March 20, 2024
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1
Ep.
27

Colorado Calling: Inside the State’s Film Commission

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0:00  

Welcome to On Production presented by Wrapback. In today's episode, we're diving into the heart of Colorado's film scene with two key figures from the Colorado Film Office. Donald Zuckerman the Colorado film commissioner is a veteran producer with an impressive filmography that spans various major film festivals, and includes working with some of the biggest names in Hollywood. Alongside him is Arielle Brachfeld, deputy film Commissioner, an Emmy nominated filmmaker with a rich background in film production and advocacy. Together, they're shaping the future of filmmaking in Colorado, Donald, Ariel, it's good to have you both on the show.

0:36  

Thanks, Cameron

0:37  

Thanks for having us. Yeah, my

0:39  

pleasure. So Donald with such a diverse background in producing and event management, what led you to your role as Colorado film Commissioner?

0:48  

What actually led me to it is that about a half a dozen movies that I produced were George Hickenlooper directed, and John Hickenlooper became the governor of Colorado, and John Hickenlooper was in a couple of our movies. So in the year 2000, we were making a movie called The Man from Elysian Fields, which starred Andy Garcia, Mick Jagger, James Coburn, Angelica Houston, Julianna, Margulies, Olivia Williams, and John Hickenlooper was a bar owner in Denver at that time. This is just prior to him become mayor becoming mayor of Denver. And he was an extra in that movie, and he's ended about that wall. And then I got to know him. I started to get to know him. Then he became mayor and I was here for a film festival. And then we did another film, they actually had a line in Canada. When we did a film with Kevin Spacey and barry pepper and a number of other notable stars. George and I have made up a reality TV series about John Hickenlooper being mayor, which, by the way, no, no one wanted to buy and formed. Anyway, when he became governor, he asked me to come here and work for him. And I, we at the time, we lived in West Hollywood, we had a two year old daughter, and we, my wife, and I thought it would be a better place to bring up a kid. So here we are. And

2:32  

that's amazing. Can you share a memorable experience from your producing career that has influenced your approach as film commissioner in Colorado?

2:43  

I don't know if I could easily share. I think one of the advantages that I have, I've, you know, I've worked, I've worked with a lot of film commissions, because we follow instead of money to a lot of different places. So I produced two movies in New Mexico, two in in Toronto, one in the UK, one in Georgia, one in Michigan, all following incentives. And one of the things that I learned is that most, I'm not trying to denigrate other film commissioners, but very, very few film commissioners know anything about film finance. And when you're in when you're in the independent film world, it's not like it's not just find a rich person, if you're a really low budget movie, or maybe if you're a bigger movie, oh, maybe a streamer or a studios will finance it. But you have to learn how to put together the pieces, senior debt, monetizing to, you know, soft money, you know, equity, etc. And so when Arielle and I get into conversations with filmmakers who are trying to put something together, I can usually tell whether the people have the skill set to put that together if they're trying to put that together. And a lot of times we can kind of predict who was going to many people call us and tell us, they're sure they have the money to make their film. And I'd say that, you know, eight out of 10 of them don't. And frequently we can pretty much figure out who's going to have difficulty getting it together who was going to so it just, we can have an intelligent conversation with somebody and sometimes even help them.

4:53  

Speaking of having intelligent conversations Arielle I know that you all must be constantly speaking together, you and Donald and figuring out with your filmmakers how they can best utilize Colorado and their budget and the incentive. But I'm curious as deputy film Commissioner, and I believe the first staff member from western Colorado, what unique perspective do you bring to the Colorado Film Office?

5:18  

Sure. So I, I come from production, you know, I worked my way up as a PA in film and was producing after serving as like a producer systems and you know, working my way up through production office. So I'm firmly aware of what a lot of our localized production, it deals with in terms of smaller budgets, things of that sort. I worked in LA for about 12 or 13 years and in between projects for, you know, speed or discovery or or low budget film, I began to be involved heavily with educational initiatives. And Colorado has always been home. My my husband, and I couldn't wait to get back to Colorado. And the opportunity came for us to do so and start a family. And we landed in western Colorado, which surprised even me at the time. But I found that the beauty of it and saw the potential between the homeschool programs and the access to resources, unlike Los Angeles, or some other, more film friendly areas, you know, there's there was an excitement and a willingness to participate with film in rural Colorado that I wasn't used to coming from LA, you know, access to locations access to resources.

