From Ink to The Frame, Jamin and Kiowa Winans Are Making Their Mark in the Movies

From Ink to The Frame, Jamin and Kiowa Winans Are Making Their Mark in the Movies
Anthony Camera

Kiowa Winans stands in the garage of her West Highland home, shaking a lifeless child.

"This is our stuffed Quinn," she says, clutching the little-girl-sized doll. She's referring to Quinn Hunchar, the actress who, at the age of eight, played Emma in the cult film Ink. The movie was written and directed by Kiowa's husband, Jamin Winans. He stands next to Kiowa, grinning at the macabre Muppet in her hands. Their garage has become a mausoleum for costumes and props, all stacked neatly in boxes and bags like eerie, discarded memories.

"I sewed this myself, which you can tell from the super-high quality," Kiowa jokes. In addition to co-producing Ink and all the other movies made by the couple's Denver-based company, Double Edge Films, she handles such duties as art direction, sound design, costume design -- and crafting creepy props.

In Ink, that prop plays its role well. The blond, faceless doll served as a stunt double in a scene where Emma is kidnapped from her bed by a supernatural intruder who then leaps from a second-story landing while holding her. It's one of many striking images that helped make the modest yet ambitious film a bona fide viral phenomenon. By Kiowa's estimate, Ink has been watched -- either legitimately or through online piracy -- somewhere in the vicinity of five million times since its release in 2009. In Denver alone, it ran for eight straight weeks at the Starz (now the Sie) FilmCenter. Fans around the world still send photos of homemade costumes they've created or tattoos they've gotten in honor of Ink. Not that everyone has been charmed by the movie's weirdness. "We were at a warehouse late one night after shooting Ink," Kiowa remembers. "We'd paid a guy to help us out. He didn't speak English. He saw Quinn leave with her mom, then he went outside to have a cigarette. A minute later I come out. I'm exhausted, and I'm trying to wrestle this doll back into the trash bag that I'd brought it in. This poor guy is smoking, and he looks at the doll and goes, 'Oh, la niña!' I was like, 'No, this isn't what it seems!' as I'm shoving her into a plastic bag."

Things that aren't what they seem are Kiowa and Jamin's specialty. The duo's three feature-length films -- 11:59 (released in 2005), Ink and The Frame, which opens October 17 at the Sie FilmCenter -- have one element in common: They're all set in the real world. But that world winds up being a far darker, stranger and more magical place than their characters -- or their viewers -- ever imagined.

David Carranza (left) and Rafael Hernandez in The Frame, the couple's first full-length film since Ink.
David Carranza (left) and Rafael Hernandez in The Frame, the couple's first full-length film since Ink.

"Be careful walking down the stairs," Jamin advises as he descends into the basement that houses his filmmaking studio. "Watch your head."

Jamin's warning has an ominous double meaning: His movies can bushwhack your brain. In person, he and Kiowa are warm, friendly, unassuming thirty-somethings; on film, Jamin's warped vision is enough to rattle your entire view of existence. In 11:59, a photojournalist realizes his memory is being manipulated, which hints at a sinister conspiracy. In Ink, a child-stealing creature in black robes and chains is pursued between our world and a dimension beyond. And in The Frame, two strangers find their lives connected and overseen in a way that shouldn't be possible.

Some artists paint, sculpt or play music in their basements. Jamin creates whole realities. "This is where the magic happens," Kiowa adds, not without irony, as she joins him. The Winans basement is as spare as their movies are extravagant. A minimal audio-production setup has been installed in one of the two tiny rooms that's little more than a microphone and a Foley box -- a bed of gravel used to overdub the everyday sounds of people walking around. Headphones hang from a hook. A pair of violins sit on a bar stool. "These are the violins that we used in The Frame," Kiowa says, picking one up. "This one's the stunt violin.

Ink required a stunt doll; The Frame required a stunt violin. Without giving too much away, that says a lot. The new film is artful and poignant, yet full of action and tension. It's also a story that hinges on a mystery -- one so staggering in scope that Jamin and Kiowa are zealously protective of the plot.

