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Colorado legislation aims to boost incentive program for film production

'It’s better than any advertising you could ever do'
Colorado legislation aims to boost incentive program for film production
Posted at 5:41 AM, May 12, 2022
and last updated 2022-05-12 07:41:59-04

ESTES PARK, Colo. — Many movies are set in Colorado, but few are actually made here.

A bill passed in Colorado's state legislature this session aims to modify the state's incentive program for film production. The goal is to make Colorado more competitive when producers are picking a location for their shoot.

The legislation creates a film incentive task force, which will study the current incentives offered for film or television production in Colorado. The task force will submit their findings to legislators at the start of next year.

“Forming a task force to examine our incentives, with a goal of seeing how we can better compete against neighboring states that have tremendous incentives, and frankly, have been eating our lunch," said Donald Zuckerman, the director of the Colorado Office of Film, Television and Media. “Neighboring western states, their incentives are frequently 50% higher than ours, sometimes even more.”

Right now, the program offers 20% cash back on qualified expenses, which must be money spent in Colorado on things like payroll or vendor expenses. The legislation allows the executive director of the Office of Economic Development to authorize the approval of an incentive exceeding the 20% rebate.

“A network really looks at where they are going to get the biggest bang for their buck," said Jim Janicek, the president and chief creative officer of Janicek Media. “It's devastating because you have people filming movies that are possibly about stories that happened in Colorado and they're filming them in Montana.”

Janicek has been in the industry for more than three decades, producing thousands of hours of television. Recently, his company worked on two movies mostly shot in Colorado.

“Colorado has so much to offer as far as, you know, it's beauty, it's crews, it's ease of work," Janicek said. “My passion is to see this blossom into something where we really get some studios here and a consistent machine going.”

To qualify for the rebate, at least 50% of the cast and crew hired must be local.

“I've always been based in Colorado. But it's always been a challenge for me, as well as my colleagues, to actually get consistent work here," said Sonny G, a professional actor who lives in Denver. “We're always pitching ourselves in other markets, in other agencies, which takes a lot of time, a lot of money, a lot of energy."

Brian Steward is the director of the Colorado Film School who said they offer around 300 students a world class education in film at community college prices.

“A high number of them want to stay here in Colorado and be part of this community, and programs like the film incentive program... really give them the chance to do that," Steward said. "If we lose our young creative class to other markets and nearby markets, then we lose a big piece of our filmmaking community here.”

Since the bill was passed, there will be a $2 million dollar transfer from the general fund to the Colorado Office of Film, Television and Media for the 2022-23 fiscal year.

“You're not going to get them to come here with a major television series for the entire series with $2 million," Zuckerman said.

There may be no better example of the impact a movie or show can have on a location than in Estes Park at The Stanley Hotel. The hotel is where Stephen King was inspired to write "The Shining," but the movie was actually filmed in Oregon. However, the legend surrounding the hotel and the misconception it was shot in Estes Park continues to bring countless people to the community.

“'The Shining' is a testament to how much that can happen in this state. And the opportunity to have more more movies filmed in Colorado, I think, is nothing but great for the state moving forward," said Rand Harrington, the incoming CEO and president of the Stanley Film Center. “The facts don't always move people. What is it that moves people? Emotions, right? And how you feel about something. How do you get somebody to feel something? You tell a story.”

A new story starting near The Stanley Hotel is the Stanley Film Center, a nonprofit organization that will open in two years.

The center will host an international film festival once a year, along with a museum dedicated to the horror genre. The hope is the center becomes a place where people can come to gather and celebrate film.