6:43  

What's interesting is Arielle came here as a filmmaker in our office started to work with Arielle and her husband. And they make these creature features. And the amazing thing is they make really good quality. But they also most people who make films that cost that little get zero distribution. And they've been selling their films to Lionsgate. So when the position opened up, we were lucky enough to get Arielle to come and come on board, and the other advantages, and everybody else is on the eastern or the front range of Colorado, and she's on the western slope. So she's in Grand Junction by the Utah border. And that way, we can service the whole state better than we can, with just somebody from Denver,

7:39  

one piece of that perspective. So between some of the educational background while I have working with the assets prior to joining the office, and being located and the entity is seeing how impactful certain programming can be to build our industry, you have these incredible natural resources outside of you know, urban communities that add a tremendous amount of production value, and increase the likelihood of sales and you know, better sales and things like that local more production value that you can have. So being located in western Colorado with these various resources, including just community willingness to utilize those resources, it really impacted sales for projects that that we have recently done a lens to the work that I do where, you know, at this point, you can create content that's of a professional level from your home office. I mean, realistically, Cameron, you're, you're located, you know, not in Los Angeles, not New York, like it's, it's become decentralized. And there's no reason why these rural communities can't reap the benefits. You know, building viable crew building these resources that can better support production that comes through, or even create production locally. So that that perspective has influenced a lot of the work that I'm doing what the farm office in terms of more direct engagement with rural communities, more educational outreach, and looking at the state from a holistic perspective.

9:12  

It's fantastic. You know, for folks considering filming in Colorado, it's really great to know that both of you have such an extensive background, not only in understanding the ins and outs of the production culture of the state, but you also yourselves have been in the trenches of production, and really understand what it takes to make a great film. Arielle, I'm curious, can you talk about your experience in film education and how it impacts your current role?

9:41  

So just to start, I feel insanely lucky that I love my job. You know, like how many people can can see this and working with them? Really being able to sell that desire to increase workforce development opportunities and educational opportunities. Is this exceptional. While I was in Los Angeles for almost three years, I've served as the phone project manager for the Los Angeles Unified School District, which is the second largest district in the country. In severe inequity across the district, you know, a lot of a lot of impoverished students, my students, and through that, in LA, there was a disconnect between the educational system and industry, there were schools that were literally on the campuses or bordering studios, that had no interaction with this industry. So the pathways for for students to get access to these high paying quality jobs was in here in the Heart of LA in the heart of the entertainment industry. And a lot of what I started doing was community development, enrichment programs, creating mentorship programs, hands on opportunities for students to network and mentor and learn with people and create opportunities for them to get jobs out, with or without a four year degree. And moving back to Colorado, and obviously, you know, Colorado doesn't have the studio system that Los Angeles has, there's less opportunities to knock on the studio door and be like, Hey, hi are these kids are creating, you know, these internship opportunities. So we're looking at local providers. There's a really sizable commercial industry in Colorado. And there's media content creators in every county. So it's looking at the resources to create jobs that can then deepen or impact by film industry. You know, as it's developing in Colorado, it's been really exciting to, you know, roll up my sleeves and put in work and see effects in my own backyard, and we're all Colorado. I firmly believe that film saved my life, with depression and everything else it was it was a home for me. And I know that in certain counties, rural Colorado, the suicide rate is twice the national average. So not only are we creating pathways to good paying jobs, but I really feel like we're making a difference in day to day lives.

