Perks may lure more directors
January 16, 2009
Movies and a documentary film were shot last year in Echo, the North Summit hamlet at the mouth of historic Echo Canyon.
Where the Donner Party once stayed, showbiz types now shoot scenes that require snow-covered hills or red rock cliffs.
"We get some income on it. It helps," Echo resident Frank Cattelan said about payments he’s received from film crews that use the gas station or café he owns in the town. "They aren’t coming in for free."
State Sen. Allen Christensen, a Republican who represents most of eastern Summit County, is co-sponsoring legislation to provide incentives in the form of cash rebates to small-budget producers who film in Utah. Senate Bill 14 would provide tax credits to larger-budget productions.
"I think it’ll help," Cattelan said. "I think it is a good idea because [Interstate 80] has already hurt the town pretty bad."
Business at his diner nearly died when freeways were built, he said.
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Meanwhile, Oakley resident Keith Walker hopes directors will film at his 1930s diner at 981 W. Weber Canyon Road.
"They have been in downtown Kamas. They have filmed in Oakley and Peoa," Walker said. "We haven’t seen any for a year now."
The filmmakers provide exposure for eastern Summit County and offering financial incentives would lure more of them to town, he said.
"We need to create more tourism in Utah to keep up with Colorado," Walker said. "The first couple of months we were open we had three different location scouts come in and take pictures."
Competition is growing among states to attract filmmakers, said Peter Baxter, president and co-founder of Slamdance, a festival screening in Park City at the same time as the Sundance Film Festival.
"States like Utah, New Mexico, Michigan more recently, have been getting filmmakers to come to their states. They welcome independent filmmakers and are very happy and pleased to see them, and that is not always the case, unfortunately, in California, where independent filmmakers are often competing with the type of pricing that studios have been paying," Baxter said in a telephone interview Thursday. "It’s becoming more and more competitive now for states offering benefits, and that is actually a great thing for independent filmmakers, especially if now the states are focusing more on lower budgets and true independently made pictures."
Often filmmakers simply save their receipts to receive rebates from governments when filming ends, he said.
"It is a great environment, obviously, for an independent filmmaker to work in," Baxter said. "Permit costs are very expensive in some of these cities like Los Angeles."
Directors in Utah find urban landscapes mingled with natural splendor, he explained.
"It’s known worldwide as a place of natural beauty At Slamdance, I’ve known many filmmakers who have shot in Utah and from my discussion with filmmakers, it is a relatively easy and straightforward state to work with," Baxter said. "It’s amazing what, even with low budgets, you can do to make all types of environments work."
Film crews on location can create economic boons for lighting companies, camera operators and businesses that rent vehicles, Baxter said.
"The state benefits, obviously, because you are bringing in dollars from outside and they are spent at local businesses," Baxter said. "The independent filmmaker benefits because, obviously, there is a tax incentive to spend money, and that seems appropriate for the effort that it takes to make a film."