Spoilers are unavoidable in this age of instantaneous Internet reviews, but the filmmakers are determined to keep any salient details from leaking before The Frame's wide release; after its Denver run, they'll take it on the road for openings in Los Angeles, Portland, Seattle, New York, Austin and Chicago this fall. They're so guarded about The Frame that the film's official trailer barely reveals anything about it. Like illusionists, they want their audiences to go in cold.

Most of their illusions, though, are made with software. In the basement's slightly larger room, Jamin and Kiowa each have a standing desk and a computer. He handles the video editing, and she focuses on the audio. There's an electronic keyboard attached to Jamin's station; on top of everything else, he composes and performs the soundtracks of his own movies. (The ethereal score for Ink so impressed director Joe Carnahan that he used part of it in his 2011 thriller The Grey, starring Liam Neeson. Jamin, a huge Carnahan fan, considers it an honor.) The entire process is intensive and time-consuming, especially when a minor flub in on-set lighting or post-production file-juggling can result in an extra month of painstaking work.

"What we don't have in money, we have to make up for in time," Jamin says. It feels less like an excuse and more like a motto. "When you look at our humble little basement studio, we've basically just got a keyboard and a camera. Nothing's changed in all these years."

 

Jamin Winan on set of The Frame
Jamin Winan on set of The Frame

Despite Jamin Winans's disarming humility, a lot has changed for him over the years. Born in Fort Wayne, Indiana, he moved to Colorado with his family in the early '80s, when he was five, first to Denver and then to Evergreen. He describes his parents as "rebels, although you'd never know it by looking at them. My mom's a CPA. But they were adventurous, and I think they wanted to create a new path for themselves."

His parents bucked convention in another way, one that seems antithetical to the upbringing of a future filmmaker: They refused to have a television. "We didn't have a TV until I was ten," he recalls. "My parents were just not fans of having a TV in the house. I remember when I was little, my dad rented a TV and a VCR one night just to watch The Blues Brothers. It was crazy. It was a big thing. For me, seeing TV or a movie had a huge impact. It was magical."

Another revelation came when Jamin experienced his first big-screen eye-opener. "I saw Back to the Future at the drive-in at Cinderella City when I was six," he says. "Watching a story on a screen was something I never took for granted at the time."

And Jamin's reverence for video as a storytelling medium only grew. Unlike most kids, he didn't take movies for granted: They became sacred. At thirteen, he took a job at a veterinary clinic that amounted to "basically cleaning out cages," he recalls. He had one goal: to earn enough money to buy a VHS camcorder. He'd already begun making rudimentary movies with his Aunt Bonnie's camera -- "Her name is Bonnie Hamilton, and I told her when I was twelve that when I became a director, I'd put her initials, B.H., at the end of the credits of every film I made. And I have," Jamin says -- but he wanted a camera of his own. "I basically cleaned crap to buy my first camera," he adds. "I can talk about it now, but back then I felt so humiliated."

That humiliation didn't last long. At Evergreen High School, he avoided flunking out by devising an independent-study program that focused solely on filmmaking. "I made my first feature film as an independent-study project when I was seventeen, and that gave me just enough credit to graduate high school," he says. "The movie will remain unnamed. It was total garbage. I can't even tell you how many failures it took before I made anything even remotely watchable.

"I also worked at a movie theater during high school, the Evergreen Cinema 4," he continues. "To this day, it's the greatest job I've ever had. I sold tickets, tore tickets, cleaned theaters. If I could retire and work in a movie theater again, I would."

Jamin was confident enough in his emerging talent to enroll in the film program at Columbia College Hollywood. It wasn't as glamorous as it sounds. "It was basically just a trade school," he remembers. "It wasn't a film school in the classic sense. It was more of a hands-on thing. But it was great. It was a very small school, and I got a lot out of it." But after a year, he dropped out.