12:12  

That's fantastic. This question is for both of you, how would each of you describe the current film production culture in Colorado? It's kind of a difficult

12:23  

question. We have a lot of people who are trying to succeed in filmmaking in Colorado, and we actually have some terrific companies doing content creation, we have a couple of gaming companies that have grown significantly, one that six, seven years ago had 10 employees. And as of right now, they have 115. And, but we have, the biggest problem that we've had in growth is, is having consistent in filming setup we've had, we don't have anything comparable to our neighboring states, the most we've ever gotten in one year, I think was $6 million. But there have been years we've only gotten $750,000 in incentives. And and New Mexico currently gets 110 million a year, Utah gets about 12 million a year. Arizona, I think is 100 million. Currently, they were 75 million last year. Oklahoma is many times us. So we have you know, this is an incentive driven business. And one thing that one learns when they're a producer is that you can cheat almost any location. So I like to use an example I was an executive producer on a movie in Canada called Casino Jack, and 100% of the movie takes place in either Washington DC or Miami. And yet you see Kevin Spacey running up the steps of the Capitol. You see Jon Lovitz in Miami Beach, and neither one of them ever left the Toronto vicinity. And it's, you know, it's green screen, we, you know, came, we just did MOS, one camera, half a day shoot in Washington, DC, and a half a day shoot Miami, and it all worked out and it was cheap to do. So, and we were Canadian content picture. So we as a result of being Canadian content, we got about a little over $3 million on a little over a $9 million film. But anyway, so you learn you do learn a lot when you're a producer. I don't I don't know. How to do a lot of things that erielle knows how to do. I'm more of a business of film guy, than, than all other than knowing all the creative angles. As Arielle reminded me earlier today, I always can hire a good production manager, or will, you know, pm or line producer and she usually has to do it all,

15:29  

in terms of the culture of Colorado, I would say to, you know, Colorado, people tend to be very helpful. There's time and time again, where we'll reach out and see if we're unable to facilitate a request or, you know, if we need additional info, or the resources or locations or rentals, things like that we can reach out to our for our active producers in the area, people are always willing to help, which is very, very different from what I experienced in Los Angeles. You know, people are willing to recommend others for jobs, people are willing to step in and, and help in in a way that the other community they spend a lot of time and didn't, didn't mirror. So in terms of in terms of Colorado culture, I think that that's a really a positive is that there's a collaborative sense with the working community. And there's a sense about wanting to help others step up.

16:29  

Just questions for both of you, what are some unique advantages that Colorado offers to filmmakers. First of all,

16:35  

we literally have everything here, but the ocean. And as I mentioned before, about cheating, that's not a hard cheat. And we have a huge desert here. That's a national park. It's the highest high desert in America, the largest high desert in America, we have mountains, we have unique pioneer towns and great main streets, and little towns all over the place. And so and we also have great air transportation, third busiest airport in the world, it's, there's a flight, literally a flight an hour from Los Angeles, with three airlines competing, so the ticket prices have never high. A lot of states don't offer that it's very hard to get in and out, you know, Louisiana, for instance, if you're working in Shreveport. And an actor says, hey, look, my daughter's graduation is bababa and I want to go home and I'll be you know, I'll come back the next day, you don't know if you're going to make the your production doesn't know if they're going to make the connecting flight in, in Texas. And here, they don't have the connecting flight. And so that's a big advantage. And then the other thing aside from locations B, and this is partly because we don't have as robust to business locations here tend to be unbelievably inexpensive. We had a film, come here, and they shot in a town called Nyuad, which is outside of Boulder. And they they took over the Main Street for two days. They resigned every business on the main street. And the location managers said to me, guess how much money I spent to do this. And I said how much and he said $400 I mean that that the you know, you can rent the shack in New Mexico, for 400. And then another in New Mexico, it's a great place to work. I loved working there. People are really nice. You know, the the union people are all fantastic. But those are two big advantages that we have the reality want to respond.

19:03  

Yeah, so I just want to kind of sing the praises about how, how inclusive our incentive actually is. You know, when that's Donald mentioned, this is an incentive driven business when we're talking about productions, looking at Colorado versus another location. A lot of times the advices is to go back to the line producer, knowing how inclusive our incentive is and measure out line by line. The cost difference, and with your software with Wrapbook, that may be you know, more easily done than not, but because we include above and below the line, because we include you know, just about any vendor expense. In Colorado. We include payments to loan outs if there's prefer Colorado withholding. I mean, it's a really generous incentive. So even though ours caps at about 24 cents, people tend to get more bang for the buck. Because even airfare is included, you know, rentals are included. As I mentioned above and below the lines included, non residents are included. So it's a really generous incentives for for people looking looking at some here, which is why we run out all the time.

