, Television and Media) and the Colorado Film & Video Association (CFVA) continually worked with legislators to get the state to consider increasing the film incentive. The effort always died in committee and nothing happened. For seven years Representative TOM MASSEY, Poncha Springs, pushed the effort to no avail. The highly talented production people living in Colorado had to find work in other states, which was depleting the talent pool that drew productions to the state. Production equipment providers also had to look elsewhere.
So what has changed?
The mission of the Colorado Office of Film, Television and Media is to promote Colorado as a location for making feature films, television shows, television commercials, still photography, music videos, and digital media. The Office of Film, Television and Media is part of Colorado Creative Industries, a division of the state Office of Economic Development and International Trade. In 2011 Producer Donald Zuckerman was named as the new Director of the Office of Film, Television and Media. Zuckerman has produced several major motion pictures and he has worked with some of Hollywoods top directors and actors. His most recent feature films include Casino Jack with director George Hickenlooper and starring Kevin Spacey, and Beer For My Horses, directed by Michael Solomon and starring Toby Keith.
Zuckerman immediately went to work on getting an incentive program. He met with Representative Massey, members of the CFVA and all of the production community in the state. They formulated a plan and went to work meeting with legislators. Brownstein Hyatt Farber Schreck supported the effort with Melissa Kuipers as their lead person, and helped to contact legislators. The founders at High Noon Entertainment, Jim Berger, Duke Hartman, Sonny Hutchison and Chris Wheeler, invited legislators to their facility to demonstrate the possibilities of what productions can bring to the state.
A big day of support for the Colorado Film and Television incentive legislation happened on February 8 at the State Capitol. CINEMA (Colorado Innovators of New Entertainment, Media, and Arts) is a coalition of Colorado entertainment, media, and artistic interests engaged in promoting Colorados creative industries, arranged a CINEMA Day at the Capitol in an effort to seek support from State Legislators. The rally was a great success. In the State House, they filled the upper gallery and the Speaker suspended protocol and allowed a bit of cheering from the group and The House unanimously declared February 8th to be Cinema Day.
Then Governor John Hickenlooper, a strong advocate of expanding the creative industries in Colorado, and other legislators got involved and with a push from the Governor, a bill was passed in the 2012 session to increase film incentives from 10% to 20%. As Denver council woman Debbie Ortega stated, In a time when our government is looking to spur economic development and create jobs, the Colorado State legislature in the 2012 session increased film incentives from 10% to 20% and will provide a state guarantee for a senior bank loan program for production companies that fit a certain criteria. This will create an amazing opportunity to turn a $4 million film budget into $25 million of spending! Bravo to Governor Hickenlooper, the State Legislature and Donald Zuckerman for a successful effort. Film production creates jobs, boosts tax revenues and benefits every area in our State
On May 18, GOVERNOR JOHN HICKENLOOPER signed HB 1286 into law, a film incentive bill that provides a 20% rebate on qualified local expenditures for film, television, commercial, games and other forms of content creation as well as a loan guarantee program for films. The law took effect on July 1, 2012. After eight years, Representative Massey with the help of Zuckerman, Governor Hichenlooper and many others got the bill through both houses by a 2/3 majority. Senators Jean White and Linda Newell sponsored the bill in the Senate.
Guidelines to qualify for the incentive
Qualifying projects must be a visual or audio/visual production including, but not limited to: feature films, TV shows, commercials, music videos, video game development or any other major form of recorded audio/visual production intended for theatrical use, and/or for internal industrial, corporate or institutional use. Projects that may be considered "obscene" will not qualify for the incentives.
Out-of-state production companies will have to spend at least $1,000,000 on local production expenditures to qualify for the incentive rebates.
Local based production companies (with 12 months residency) will have to spend at least $100,000 on local production expenditures to qualify for the incentives.
Local production expenditures may include various production activities and costs such as local crew and talent wages, pre-production and post production elements, set construction, location and prop rentals, special effects, equipment rentals, travel fares, insurance, lodging and food, audio and visual recording techniques, or any other payment made in connection to the progression of the final production.
