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More money for filmmakers could mean payday for Summit County

Frank Cattelan's colorful cafe and gas station in Echo Canyon have been used in two movies so so far in 2008, including the sequel to "Donnie Darko." (SCOTT SINE/PARK RECORD)
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Frank Cattelan is not a Hollywood star.

But since opening Frank’s Café and Frank’s Service gas station in Echo Canyon in 1947, Cattelan has been on set with Patrick Swayze, Randy Travis and Robert Urich.

That’s because their set was Cattelan’s café.

"They filmed ‘The Stand’ in here in 1993," Cattelan said. "They’ve done a lot of others. I can’t remember all of them."

Echo Canyon may not be a hotspot for movie making, but it is becoming an increasingly popular location. Filmmakers have shot parts of two movies at Frank’s Cafe so far this year and twelve since the business opened 61 years ago.

"I wouldn’t say it’s all fun," Cattelan said. "It’s maybe 40 or 50 percent fun and the rest is work."

Filmmakers spent from 10 days in late May on location in Echo Canyon shooting the sequel to the 2001 cult classic "Donnie Darko." The film stars Daveigh Chase as Donnie Darko’s little sister, Samantha Darko.

Richard Kelly, the first film’s director, is not involved in the film and neither are Maggie and Jake Gyllenhaal, who starred in the first film.

Utah is home to more than 26 productions for the 2008 fiscal year totaling 600 production days, creating 1,600 jobs and generating $50 million in revenue for the state, according to Marshall Moore of the Utah Film Commission.

The state offers 10 percent post-production rebates for whatever a filmmaker spends in the state.

The budget for the rebate program is $5.5 million for 2008 and caps at $500,000 per film, according to Moore.

The $5.5 million doesn’t include a special appropriation the Utah legislature passed to lure the makers of High School Musical 3 back to the state. The Disney Channel movie, starring Zach Efron and Vanessa Hudgens, should get about $3 million in reimbursment.

Filmmakers receive rebates only on what they spend in the state after submitting to an audit. "[Filmmakers] just don’t come unless there are incentives," Moore said. Movies with a budget of at least $1 million are eligible for the tax rebate. "Our sweet spot is between one and five million."

Moore said big studio productions are drawn to surrounding states because of better incentives for filmmakers. New Mexico offers a 25 percent post-production rebate. Connecticut, Oregon and Louisiana also outdo Utah in rolling out the red carpet for actors and directors, he said.

"I think incentives are very important," said State Sen. Allen Christensen, who represents northern Summit County. "We’ve made a good attempt at it. I don’t want to get into a bidding war with other states, particularly New Mexico, but we also don’t want to be the last place studios choose."

Christensen said the rebate program returns $7 to the state for every dollar invested. "This is a new type of venture and it’s paying off handsomely," he said.

Utah’s post-production rebate program has garnered praise from lawmakers, but some industry insiders living in Park City said the state could do more to entice filmmakers to Utah.

Diane Millett is a production designer who has spent the last 22 years building, painting and decorating movie sets.

"The normal person here in Utah hears about incentives for studios and their first reaction is ugh," she said. "What people don’t realize is how much money a film production brings into a local economy."

Millett said a common misconception about the incentives is that they only pad the pockets of wealthy studios and producers.

She said the real beneficiaries are local vendors, like Frank Cattelan in Echo.

"I think Utah has been a little slow getting going," she said.

To be competitive we definitely need more incentives. Wardrobe can spend a thousand dollars a week at dry cleaning. There’s catering, supplies, gas, cars, hotels. It’s really amazing how many people benefit . . . The money goes to building a better Utah."

State Sen. Kevin VanTassell said the Legislature was willing to consider suggestions brought forth by the Utah Film Commission.

Utah began its rebate program in 2005 with $1 million. 2007, the legislature had appropriated $4.5 million for films and that number increased by another million for the 2008 fiscal year.

Moore said one telling statistic is the revenue generated by films shot in Utah in 2007 that didn’t use incentives. They brought in a meager $6 million compared to the more than $50 million brought in by films that used incentives.

"I personally believe it’s been really successful," VanTassell said.

Utah is an ideal location for making movies because of the variety of landscapes in the state and the strong crew infrastructure, Moore said. It is an arm’s reach from Hollywood and has good locals crews, he added.

Frank Cattelan said filmmaking has kept Echo Canyon alive. He got $1,600 for the two and a half days his restaurant and gas station were closed.

"I figure I made enough to subsidize what I lost," he said.

Made in Utah in 2008

High School Musical 3

Minutemen

The Cell 2

Blank Slate

Gentlemen Broncos


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