Last year, lawmakers approved new film incentives to lure Hollywood back to Colorado after movie-makers had largely abandoned the state for cheaper locales. Seven months into the program, nearly $4 million in rebates and other perks have been approved. The lineup of movies that will say "Action!" in Colorado includes a coming-of-age story produced by Leonardo DiCaprio, a film about the legendary Caribou Ranch and a fitness video called "The Ultimate Booty Lift."
"I feel really good," says film commissioner Donald Zuckerman. A movie producer who came to Denver from Los Angeles, Zuckerman took over the Colorado Office of Film, Television and Media with specific directions from Governor John Hickenlooper: Develop a plan to bring filmmakers back to Colorado without breaking the bank.
Zuckerman's plan, which was approved last year, combines a 20 percent rebate with a guarantee that the state will back up to 20 percent of a producer's bank loan -- for a 5 percent fee. There are a few conditions, however: An in-state production company must spend at least $100,000 here and an out-of-state company must spend at least $1 million to qualify. In addition, 50 percent of the jobs must be filled by Colorado residents. Oh, and the film can't be "obscene." To qualify for the loan guarantee, a movie must feature at least one celebrity and a good company has to be hired to sell the film.
A big packet of incentives was approved last Thursday at a meeting of the Colorado Economic Development Commission. The projects include three feature films and a handful of smaller videos and post-production work. Zuckerman gave us the details:
Dear Eleanor is a film about "two teenage girls who leave the Central Valley in California (in 1962) and take a cross-country road trip to meet Eleanor Roosevelt," he says.
It's being produced by Leonardo DiCaprio's production company, Appian Way, and directed by Entourage star Kevin Connolly. The film is expected to spend $2.5 million in Colorado and has been approved for a $500,000 rebate. The EDC also approved a loan guarantee of up to $300,000. It's scheduled to start shooting on April 8.
Caribou Records is a movie based on the Caribou Ranch near Nederland, which was a major recording studio throughout the '70s and early '80s. Close to 200 major artists recorded there, including Elton John, Billy Joel and the Beach Boys. Owner James Guercio closed it after a fire destroyed the control room in 1985.
The film is being directed by Randall Miller, whose credits include Bottle Shock, and produced by Miller and his wife. They're expected to spend $7.4 million in Colorado and have been approved to receive a $1.5 million rebate and a loan guarantee of up to $350,000. The film is scheduled to start shooting on July 15.
The Frame is "a supernatural thriller about a young cargo thief and a paramedic who are drawn together in a mysterious event that makes them question everything they know," Zuckerman says. Local filmmakers Jamin and Kiowa Winans, the makers of Ink, are behind the project. This smaller-budget film is expected to spend $380,000 in Colorado and has qualified for a $76,000 rebate. It's slated to start shooting on April 1.
"They're at the top of the food chain here in Denver," Zuckerman says of the Winans. "Everybody seems to know them and think their films are terrific."
The other projects approved include two fitness videos to be made by a Boulder-based yoga-centric lifestyle company named Gaiam. The company had been doing most of its filming in Los Angeles, but thanks to the incentives, Gaiam wants to bring some of that business back to Colorado. It plans to spend $300,000 to make two videos that will be sold at Walmart: "Intensity" and "The Ultimate Booty Lift." Its rebate is $60,000.
In addition, Discovery Networks -- which owns TLC, Animal Planet and a host of other channels -- is relocating $1.9 million worth of post-production work to Colorado, for which it will receive a rebate of $387,000. The work will be done at High Noon Entertainment, a Denver-based producer of reality television shows, including Cake Boss.
This lineup represents the biggest slate of film projects approved by the EDC to date. But there have been other projects, as well -- including "Prospectors," a nine-part series about modern-day gem-seekers to air in March on the Weather Channel, and a ten-part series called "Colorado Experience" to air on Rocky Mountain PBS starting Thursday (see a trailer below). The EDC also approved rebates for three Coors commercials.
"They had been shooting them in the Cascade Mountains," Zuckerman says. "These ones, they shot in Telluride because of the rebate. We got the business back here."
But now, he notes, just $21,000 remains for film incentives through the end of the fiscal year.
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