Film industry leaders meet at Utah State Capitol to show support for tax incentive
February 17, 2018
From old Western films such as "Butch Cassidy and the Sundance Kid" to the classic movie "Footloose," Utah's diverse landscape has served as the backdrop for countless films. At the Utah State Capitol this week, the film industry came to remind lawmakers how important those films can be for the state's economy.
The Film Day on the Hill, sponsored by the Utah Film Commission, brought in 25 vendors to showcase the breadth of the film industry in Utah, said Virginia Pearce, director of the commission. She said that the goal of the event was to receive continued support from the State Legislature during the legislative session.
"I think it's important for people to understand that there is so much that goes into the film industry, it's not just that you pay a price to see a movie," she said. "There are actors, producers, construction workers, electricians and costume designers."
Currently, the state offers a 20 or 25 percent fully refundable tax credit to those filming in the state that meet requirements, such as spending a certain amount of money in the state and hiring a percentage of cast and crew members from Utah. There is also a 20 percent cash rebate available to production companies that spend up to $1 million in Utah. Pearce said that she hopes that the incentive program can continue to grow.
Some TV series' are shooting in Utah because of that incentive, such as "Yellowstone," which was filmed at the Utah Film Studios in Park City. Disney's "Andi Mack" is being filmed in Magna and HBO's "Westworld" is shooting in southern Utah.
Matthew Crandall, co-owner of the Utah Film Studios, said that the benefits of film on the economy do not come only from people in the state being hired to work on films, but also the money that the crew members and cast spend on lodging, dining, car rentals and other services.
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"It just helps out everybody," he said.
He said that it is estimated that "Yellowstone" has put $30 million into the local economy, with $12 million of that in goods and services. Another large portion is in the construction and materials used to create the sets that sit inside the film studio.
Even though Crandall knows that the money is temporary because eventually the production company will leave, he said that increasing the tax incentive could entice productions to stick around for longer and make work more permanent.
"Hollywood chases incentives," he said. "It's either we get that money, or we will get none of it."
Utah Gov. Gary Herbert said that he understands the importance of film on the state's economy since it makes the economy well rounded.
"You don't want to have all of your economic eggs in one basket," he said. "We have one of the most diverse economies in America today, and tourism, travel and film are a big part of that."
He said that the current tax break incentive is bringing in more films than in the past, but he also hopes that production companies come because of the natural landscapes Utah offers with its mountains, valleys, deserts and scenery that resemble Mars.
"This is a great location to have films made, and the people here are extremely talented," he said. "If you want to make a movie that's successful, you ought to consider coming to Utah."
Herbert said that many universities in the state have programs that are training the next generation of film industry workers. At Utah Valley University, for example, there is a production assistant course that trains people for that job. Duane Andersen, professor for the digital cinema production program at the school, helped create it in collaboration with the Avrec Art House.
Marcie Gibboney, a board member of the Motion Picture Association of Utah and production coordinator for "Andi Mack," said that it is a continuing problem to find enough production assistants in Utah to work on the films. But now that there are programs in place to train production assistants, those jobs are getting filled.
But Gibboney and Jacquelyn Cerva, co-founder of Avrec Art House, said that they also need to monitor the trainings so the program does not grow too fast. Even though more companies are filming in Utah, there is still a lot of room for growth, Gibboney said.
Tina Lewis, a member of Sundance Institute's Utah Advisory Board, agreed that expansion of the industry is possible. She said that, although the institute focuses more on education than bringing films to Utah, they often go hand in hand.
For example, Taylor Sheridan, writer and director of "Yellowstone," first came to Utah when he brought his film "Wind River" to the Sundance Film Festival last year. Lewis said that he fell in love with the state during that visit and chose to bring his next major production here.
She said that because of the partnerships within the industry in Utah, the tax incentive benefits everyone, including the Sundance Institute.
"Film does so much in the state of Utah," she said. "It's important every year to remind legislators the role that film plays within the state.