20:17  

In Louisiana, it's generous too, there's no doubt about it that most things are included in Louisiana, in some other states, but some states are just only include residents or there are some states that, that they they cover your airfare flying in the state, but not out of the state. I mean, things like that, we if you, if you booked your ticket through a Colorado travel agent, you're you're covered. So we try to, we try to make it really simple for people and and we're, we're really just a three person office, we have three of us. And then we have a part, we have one guy who works for another part of the Office of Economic Development, who does our audits. But you know, we just we try to make it really easy for people to apply. And we try to make it easy for them to come here and work.

21:12  

That is awesome. Donald, can you elaborate on the film incentives available in Colorado and how they've evolved under your leadership?

21:22  

Well, it's very hard to say because they've been up and down. I mean, we had a number of years at the very beginning where we started with $3 million a year. And then it went down a lot. And part of it, we have a, we have certain problems that other states don't have, we have something called Tabor, the Taxpayer Bill of Rights. So when the state is going through a boonl time in business, and they collect more money, they have to give that extra money back to the taxpayer. So we have a flat tax, that's the same for everybody. It's about 4.4%. But if, if the state can only collect the the more more money than the year before by the increase of the population, and the increase in inflation. So when we were having a long time, a 2%, inflation, and population might increase by, you know, 1% a year, the state could collect 3% more a year and spend it. But there were times that we would collect 10% more. And all that money, extra money would have to be returned to the taxpayer. And there are a lot of tax. And there's been, you know, there have been administrations that have tried to change that. But they can't change it without a vote. And most people will not vote to be taxed more. And so we've been competing against the school systems, for instance, and we are ours, school systems tend to be relatively underfunded compared to other states. Yet, we're one of the wealthiest states in the country. I think we're debit were ranked sixth or seventh in the country in terms of the wealth of the state. But we sometimes rank in the in the low 40s In terms of educational spending per pupil. So it's very hard to when you're trying to talk to a legislator and say, Hey, we really could use $20 million a year, or $15 million a year. They said, well, we don't have it this past year, we were trying to switch to a tax credit. And the good thing about a tax credit is everybody in the world of film finance is familiar with tax credits. And this is a refundable tax credit, which is very nice. And we were granted $5 million, but there were some Well, I'm not gonna get into the weeds, but there were some things that in the bill because it was brand new that needed to be fixed. And now we're going to fix them in January and February this year. And we can but the but the tax credit money does not come out of the general fund. So you're not competing against the education money. It comes out of a different funds. It comes out of the money that you give back to the taxpayers.

24:30  

One thing that I want to add to what Donald said just in terms of how successful the incentive has been, you know, under Donald's leadership, we have about an 18 to one ROI on direct audited spend, so that the program itself is really successful. And it's in you know, it gives us a lot of a lot of talking points in terms of asking for these increases. So now that those tax credit is kind of shifting the way that the incentive allocation is handled with Sorry, office, were hoping to see further benefit. And obviously increase the the number of productions locally and non originating in Colorado that we can accommodate

25:11  

Aereo. From your perspective, what did these incentives mean for local businesses? And also incoming filmmakers?

25:20  

I mean, I will tell you having participated with the incentive program prior to joining the office, it was, it was a massive, massive help getting to the profitability Mark analysis as I had a $300,000 picture and we got a 20% incentive. I mean, so we could hire on that, you know, a cast member that could really push sales with that extra amount knowing that that was budgeted and coming back, you know, the the investor would Slug a little bit more money with our sales agency would would clear you know, additional cast or higher level cast. So it's, it's a difference between a project being viable or not, honestly, especially when it comes to lower level production.

