Film Commission approves two projects
The Utah Film Commission promised a busy start for the summer when the Governor’s Office of Economic Development Board of Directors approved two new projects for state film incentives.
The first is "The Stray," directed and produced by Mitch Davis, whose credits include "The Other Side of Heaven," "A House Divided," and most recently "Christmas Eve."
His film is a true story about a stray dog that wanders into a family’s life and heroically saves the family’s father and oldest son while they backpack in the mountains.
The production will spend an estimated $637,000 in the state and hire approximately 60 local cast and crew, the Utah Film Commission announced in a press release.
It will film in Summit County, and Davis is in talks about utilizing the Park City Film Studios, according to Marshall Moore, vice president of marketing, public relations and government relations for the Park City Film Studios.
"Mitch has toured the studios and is interested in using it, but we don’t have anything confirmed, yet," Moore told The Park Record. "We are really excited that he is considering using the studios and look forward to working with him."
A second film "We Love You, Sally Carmichael!" was also approved to receive an incentive, according to Utah Film Commission Director Virginia Pearce.
Veteran actor Christopher Gorham, known for his work in "Covert Affairs," "Once Upon a Time" and "Ugly Betty," will make his directorial debut for the family-friendly comedy set in Utah, she said.
"We Love You, Sally Carmichael!" revolves around the best-selling romance novelist that the general public knows as Sally Carmichael, who in reality is bitter author Simon Hayes.
The film is produced by Go Films and the project will hire approximately 58 local cast and crew and will spend an estimated $227,000 in Utah, according to Pearce.
The productions will begin principal photography this June, with filming taking place in the state over a period of 45 days combined.
The state film incentives are a way for Utah to attract filmmakers to shoot their projects in Utah, Pearce explained.
"Our incentive program is a 20 to 25 percent post-production tax credit," Pearce explained to The Park Record. "The statute allows us to give up to 25 percent back of what filmmakers spend in Utah."
The things that count include Utah hires and production resources — locations, equipment, rentals and anything they spend money for in Utah, according to Pearce.
"That’s the way most states and countries run their film-incentives program," she said.
There is an application process that filmmakers and the Utah Film Commission follows before the projects are approved.
"We talk with the production team and often break down their scripts so we can get them some ideas about locations," Pearce said. "We’ll also answer any questions they have about permits and crews.
"We do have talented, professional crews that have worked all over the country and a surprising amount of resources, including the Park City Film Studio, for a state our size," Pearce said.
Filmmakers apply for the incentives once they nail down the casts, production dates and budgets.
"We’ve been chatting with both Mitch and Chris for a couple of months and it’s exciting because they both have Utah ties," Pearce said. "Also, interestingly, they have ties with each other through [the film] ‘The Other Side of Heaven,’ which just happens to be a funny coincidence."
Davis was the writer and director of "The Other Side of Heaven" and Gorham was the film’s star.
"Now, they’re going to be shooting different films at the same time," Pearce said.
While Utah is known for providing locations and crews for such big-budget films as "Indiana Jones and the Last Crusade," "Butch Cassidy & the Sundance Kid," "The Lone Ranger," "High School Musical," "Forrest Gump" and the network TV series "Touched by an Angel," and "Blood and Oil," most of the films that shoot here are independent, Pearce said.
"During the last year, of 26 films that were approved to shoot in Utah, 21 were indies," she said.
Pearce credits the Sundance Film Festival for turning the spotlight on independent film.
"That’s all it’s been for the past 30 years," she said. "And we try to show filmmakers who come in for the festival that Utah can be a great place for production as much as it is a place for distribution and festival showings."
The Utah Film Commission also enjoys working with independent filmmakers.
"The genre is a great fit for us," she said. "Productions of this size are a great example of how well Utah does in the independent film market."
That’s not to say the Utah Film Commission doesn’t welcome big-budget, studio projects.
"We’ve been involved with the film industry for a long time, reaching back in the 1930s with the John Ford westerns that were shot in Southern Utah," Pearce said. "We made our name that way and I think we have shot well over 1,000 films since then. So, it’s exciting to see the industry grow. With what we have in the pipeline, this summer is shaping up to be the ‘summer of indie film’ in Utah."
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Park City High School sophomore Emily Bronstein founded the Seraphine Project that helps at-risk teens in Zimbabwe and Zambia.