Off Limits

Why are there no cameras rolling in Denver?

Stunt double
Remember the movie Dumb and Dumber, with Jeff Daniels? How about 3 Ninjas: High Noon at Mega Mountain, with Hulk Hogan, or Things to Do in Denver When You're Dead, the Andy Garciaflick that was just about DOA when it hit movie theaters? Those are just a few of the state's starring roles touted by the Colorado Motion Picture and Television Commission, the state agency charged with promoting filmmaking across Colorado and assisting those production companies that do shoot here.

In fact, scarcely a week goes by "that you won't see Colorado at the theater or on television...and not a day goes by that someone isn't shooting in Colorado," boasts the CMPTC's Web site. "And it wasn't necessarily a feature film -- Colorado hosts a vast number of national commercials, television and cable shows, corporate video projects, documentaries and educational shows."

So why are two of Colorado's biggest and most personal stories being filmed in other states?

"It was just unfortunate that both were happening at the same time," says Michael Klein, director of the Colorado Film Commission. "The ultimate irony is that we were talking to the John Denver people about duplicating Boulder for Aspen and talking to the JonBenét Ramsey people about duplicating Aspen for Boulder."

No, the ultimate irony is that Colorado landed neither production, which helps explain why one local filmmaker calls Klein "the most unpopular person in the Denver film community, since he hasn't closed a deal in years." (But just in case he does, the local asked to remain anonymous.)

As it turns out, Take Me Home: The John Denver Storyis being filmed in Vancouver because the money-crunchers at CBS decided it would be less expensive to film it there. The two-hour movie stars Chad Lowe as the soprano songbird and will be aired sometime early next year. "We were heavily into negotiations when they decided it was cheaper to shoot in Canada," Klein says, adding that Vancouver is now playing the part of Denver and Colorado more often than Utah. "I challenged them to prove it, and they did point out some areas where they got better breaks, but it was merely a function of money, plain and simple."

Aspen didn't work for either tearjerker. "I don't think it's a secret that Aspen is very particular about the kind of projects that come into the community," Klein reveals. "A great deal of people who live there are from the entertainment business, and they go there to get away from it, so they're probably not the most receptive community we have." Breckenridge, he points out, stood in for Aspen in Dumb and Dumber.

Although the JonBenét movie -- also a CBS production -- will be partially filmed in Boulder (mostly standing shots of the Ramseys' former house, the Pearl Street Mall, courthouses and police stations), the majority of the four-hour, two-part TV flick, which is based on Perfect Murder, Perfect Town, by Lawrence Schiller, will be shot in Utah. "The producers were much more concerned about the sensitivities of the Boulder community and didn't want to run into any locals who would be upset with the nature of the film," Klein explains. "The biggest issue was the lack of cooperation from the police department, who said it was an active investigation. The producers just didn't want to hear that."

CBS's "sensitivities" about the JonBenét movie are made perfectly clear by the following revealing interview with CBS spokeswoman Susan Marks:

What is the shooting schedule, and when will you be in Boulder?

"We are not in production now in Boulder. We have no comment on our shooting schedule."

Why aren't you shooting more of the movie in Boulder?

"I have no comment on that."

Did you work with the Colorado Film Commission?

"I have no idea if the film commission was worked with."

Is it cheaper to shoot movies in Utah or Canada?

"We don't discuss production costs. Well, then, I think we've answered all of your questions."

Not hardly. But let's cut back to Klein.

Although Colorado has been the setting for a number of big stories just begging for translation to the screen -- Columbine, of course; the Timothy McVeigh trial; the skiing death of Michael Kennedy; the massive manhunt of the three men who killed a Cortez police officer near the Four Corners -- no movies about any of these subjects are currently in production. As far as Klein knows, that is.

The Cortez manhunt did inspire Tony Hillerman's new book, Hunting Badger, which got Klein's hopes up. "The fugitive one -- I always thought we would get phone calls, but no one picked up on it," he says. "There was too much sensitivity over Columbine, and no one has called us on that. But you never know what is going to make for a story and what isn't."

Early snow could bring out the studios this year, he says optimistically. "Everybody has been looking for snow this year, so I'm in a particularly good mood. The industry is very cyclical that way. Some years it's deserts, some years it's snow. I expect the phone to start ringing this week."

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