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Posted: June 04, 2013

Lights! Camera! Inaction!

Sides drawn over state-funded film incentives

Gigi Sukin

“In the ‘80s, Colorado was a major hub, if not the major hub for cable aggregation and distribution,” says Michael Haskins, attorney and president of CINEMA, the statewide advocacy group to promote Colorado’s media industry. “This led to even more local film and television production through the early ‘90s.”

Then the rest of the global market caught on to the benefits of inviting film crews onto their turf at discounted costs.

“Other countries offer support because they know it’s good for their economies and good for tourism,” says Brad Krevoy, executive producer of “When Calls the Heart,” a Hallmark Channel series scheduled to shoot in Telluride July through August.

Krevoy, who has developed and distributed more than 100 motion pictures and television programs, points out that the entertainment industry produces one of our nation’s leading exports.

As a result, many states got smart and re-shored the making of the movies and television shows with bargain programs of their own, including tax credits and exemptions, cash grants, fee-free locations and other perks.

Colorado took its time getting on board, and proponents believe it would be a mistake to back out now.

“With many states competing against one another by offering incentives for film projects, it’s necessary for us to be in the game,” Ferrandino says.

And a fiercely competitive game it is: Currently, 37 states offer incentives.

“I think the real problem is the need to educate the public as to how incentive programs work and why they are essential,” Zuckerman says. “What a lot of the opponents do not like is that everyone else is doing it, so why should we? They want to see proof, metrics, showing that we get something substantial back for
the incentive.”

He says they will have actual numbers, not just projections, ready for the next legislative session.

“And it is important to factor in the intangibles: increase in tourism, positive branding for the state which might cause a business to open an office here,” he says. “While these cannot be easily quantified, there is ample anecdotal and some empirical evidence.”

Zuckerman points to Disney’s upcoming American action western, “The Lone Ranger,” starring Johnny Depp and Armie Hammer. The project reportedly spent $7 million in Creede during 14 weeks of set construction and filming. After last year’s shoot, sales tax collection went up 24.7 percent from July through September.

Zuckerman says he’s primarily steered clear of corporate giants, attempting instead to bolster local companies, including High Noon Entertainment, Rocky Mountain PBS and The Frame, a Colorado production company.

“We’ve been out of money since February,” he says. “We have a number of other projects that would like to come here, including a potential $10 million movie, and we cannot close on it now.”

Ferrandino says the film incentive program drives tourism and complements ongoing efforts to spread the Colorado brand.

“We want people to watch a Colorado-made film or TV show and say, ‘I want to visit the state where that beautiful scene was filmed,’” he says.

“Once they visit, they’ll want to do business here – and live here.”


 MOVIES (and TV) in the MAKING


“The Prospectors”: Tracking five gem-mining families on their mountain adventures, Colorado’s High Noon Entertainment – one of the largest independent production companies in the country – ramps up its second season after a successful nine-episode stint, distributed and fully funded by The Weather Channel. First Season Budget: $1.8 million. Est. Colorado spend (on all High Noon’s productions) $1,807,785. Est. Colorado hires: 34.


“Dear Eleanor”: Actor/producer Leonardo DiCaprio and his independent production company, Appian Way Productions are set to come to Colorado to film scenes of two teenage girls’ cross-country road trip to meet Eleanor Roosevelt. Set in the 1960’s, the crew will capture views from Lyons to Niwot to Longmont, Boulder and Denver. Budget: $3 million. Est. Colorado spend: $2,500,000. Est. Colorado crew hires: 40.


Universal Sports: The collaboration between NBC Sports and InterMedia Partners, LP will produce a number of Olympic sports programs in the coming fiscal year, including the comeback story of skier Lindsay Vonn. After moving the team from Los Angeles to the Comcast Media Center in Denver, production will begin with a $2.5 million budget for shooting in Colorado Springs, Steamboat Springs, Aspen and Vail. Est. Colorado Spend: $6,188,000. Est. Colorado hires: 44.


“The Frame” by The Frame LLC: The Colorado-based production company is currently filming its supernatural thriller about a young cargo thief and a paramedic, forced together by a mysterious event. Est. Colorado spend: $380,000. Est. Colorado hires: 13.


“When Calls the Heart”: To boost its original programming efforts, The Hallmark Channel green-lighted a new series set to film in Telluride July through August. Est. Colorado hires: 75 cast, 25 extras.


ON HOLD—“Caribou Records”: The story of James William Guercio’s recording studio in Boulder has been postponed following the JBC vote. The funds set aside for this project were used for the Hallmark series incentive.

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Gigi Sukin is an Associate Editor at ColoradoBiz. She can be reached at

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