26:05  

You locally, the towns that get a film, just rave about what it does for the economy. I mean, Telluride, which is a wealthy town when we did the Hateful Eight there 9000 hotel room lights. Yeah, when Fast and Furious seven second unit, the town of Salida. Every hotel within 2030 Miles was completely booked. Because they had an I guess, a 300 person, crew. And sales tax collections were unbelievably high and it was a fringe season. And anecdotally, we were told like a knife store owner of three crew people come in and spend $18,000 on knives. The local mayor is a owns a gin distillery. He says that every year around Christmas, he has people who worked on that movie, what are cases of gin to give away bottles of gin as a gift for Christmas to people. So it's just, you know, the when when in Telluride when the Hateful Eight came well, these crew people came from California and a lot of drove their own car. And they didn't know they needed something called a snow tire in Colorado, in one store, sold $140,000 worth of snow tires. And they're they don't get any incentive money for this. This is individual people came in and bought tires. So and the this the tire place was able to pay to renovate their entire business as a result of that. I mean, with these little towns with when, when our souls at night, which starred Robert Redford and Jane Fonda, Netflix made that when they came here, these little towns have just an incredible amount of business in one small town, Florence, of the a lot of the shops on the main street, everything got painted, everything got got fixed up, because the filmmakers wanted it to look right. There's

28:28  

residual and for instance, we had an HGTV show hometown takeover film last last fiscal year, I'm sorry, two fiscal years ago 2022. And, you know, this is this is a rural community outside the Denver area. And the not only were we able to wait, we're only able to track audited spend, you know, once once and Sam goes through through our office, we're only able to track like, okay, let's this is exactly what a production paid for x, y and z, this is payroll, etc. But the benefit that this town Fort Morgan has seen a tourism boom from the show, like there have been people traveling to the town, supporting local businesses, shopping in the local stores making a run at the ice cream shop. And these local businesses are seeing this tourism benefit in such a palpable way from this HGTV show. So not only is there the directs then okay, these are the number of rooms that production books. These are the restaurants that that productions utilizing. These are the local hires from the community that are getting paid to work on the show. But then a year later, people are traveling to a town to visit after watching it on on HGTV. So I mean, I think we're preaching to the choir about the benefits of film and production, but it's really palpable.

29:50  

So the shining was written at the Staley hotel in Estes Park. And as a result of that, they literally do 150,000 to 200,000 ghost tours at $30 a pop per year, their guests shop does a couple million dollars in business per year. And that is so aside from filling the rooms, a lot of day trippers come there. And it's at the entrance to the Rocky Mountain National Park, and 5 million people a year drive by it. And it's been an incredible business. And literally, the hotel has been basically branded as the harbor hotel. And we've been told 70% of the business in Estes Park or 70%, of the gross national product of Vestas Park is driven by that hotel. Well, people do come in even many years ago in a town called Ridgeway, that True Grit was made with John Wade. And every summer, people come and they take tours of, of where they shot, True Grit. And you would think that was what, six, six years ago or something like that, that people wouldn't care? Well, people still care. So you know, does drive, it drives tourism,

31:21  

Arielle, are there specific initiatives or programs that you're excited about for the future of Colorado's film industry. I mean, Donald was speaking a little bit about what sounds like potentially some edits to the incentive in the next legislative session. But just from that perspective, or anything else, anything that you're excited about,

