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Utah sells itself at Sundance

by Andrew Kirk, OF THE RECORD STAFF

John Corser is at the Sundance Film Festival this week promoting not a film but the state of Utah.

President of FilmUtah, he produces a semiannual magazine that promotes the state to filmmakers.

"It’s a way to promote the Utah to the world," he said. "The world of independent film is coming to us and here’s our chance to introduce ourselves."

Historically, Utah has been the third most popular state for filming movies and television behind New York and California. Over the past decade there’s been an incentive war as states like Louisiana, Michigan and Iowa have fought to get more film business. But they didn’t go about it wisely, Corser said. They went too far and ended up getting nothing from the deals; some of the states even closed their film commissions.

Utah has played the market wisely, and is now able to offer competitive incentives benefiting the state, he said.

Some really big-budget projects have already been to Utah or are planning to come, he said. His job, and the purpose of his publication FilmUtah, is to showcase those incentives to the world’s filmmakers and attract of them.

Producers submit a budget and a script to the Utah Film Commission. If both are approved, when the project is over the producer proves their expenditures to a state auditor, and if it meets a threshhold, a certain percentage is returned.

The system is set up to accommodate large productions as well as small independent films. The more spent, the more saved, Corser explained.

Being able to show the savings to an investor is great business practice for these filmmakers. Consequently, the incentives offered by a state become a major deciding factor in choosing locale.

Not every community has had good experiences hosting production sets, but Corser said many of those problems have been solved within the industry.

"Filmmakers have a tendency to think they rule the world… it comes from them having a job they’ve got to get done," he acknowledged.

But being good guests in a town is in the long-term interest of the producers, he said. They’ve learned from past mistakes and make sure filming is a good experience for everyone involved, he said.

Corser’s dream is to get more television shows filming in Utah. Those productions stick around a few years, in contrast to a few weeks for films. They’re a great boon to local economies and benefit the state in multiple ways.

FilmUtah can be found on stands at Sundance, Slamdance and X-dance film festival locations. The next issue is planned for June in time for the fall festivals, Corser said.

A seminar will be held at The Yarrow Jan. 26 from 10 a.m. to 1 p.m. to introduce FilmUtah and discuss the topic, "Financing Your Film: Avoiding Pitfalls from Development to Distribution."

For more information, visit filmutah.org.

Seminar on film financing sponsored by FilmUtah Jan. 26 at The Yarrow. 10 a.m. to 1 p.m.


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