"I'd already been making film for so long at that point that I felt like I knew what I was doing. They say the only thing more useless than a philosophy degree is a film degree," he says with a laugh. "The only thing anyone wants to know is, 'What have you actually done?' Anyway, at that point I'd already said to myself, 'I don't want to be a studio filmmaker. I want to be an independent filmmaker, where I have control.'"

With that in mind, Jamin moved back to Colorado and took various film-related internships and odd jobs, including making commercials for local businesses like Furniture Row and global companies like Kia, which he still does to help pay the bills between big projects. For some of those gigs he served as production assistant, which only sharpened his resolve to be his own boss.

"I was a really bad PA," he says. "My head was always in the clouds. I've never been good with authority. If I wasn't the one leading the charge, I just wasn't interested." In 2003, he led that charge by releasing a short crime-caper film called "Blanston," the first movie in his filmography that he considers "actually good." At that point, he knew he had to focus more intently on his own original work.

What he didn't know was that an old friend from high school was about to reenter his life -- and change it in more ways than one.

 

Jamin and Kiowa Winans with their prop bike.
Jamin and Kiowa Winans with their prop bike.
Anthony Camera

Kiowa, unlike Jamin, is a Colorado native with roots in New England. "My maternal grandmother left Massachusetts and came to Colorado because she wanted to marry a cowboy," she says. "She got a drunk cowboy."

Her childhood was "convoluted" and "messed up," Kiowa says. But eventually she landed in a good place: adopted by her aunt and uncle, both of whom owned businesses near Evergreen. "My mom had a hair salon," she says, "and my dad owned a rock-drilling and -blasting company. A lot of the rock stabilization you see on I-70 was done by him."

Kiowa's adoptive parents did more than just provide a stable home. "A lot of my appetite for taking massive risks in life probably came from watching them," she says. "They were entrepreneurs, and I've always wanted to be my own boss and take those leaps of faith. I definitely credit them with that vision."

Although she didn't dream of becoming a filmmaker, she was deeply impacted by cinema as a child. Her first vivid memory of a movie was E.T. -- she saw it at a drive-in, the same way Jamin saw Back to the Future -- which instilled in her a similar love of the fantastic and unreal. She is quick to point out, however, that she's a fan of "any movie that's more immersive, that draws you into its world, whether it's science fiction or not."

At Evergreen High, she found herself drawn into Jamin's cinematic world. The two were friends and nothing more, but she remembers how his nascent filmmaking talent impressed her even then. "In high school, we had to write a paper about genetics after reading the novel Jurassic Park," she recalls. "Instead of writing the paper, Jamin and some friends of his made this absolutely ridiculous, hilarious movie. I think they put a cardboard box in front of a TV, and that was supposed to be a time machine. Then they crawled through the TV, and suddenly they were in prehistoric times. It had nothing to do with genetics. Jamin didn't actually do the assignment, but the teacher loved it. The movie got shown to all the other classes, like, three times. I remember being so pissed off that I had to go through the pain of writing this paper, and Jamin just made this movie and had fun."

In 1996, she and Jamin attended their class's Senior Tea. "Everyone in our class gave each other awards, and one of those awards was made up especially for Jamin: Most Likely to Become a Director," Kiowa recalls. "I handed him that award."

The two lost touch after high school, though. Kiowa studied finance as an undergrad at Colorado State University, then went to law school at the University of Denver. "That was not a career goal of mine," she says. "It was kind of foisted on me by my parents. I was miserable at law school. I absolutely hated it. But I will say, it's come in very handy. Doing what we do, it's great to have no qualms about reading a contract. I don't have that fear that the other person is smarter. Also, the first year of law school is so horrible and hard that if you can get through that, you're like, 'Pfft, I can make a movie.'"

Making movies was still nowhere on her radar when, in 2003, she decided to track Jamin down. As it turned out, not only were they both in Denver, but they lived in the same neighborhood. Soon they were dating, and in 2005, they were married.