31:41  

keep keeping an eye on time, I won't, I won't go over every single thing, it's we got a lot of really cool innovative programming. I'm probably most excited about some of our workforce development programs. I mean, just a high level overview, we have a free script review program, and he Coloradan is able to submit a script up to 180 pages and get professional coverage for free. So that's that's a massive tool for for, you know, every one from students to amateur to professional, you know, screenwriters here in Colorado, we have regional liaisons that are located throughout the state that can help facilitate permitting can help facilitate, you know, locations, scouting, things like that. So those are those are really cool high level programs. So I'm probably most excited about our workforce development stuff. So  in 2022, before I started working with the office, I was working with the previous deputy involved on launching a rural program to get kids in high schools on the on the career pathway of Film and Media. Yes, I mean, this is a $400 billion global industry, ya know, and you really can make content from anywhere and this these are viable career pathways, even without a college education. So what we ended up creating was, it's called the film exposure program. And it's now at six sites, it grew from four sites to six sites in one year, six rural high schools throughout throughout Colorado. And it's a collaborative program. So inspired by some of the pandemic Tiktok challenges where appropriate password when screen, you know, one side of the screen of another, all these all these different school sites will create collaborative short song where each little site does one to two scenes. And they have an MC acid, like a pen, a pass from one to one side of the street, do another drops and or the locker opens up and there's your problem. So all these different school sites are getting a crash course in filmmaking, scripting, production management, you know, that producer minds thinking and problem solving. Storyboarding, and then they get a crash course in in actually running camera and recording sound and directing. And, you know, it's like this this taster menu of film industry, we're talking about all the different careers and all gone, they get to shoot their scenes. And then those scenes are gathered together and these kids that never would have had anything to do with each other, sometimes even in the same school district are now creating this work of art collaboratively because of where technology's at. And there's professional mentors. So, you know, or local commercial creators or some or local media content creators. Sometimes narrative filmmakers are able to come mentor on site of the school or fight hands on professional development for the teachers as well as create those mentorship opportunities for students. Unfortunately, and I don't think that this is specific to Colorado and really do you think that this is nationwide, we are losing access to educational programs that focus on the arts And we're losing access to film and media programs and AV clubs, and there's no public access stations anymore. So all these traditional routes about how people can get involved in filmmaking disappearing. And with small budgets being what they are, you know, we have to figure out these innovative ways to handle Career and Technical Education and handle these career pathways that are extremely viable. Unless there's one innovative approach, that's super fun. So the kids can can create any scene that they want, as long as the prop passes from one side to the other. And each school site gets a gear package and a long term relationship with local filmmakers and content creators.

35:41  

Everyone supporting this program here and has been growing it. And there's a lot of interest in rolling it out around the state. And we're trying to come up with a way to have fun that, in their mind, there's a possibility of getting some federal money to fund the work, we will get into that, but there's just that possibility. And, and we also do a lot of work with the youth Mountview tribe in the Southern youth tribe, area, LG want to talk about that a little bit. summer programming. So

36:12  

Colorado has a lot of native community presence. And again, these are generally communities that don't have access to resources yet, because they're in rural areas, or there's there's limited, you know, access to resource. And we all at the office started this program, few years ago, 2019, where it would be a two week, summer workshop, filmmakers would would come on site and stay on site at the reservation, work with kids. And again, give them that top to bottom, the experience of creating short form documentaries about topics that they actually care about. This last session, we worked with ute Mountain View, and southern Utah. And one of the pieces was about the bear dance, which was just a really incredible moment that we were able to capture and shine a light on this amazing cultural heritage. And then the other was about a skate park, a place where the kids can actually go and be. And again, like you see the light, you see the light bulb turn on, as the kids are working and doing this, and it's like, oh, I can do this. There's a pathway for me to do this. And with Hollywood itself, becoming far more inclusive and making space for different voices. You know, it's it's great timing. So each of our programs have an entrepreneurial mindset. We talked about jobs, we talked about, you know, career pathways, but there's also this idea of, you know, in entrepreneurial mindset, when when we approach working, especially with youth, and that it's so special, it's so, so special, seeing those light bulbs turn on and seeing kids understand that this is a pathway for them, that they can do this. And then the work is just so freakin good. You know, like, sometimes it blows me away how good the work is. Yeah, those are two two programs that we're really, really excited just about one more, one more that I want to highlight those we're doing production assistant workshops, so like three hour, yet out overviews about entering into the field as production assistants. So settling go basic hands on, you know, instruction with c stands and what a C 47 is, and, you know, all this all this great stuff and talking about ways to get fired, you know, trying to have workforce to fall by with peace.