Requires that 50% of your workforce to be from Colorado.
Maximum payment is one million dollars per employee or contractor that can be paid out by the production company. Any payments that exceed one million dollars per employee, talent or contractor will not qualify for the incentives.
If you would like to apply for the Colorado film incentives program, you must fill out a "Statement of Intent" and send it to "The Office of Film, Television & Media" as soon as you have determined your shooting dates. Please visit the HYPERLINK "http://www.coloradofilm.org/" Office of Film, Television and Media for more details.
State Guarantee Loan Program
This is the only loan program of this kind in the country! Colorado will finance up to 20 percent of your entire production budget for certain qualifying projects. There are a few factors that will be put into consideration before a production is awarded the loan. Your film production must ultimately be approved by the Office of Film, Television and Media, in conjunction with the Colorado Economic Development Commission to qualify for this unique opportunity.
Awarding the loans
The film office will use discretion when awarding loans to productions and determine if your company has the professional experience, business background and qualifications in film & television production.
Production companies must be bonded by a major bonding company.
Production companies must be contracted with a major sales or distribution company, as well as provide estimates of projected sales that support full loan repayment.
Colorado now has the opportunity to return to the glory days of major film productions coming to the state. The highly skilled production professionals that live here will be able find work at home. Many communities throughout the state will again benefit as outside money is brought to their coffers that will greatly affect their economy. The incentive program not only encourages outside production companies to come to Colorado but also gives local companies the opportunity to originate production in the state.
Colorado Film & Video Association HYPERLINK "http://www.cfva.com" www.cfva.com
The Office of Film Television & Media HYPERLINK "http://www.coloradofilm.org" www.coloradofilm.org
Colorado Creative Industries HYPERLINK "http://www.coloradocreativeindustries.org" www.coloradocreativeindustries.org
Thoughts by Industry leaders on the new film incentive
David Emrich, President Post Modern
Colorado has had a 100-year history of being a film location. Clearly the last 15 years has been the low point for film and TV productions to shoot in Colorado since the 1930s. With the passage of the new Film Incentive package, Colorado will see some production return. Unlike most other states, this incentive package should be profitable not only at the local level, but also at the state levelrather than being a giveaway by the state government as a purely local economic development initiative.This first year should prove that the new incentive package is good for everyoneproduction companies, localities, and state governmentso that the program can be expanded in the next few years.
Richard Buchanan, VP & GM of Content Services, Comcast Media Center/West Works Studios
The new incentive program represents a major milestone in the effort to bring more film and video business to our state as well as keep it from leaving. It allows us to be more competitive with other states whose programs have lured away location-based video creation. The new business will also encourage students to come to Colorado to embark on a career in multimedia and bolster the number of media businesses seeking our highly skilled workforce and video communications infrastructure for their projects.
Eric Anolin, Colorist - Crosspoint
I'm cautiously optimistic about the recently passed Colorado Film Incentives bill. Mr. Zuckerman should be applauded for the effort and dedication he put forth to bring real, positive change to the future of film production in our state. I think that members of the production community will benefit greatly when projects of all budget sizes choose Colorado; and I appreciate the ripple-effect that these productions can have elsewhere in the state economy (hotels, restaurants, tourism, etc..). However, I am hesitant to predict any meaningful benefit for Colorado post-production companies.
Before this most recent legislation, we saw a few out-of-state productions here in Colorado. Often these jobs shoot here, but the editing and finish work is completed entirely in Southern California. Technological advances in digital cinema have only accelerated this hit-and-run production paradigm. Post-production professionals in Colorado are better served by supporting local production. I'm hopeful that the new film incentives bring exposure and experience to the incredibly talented production community of Colorado. But I'm also hopeful that from this experience is born a thriving, homegrown, Colorado-based film industry.
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Rocky Mountain Recorders joins Colorado in welcoming a new era of movie making to our State. We have been holding our collective breaths, waiting for this for a long time. Lets rock, Colorado!