It didn't take long before Kiowa became first a participant, then a partner, in Jamin's filmmaking. "I was working a day job, and I quit that job three weeks after we got married," she says. "It's the last real job I ever had. I had no plan to quit. I just realized I didn't want to spend my life doing legal work." She started using her legal, clerical and executive skills to help Jamin seek private funding for his increasingly ambitious film projects. She also began working as his production assistant. She picked up sound design for the same reason Jamin picked up score composing: someone had to.

"Me doing the sound design was never part of the plan," she says. "It was brutal necessity. Teaching myself how to do it was probably the hardest thing I'd done since law school. The learning curve was unbelievably difficult. First Jamin asked me if I could research how to do sound design, then he said, 'Can you just do it?' He asked me if I could start laying in ambiences. I was like, 'What the fuck are ambiences?'"

 

Jamin and Kiowa Winans on set.
Jamin and Kiowa Winans on set.

Although Jamin had started showing his short films at festivals around the country in 2001, the company's first major premiere was 11:59, at the 2005 Montreal World Film Festival. The film was received well and went on to win awards at the Kansas International Film Festival, Flint Film Festival and Cyprus International Film Festival.

"Spin," an eight-minute film that cannily mixes DJ culture and magic realism, experienced its own surge that same year. "It dropped just before YouTube became a thing," Jamin recalls. "We put it on our website, and it wound up blowing up huge. It crashed our server because it was getting so many hits." When YouTube launched a few months later, he put "Spin" on that site -- and it went exponential. That was Jamin's first clue that the then-untested waters of digital self-distribution might be the way to go. To date, "Spin" has been viewed on YouTube more than three million times.

"I'm proud of everything from 'Spin' on," Jamin says. "Something just clicked there. That's not to say it was flawless from there on out, but things matured. I'll just say I'm less ashamed of everything since 'Spin.'"

11:59 and "Spin" were still making the rounds when Jamin and Kiowa began work on the film that would alter their careers forever: Ink. They'd lined up private investors and planned on taking full advantage of the Colorado Film Commission's incentives for filming in the state. But it wasn't enough. Mere months before the housing market dried up in 2008, the couple took out a second mortgage on their house to help fund the film. "We were about to start shooting Ink, and we realized didn't have the money we needed," Kiowa remembers. "The only other cash we possibly had was in this house. We put the house on the market, and we were actually going to live in this house in Green Mountain that we'd rented to shoot some of the scenes for Ink in. Talk about sweating bullets. It was do or die."

With their house on the line, they dove into Ink. But there was more than desperation fueling the movie's creation.

"The basic idea for Ink," Jamin explains, "is a kid being snatched out of her bed by the bogey monster. But the question I wanted to ask was, 'Who is the monster?' It's something that I'd been thinking about for years. Ink started off that way, as an image that used to come to me when I was a kid. I started having these lucid dreams when I was around four years old. There was nothing scarier to me back then than the witch from Snow White. If you look at Ink, the character of Ink himself looks a lot like that witch. I remember being in Fort Wayne in my little upstairs bedroom and dreaming that I saw the hand of the witch coming up over my bed to grab me, much like Ink does in the film. That just stuck with me."

Inspired by that haunting vision, Ink taps into a deep well of fear. But it's not strictly a horror movie; it also taps into the richness of fantasy and science fiction. "I love the idea of dreams and dual dimensions, of angels and demons," Jamin says. "I love that idea that there's something going around us that we can't see in real time." But Ink is grounded in heartbreaking reality; it's just as much a drama about the power of family, the nature of heroism and the hope for spiritual redemption as it is a showcase for Jamin's otherworldly atmosphere.

In January 2009, Ink premiered at the Santa Barbara International Film Festival, where it caused a small but substantial stir. After attending all three of the film's SBIFF screenings, one woman approached Jamin. "She told me, 'You're making the audience rise to the film's level.' I'd never thought of things that way. It was such a huge compliment," he says.