38:51  

We also make a lot of films. Oh, yeah, I mean, a lot. So we make public service announcements. And these are like 15 Second things that go on TV, because that's not how it works anymore. You know, they're generally emitted or you're a little bit shorter or a little bit longer. And we we gear them toward different segments of the population. So we made six different ones for PPP loans and, and they're, they all go out on social media, so people are aware that they were potentially eligible for them. We make a lot of films about things that are important to the state. So for instance, we made a really interesting half hour show about hiring people with disabilities. Everything we do is very character driven. So rather than say, have a guy standing at a whiteboard saying hire people with disabilities, we meet three different people and a half hour show that have an extreme disability. And we don't know we don't see that at first. We see them at work this guy driving a giant combine. And, and he's talking about how he loves his job. And he's sitting 15 feet off the ground and this giant machine, and then we cut to his boss and his boss says, best employee I've ever had never late for work, never calls in sick, fantastic employee, and then we see him get out of the combine. And he needs a hoist that the state provides because he has no leg. You know, and we make I mean, I'd say we've made about 50 shows in the past four or five years, and we're in production with a number of them right now. And what's really good about them is most of them, we go to university college, high school, that teach film, we go to professors, or teachers, who generally are really frustrated filmmakers and are talented, but totally have don't have the money don't have the means don't get offered anything. And we'll say, we can provide you with a relatively small amount of money 10 or $20,000, to make a half hour show about a specific topic that's interesting to the government. And then we get that show on PBS. We place it on PBS. So they get in the end students work on these films get paid minimum wage to work on them, but they get a working credit at a PBS show. while they're in college. It's

41:39  

pretty amazing. I have a question related to how both residence, non residents, maybe beginner or indie filmmakers versus more seasoned filmmakers should engage with the Film Office. From everything I've learned in our discussion. You all run an amazing program, from actually producing work, educational program, job training programs, managing the incentive. You did mention the audit, though. So can you walk us through? Let's start from like, if you're a more seasoned producer with a very real budget, but you want to utilize some of the beautiful scenery in Colorado? What's the best way to engage with the Film Office? And what is the process related to the audit? Can you give us a sense of like timelines, and then for maybe some filmmakers that are not as seasoned, what sort of resources or expectations should they have, really figuring out if they should bring their production to the state.

42:44  

So I want to preface that, you know, we're, we're in this transition to the tax credit. So I'm gonna I'm gonna talk primarily from the lens of, you know, our long standing rebate program, we have a really simple pre application that people can find on our website, and that alerts us to have an additional conversation with them. A lot of times some more savvy producers or more studios EML. Well, the productions that our budget range with with seasoned personnel will just read your office directly. But there is that very easy, friendly portal for any level of production to submit. And one thing I do want to highlight is we incentivize video games when incentivize television. we incentivize, you know, web content, basically any media creation, documentary, etc, episodic, so it's it's open beyond just traditional view of both film as well. So generally, production won't, we'll reach out, we'll discuss and make sure that they qualify for incentives that they haven't started principal photography prior to application, that their timeline makes sense. All projects have to be reviewed by our economic development commission, they get final approval, and they meet once a month. So sometimes it's a tighter turnaround for commercials or really fascinating projects. So it's just make sure all the ducks are in row and if they are actually able to move forward with with a full application. There's a few different thresholds. It's generally 100,000 For in state Production Production originating in state with a Colorado based LLC. So $100,000 in state spend for for Colorado originating production. And then there's a million dollar in state spend for non Colorado originating option. So a lot of times any folks from outside the state aren't going to be eligible if it's not, you know, above a million dollars spend. So that's just kind of some ground groundwork for arching refreshing the incentive. We have a relatively easy application. It's a two page application, you know, talks about, again to speed up Colorado hires you to 50% Colorado global audit requirement that can be above and below the line. We talked about how to with the how We have to see proof of withholding to make sure that taxes are being paid appropriately. Yeah, it's it's honestly a very, it's a very easy application process. And my experience even before joining the office was was hands on help, I was able to call the previous deputy weekly and make sure that I was aligned with maximizing that that rebate allocation. Generally the turnaround, it is a two step audit process for review, it is performance based in terms of getting, getting the previous rebate program, and it will be performance based for that for the tax credit as well. For the rebate program, it was generally 45 days for when the CPI, the color of the CPI, gave the report to our office to turn around our review. And if there was any discrepancies, you know, we'd handle it within the 45 days and say, Alright, after I'll review, this is what you get, please sign this form. And we'll we'll issue your rebate. For the tax credit, it is a calendar year tax credit. So that is shifting kind of the timeline of when productions can anticipate getting that that tax credits or to certification, there

