Monday, July 9, 2012

The Movies are Coming, The Movies are Coming

Friday May 18 was a landmark day for Colorado members of SAG-AFTRA and others in the film, television and media community. Governor John Hickenlooper signed House Bill 1286: production incentive legislation that had been years coming and for which many members of SAG-AFTRA in Colorado had worked diligently to bring to fruition. During his remarks before signing the bill, Governor Hickenlooper proudly noted his SAG-AFTRA membership in the Denver local. The signing ceremony was attended by hundreds of supporters including many members of the Denver local who posed for photos with Governor Hickenlooper after the bill was signed. Also speaking before the signing was Colorado Film Commissioner Donald Zuckerman. Zuckerman, a long-time motion picture producer himself, was crucial in crafting and guiding the legislation through the process. He too acknowledged the help members from SAG-AFTRA had given in getting the bill passed. Colorado has been a location for filmmakers for well over 110 years. The earliest filmmaking in Colorado dates to 1897 when the “Festival of the Mountain & Plain” was filmed. Since then, hundreds of other filmmakers have come to Colorado to shoot such films as “True Grit”, “Cat Ballou”, “How The West Was Won”, “The Searchers”, “Sleeper”, “City Slickers’ and “Thelma & Louise”. During the 1980s and early 1990s, Denver and Colorado were a hotbed of production for feature films as well as television series, mini-series and commercials. “The Sacketts”, “Centennial”, “Father Dowling”, ‘Diagnosis Murder”, and “Perry Mason” kept many of our members regularly and gainfully employed. However by the end of the decade that production had all but dried up. It was then that SAG-AFTRA members, in conjunction with other in the film community set about to create meaningful incentive package. With the legislation having officially gone into effect on July 1, 2012, the long wait and the production drought may finally be over. According to Commissioner Zuckerman, a couple of projects may already be in the works to take advantage of the incentives. The incentive package is geared for independent productions in the $5 Million to $10 Million range though the incentives can be used for lower cost productions with a $100,000 minimum and are not limited to feature films. Other types of media production, including commercials, television and video games are eligible for the incentives. While I am hopeful that we will see out-of state production finding its way (and jobs) here, I am more interested in seeing our own homegrown film makers using these incentives to establish a more viable local film industry. If you are a filmmaker or know one that might be interested, more information is here: Colorado Film Incentives COLORADO FILM INCENTIVE PROGRAM:  20% cash rebate for production costs taking place in the state. The incentive program covers feature films, television pilots, television series (broadcast and cable), television commercials, music videos, industrials, documentaries, video game design and creation, and other forms of content creation.  To be eligible a Colorado production company must have qualified local expenditures of at least $100,000. An out-of-state production company must have at least $1 million in qualified local expenditures (the exception being television commercials and video game productions, which must have qualified local expenditures of $250,000).  The program takes effect July 1, 2012.  An additional component of the new incentive is a loan guarantee program with the State guaranteeing up to 20% of a production budget. This program is only available to film productions.  Other major components of the new incentive program include: • At least 50% of the workforce must be Colorado residents. • Qualified local expenditures include above-the-line and below-the-line salaries so long as income taxes are paid in Colorado. Cap of $1 million on any one employee. • Requires a production company that has received conditional approval for an incentive to retain a certified public accountant licensed to practice in this state to conduct an audit of financial documents that detail the expenses incurred in the course of the film production activities in Colorado, and requires such certified public accountant to certify to the office that the requirements were met • Approximately $4 million available for Fiscal Year July 1, 2012-June 30, 2013 • Colorado has limited funding for this program and projects will be selected based on the merits set forth in their application and not on a “first come first served” basis. As Ron Henderson, the long-time director of the Denver Film Society and Film Festival always said at the beginning of the Film Festival: “Let the Movies begin.”

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