Jamin and Kiowa had signed a distribution deal after the relative success of 11:59, but quickly became disillusioned by that relationship -- "We got completely screwed," is how Kiowa sums it up -- and vowed to distribute Ink themselves. Their success at SBIFF was topped by the triumph of Ink's eight-week run in Denver, as well as a healthy series of dates at theaters around the country that seemed to benefit from social-media chatter and word-of-mouth buzz. But it in no way prepared them for what came next.

"In October of 2009, we made Ink available on DVD and Blu-ray," Kiowa says. "It wasn't available as a download yet. Within about 48 hours of the DVD coming out, one of our friends texted us and said, 'Do you have any idea what's going on? Ink got pirated.'"

"Ink got pirated" was putting it lightly. Someone who had ordered one of the DVDs must have uploaded the movie the moment they got it in the mail. Within a week of release, Ink had been shared over a million times on the peer-to-peer website the Pirate Bay. Illegally. Not a penny changed hands, let alone went to Double Edge Films.

Jamin and Kiowa found themselves in a conundrum. People were clearly loving their film, which is the dream of any independent filmmaker. But they'd risked their home to make it, and the vast majority of their audience wasn't paying to see it. "We were stunned," Jamin remembers. "We spent the day processing it, then we decided to put out an e-mail to our mailing list saying, 'Hey, Ink's really taking off in this weird way. We're sort of embracing this. We didn't expect this, but it's cool that it's getting out there.' Whoever pirated the movie in the first place must have been on our mailing list. They took that letter and posted it around the pirate community. The letter wound up getting a lot of attention in that community, and it helped even more. They were like, 'Oh, these filmmakers are being cool and nice about this.'"

Being pirated so passionately even became a point of pride. "On the Pirate Bay, the list of top movies being pirated was Ink, Zombieland and The Hangover," Jamin recalls. "We were just like, 'Fuck, yeah.' People did want to watch this movie. Ink went from being ranked at, like, 12,000 on IMDb.com to being ranked at 14. In a week."

The mass e-mail that had publicly outlined their take on the Ink situation also helped the filmmakers solidify their personal beliefs in regard to piracy. "It wasn't like we were saying, 'Yeah, go and pirate our movie,'" Jamin explains. "We're not necessarily champions of piracy. But we are very pro-access. When it comes to our stuff, we just want people to be able to see it. I think everybody has the right to charge whatever they want, and I don't want to take away anybody's freedom to do that. But I very much believe that we're not doing this for money. We're doing it because we love to do it. Obviously, we have a duty to pay back our investors, and we do the best we can. But we don't want to do that by ripping off our fans. We want to make sure that our fans, wherever they are in the world, can see our stuff, whether or not they have the money.

"We're just barely getting by," he admits, "but I don't worry about that. People have really supported us, and if that continues, we'll be fine."

 

From Ink to The Frame, Jamin and Kiowa Winans Are Making Their Mark in the Movies

Someone else took notice of Ink's viral phenomenon: Hollywood.

Jamin and Kiowa were born with independent streaks a mile wide, but even after Ink became a thing, they didn't shut themselves off from the idea of going the traditional route of any hot young filmmakers with an indie hit on their hands: Head to Hollywood. And now Hollywood was apparently happy to have them.

"We ended up getting an agent at one of the big Hollywood agencies, UTA," Jamin says. In fact, that United Talent Agency agent contacted and pursued them after hearing about Ink's remarkable success. "He told us, 'We represent the Coen brothers and all these other filmmakers. We can do the same thing for you.'"

Jamin became a client, but not without caveats: "I told the agent out of the gate that I didn't want to sell my scripts or direct for other people. I just want to do my own thing. Which sounds really arrogant, but it wasn't. I just knew I had this really specific thing that I wanted to do."

A string of meetings between Jamin and representatives of a number of major Hollywood studios ensued. As Kiowa was conducting Ink's run at Los Angeles's historic Egyptian Theater, Jamin was hustled from one glad-handing opportunity to the next.