46:08  

is a state requirement that when the state when somebody turns in their paperwork, that we have to turn around the tax credit or the or the rebate, whatever it is going to be within 45 days. I mean, so, you know, there are some states that do what it's it can take a long, long time. While I've worked in New Mexico twice, as I mentioned, they can take many months for the department of revenue to get around to doing what, partly because they're so busy, and it doesn't matter much if you're funded by Paramount, like, what's the difference, but if you're an independent film, and you're paying an interest reserve, and you know, monetizing it upfront with loans and everything, the lenders are very experienced and knowing how long it takes the state to pay, and then they add some time. And they make sure that the interest reserved is for a long enough period of time. So it really diminishes how much money you get up front, if you're using, you know, independent film financing and monetizing things upfront. So, you know, one of the advantages we have is we can turn things around very, very quickly. And then the other thing is, we do this more with locals. But we are we're not adverse to having to, to having them turn their their paperwork in twice. So let's say somebody's making a million dollar film locally, and $200,000 is going to be spent on post, they can shoot their film, wrap, turn their paperwork in, get the 20% incentive that's $160,000 Use $160,000 toward post spend, show us they spent $260,000 They can get 20% of that. And so they so they don't have to raise as much money. They can raise some almost 20% less than what they need. And they're not and they don't have to borrow it from a bank, which might cost 15 20% per annum when you add in all the fees. Okay,

48:34  

hold on. Hold on, Donald, that was a very spicy tip. Would you say that again, for our listeners?

48:41  

Sure. So we we tell anybody who comes here that we can turn their their incentive around very quickly, because we're required to do it within 45 days, sometimes it's only takes a couple of weeks to work will allow people to, to basically turn in their paperwork twice. And and, you know, they could do a part of their film. So usually they shoot their their film, get it and they can come to us and say this is how much money I spent. We say okay, here's a check. And they can use that check for posts. Then they can file on the money they use for posts, assuming they do their posts here. And, you know, at estate companies rarely do their posts here for good reasons. I mean, usually, you do your posts where your director lives, because the post takes the longest it might take you six months to cut the picture and do all the post work and to have somebody a director who maybe has a family doesn't want to be sitting in a hotel room someplace for six months. Working, he wants to be home, the locals, a lot of them are able to As you know, there may be making a $500,000 movie. And they can go to their investors and say, Look, I will I will I need to do is raise 400,000. Or, you know, and I can hit the hit the number that we need, I can still hit the $500,000 budget, because I'll get the $100,000 from the state and use it for post. It's

50:21  

a great tip. This question is for both of you. And this is how we'll conclude today's episode of On Production. But what are your long term goals for Colorado's film industry? And how do you see it evolving in the coming years?

50:33  

Well, assuming we can get this tax credit worked out and up and running and going on a regular basis, we'd like to be competitive with some of the neighboring states we don't, we don't foresee it ever being New Mexico, or Arizona in terms of 100 million dollars a year and the like. But there's no reason why it couldn't grow to be more like, like Utah. And that would provide enough business for the people who live here a lot. A lot of the people who work in film here, they love Colorado, and they want to live here. But they they tend to work mostly in neighboring states. So if you're a really good location manager, and you live in Colorado, you may find you work most of the time in New Mexico or in Georgia, Louisiana, you know, they they travel, but we'd like to keep them home. So ideally, we would grow this to have a better, you know, a more consistent incentive. And there is we have a governor who's helpful. So that's how come we got a $5 million tax credit past this past year,

51:55  

gone off the side, in terms of supporting industry development, as well as incentives are a key piece. We need sustainable incentives to have sustainable industry. But a lot of the innovative I mean, truly innovative program, programming that we're rolling out in the educational space and workforce development stays this layer that helps work and create, you know, crew and sell them media and TV worker. So I see the innovative solutions and programs continuing to grow and providing alternatives to workforce pathways that exist in other locations. And that's really exciting to me as well, but we do we need incentive to have that workforce development really tasteful.

52:43  

Arielle and Donald, thank you so much for your time here joining me On Production. Thank you for providing me a masterclass in Colorado film culture and production and incentives. Really a pleasure to speak with you both. Thanks for being On Production.

53:00  

Well, a pleasure speaking to you and by the way, you are fantastic at this. Okay, thank you.

53:08  

Thank you, Cameron.

53:09  

Great, happy holidays.

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