"They were looking for the director for their next blockbuster franchise," he recalls. "I told them right off the bat that I wasn't interested in doing anything other than my own stuff. We just needed help getting financing for our next film. But right away, they sent me a script and said, 'Hey, what do you think?' I didn't even want to read it. I already told them I didn't want to be a director for hire. They said, 'Oh, just read it, even if you're going to pass on it.' So I read it, and I passed on it, and they couldn't believe it.

"They kept saying things that were kind of funny," he continues. "They kept hinting at certain ideas. This is a real thing they said to me: 'Hey, this producer's working on a new movie. What do you think about Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles? Do you want to do a meeting?' I wouldn't want anyone to think that Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles was actually offered to me or anything, but I still laugh about it."

Every doubt the Winanses had ever had about Hollywood came true, in Technicolor. "I just got the sense that this is a huge industry making widgets instead of movies," Jamin says. "You're just a cog in a wheel, and that's what these guys were looking for. Immediately after those meetings, we were so frustrated. But we knew we just couldn't go down that path."

"There's a saying in the movie industry," Kiowa adds. "The more money you take, the less freedom you have. We reached this critical point. We could either go the Hollywood route or keep doing what we were doing."

Upon returning to Colorado, the Winanses dropped their agent. And they at last fully embraced the reality that they were Colorado filmmakers, not Colorado-until-they-get-to-Hollywood filmmakers. "We love it here," Kiowa says. "Whenever I'm on an airplane, I just wait for the captain to come on and say that we're in Colorado. Then I'm okay if we crash. As long as I die in Colorado, I'm happy."

 

A still from The Frame.
A still from The Frame.

It's a bright, balmy Monday morning, and the Sie FilmCenter is dead. As it should be: It's too early to be open to regular theater-goers. Walking through the deserted lobby is kind of creepy unless you're used to being in a movie theater in off hours. As are, say, Jamin and Kiowa Winans.

The couple is at the Sie for a "tech check" of The Frame: a screening of their new film prior to its release that will help them and the key members of their crew spot any technical problems with the final edit. After thousands of hours of piecing together The Frame in their basement, Jamin and Kiowa are finally seeing it on the big screen. And for the first time, someone who wasn't involved with the film's creation will see it.

"This is us going crazy," Kiowa says by way of apology as her eyes dart around the theater, making sure everyone and everything is accounted for.

"If you hear someone in the back of the theater throwing up, that'll be me," Jamin adds.

Their enthusiasm far outshines their nervousness. No wonder, because The Frame turns out to be a marvel. It's not anything like Ink, but the vibe is the same: Normal people full of everyday dreams, faults and fears suddenly have their foundation of reality yanked out from under them. How they cope with that crisis is not only intellectually challenging, it's emotionally devastating. The movie even involves a magic television of sorts, an image Jamin just can't seem to shake all these years later.

"Strangely, The Frame came out of my childhood just like Ink did," Jamin says after the credits have rolled -- "B.H." and all. "Since I didn't have a TV at home as a kid, I always saw it as this magic box. I remember being three or four years old at my babysitter's house, and she was watching a soap opera. I looked at the TV, and I was just mesmerized. It was just a regular shot of one soap-opera guy looking at another soap-opera guy. But he was looking toward the camera, and at the time I felt like he was looking right at me. I remember hiding behind a chair because I thought this guy on TV could actually see me. That idea has stuck with me since then." He stops and grins: "I was a really stupid kid."

The Frame, though, is anything but dumb. It's one of those rare films that combine suspense and philosophy into an inseparable whole. As Jamin says, "Ink was very much a movie about redemption. With The Frame, the basic theme is something I've spent a lot of time thinking about since I was a kid: the existence of God. If God exists, why does it appear that He's abandoned us? With so many horrible things going on in the world, how can you possibly justify the belief in a benevolent God? That's a big thing that's haunted me my entire life. I expect every movie Kiowa and I ever do will have some kind of fantastic nature to it like that. I guess what I'm cautious about is getting labeled. Being called a science-fiction or fantasy filmmaker wouldn't offend me at all -- that's what I've been doing. But I'd rather someone saw one of my films and thought, 'That's, you know, a Jamin thing.'"

The trick is how to turn "a Jamin thing" into a living. Every little bit helps, from regional box-office receipts to Ink T-shirt sales to nickel-and-dime royalties from Spotify spins of the Ink soundtrack. The Winanses also sell their movies directly through Double Edge's website on DVD and Blu-ray (Kiowa estimates they've sold around 25,000 physical copies of Ink alone) as well as via direct downloads. They offer packages that include personal touches; for instance, one fan bundle they'll eventually offer for The Frame will include scraps of wallpaper from one of the movie's main sets, which Jamin and Kiowa plan on cutting by hand from the pile of props in their garage. The website also features an unobtrusive "Send us love" button -- a way for fans who may or may not have pirated Ink to contribute money to Double Edge's ongoing endeavors. The "Send us love" option even sports a photo of Jamin, looking bedraggled and peeking out a van door, with the self-deprecating caption, "Jamin Winans in a van down by the river."

The Winanses aren't exactly living in a van, but as Kiowa notes, "We've just kind of chosen this life of living frugally, living simply. That gives us freedom." A big part of that freedom is made possible by their decision to resist the glitz of Hollywood and stay in Colorado. All of their films have been proudly filmed in Denver, an option that's been made all the more attractive by the Colorado Film Commission's increasingly generous incentives. Commissioner Donald Zuckerman moved from Los Angeles to Denver to head up the state's film-incentives program in 2011, around the same time Jamin and Kiowa had resolved to remain in Colorado rather than court the big-time movie industry in California.

"At the time we made Ink," Kiowa recalls, "there was a 10 percent cash-back rebate for filmmakers who spent a certain amount of money in Colorado. You have to apply prior to the film being made, get approved, then complete a pretty extensive paperwork-and-accounting review. It's a lot of work, but I think utterly fair considering it's taxpayer money. On The Frame, it was the same program, but the law had changed to allow for a 20 percent rebate. Donald Zuckerman is very active and sharp, and the process went really smoothly. He is definitely a champion of in-state and out-of-state productions, both of which spend quite a bit of money in Colorado. So the fund, I think, more than pays for itself.

"The amazing thing about making films in Colorado," she continues, "is how easy it is on the bureaucracy side of things. Film permits are free. If you shoot downtown with a permit, they bag two meters for you for free. The cops either don't care or they're super-helpful. When you call people who own properties to shoot on location, they very seldom charge you or charge you very much -- whereas if you're shooting in L.A., people will charge you $400 just to start up their lawnmower in the background."

She recognizes that rapid growth in the Colorado film industry might not be an entirely good thing. "We're at this weird point where the Colorado Film Commission is trying to push Colorado filmmaking, which is great," Kiowa says. "But if there were six film projects going on in Denver while we were trying to film, it would be hell for us. Colorado is an amazing place to shoot, and I hope it will continue to be. If anything, the main reason Colorado might never take off as a major filmmaking hub is that the weather is so unpredictable. If we had shot The Frame this summer instead of last summer, with all of the rain we've had this year, we would have been screwed."

The main reasons Double Edge is committed to remaining in Denver, though, are the most basic: community and roots. "We know so many people here in Colorado," Kiowa says, "and those people are incredibly supportive of us."

And so Kiowa is optimistic about The Frame's prospects, as well as those of Double Edge as a whole. "I do think our culture is coming around," she says. "People are learning to seek out and support stuff that they know is authentic. People want authenticity. I hope."

"At the end of the day, story is the ultimate thing," Jamin adds. "If we happen to be able to do bigger productions with more money in the future, great. But that's not the goal. I think the tendency in filmmaking is to always do something bigger. Our trajectory is to always do something better."

The Frame will debut this weekend at the Sie FilmCenter. Find ticket information here.

From Ink to The Frame, Jamin and Kiowa Winans Are Making Their Mark in the Movies

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