Utah extends a hand to Hollywood

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    By Sarah Light

    What do ?Touched by an Angel,? ?Footloose? and ?The Sandlot? all have in common?

    They all presented varied themes, appealed to distinct audiences and were made in different decades.

    But what most people may not know is that they were all filmed in Utah.

    And because the state has much to offer the motion picture industry, Utah?s legislators have done all they can to help bring movie producers back to the state, after a period of decreased production in recent years.

    The legislature recently passed HB 17, which creates a Motion Picture Incentive Fund to do just that: help producers realize the value of the state.

    Introduced by Representative Sheryl Allen, R-Bountiful, the bill provides incentives for companies that produce made-for-television series or movies and for companies that produce motion pictures in Utah.

    Two-thirds of the $1 million that the bill appropriates will be used as an incentive for made-for-television companies, and the other one-third will be used as an incentive for motion picture companies to film in the state.

    Utah has been competing with other states, such as New Mexico and Louisiana, and with Canada for the hard-earned benefits that come from the productions in their locations.

    Jeff Parkin, BYU professor of film production, said on several occasions Utah has lost the opportunity to film series or movies to Canada, which has had a financial incentive program since 1998. In addition to Canada, many states in the U.S. have been successful with drawing in companies through tax breaks and lower overall costs for film productions.

    ?There?s so much runoff from the United States to other places where you can get so much bank for your buck,? he said.

    Sen. Ron Allen D-Stransbury Park, sponsor for the bill in the Senate, said when people shoot motion pictures in the state, there are widespread benefits, including increased tourism, job opportunities and possibilities to show the natural beauty of Utah.

    ?It?s a very powerful, indirect way to bring people into the state,? he said.

    When people see places on television or in movies, they will want to see what those areas look like in person, he said.

    Dennis Light, location manager for the long-running television series ?Touched by an Angel,? which was mostly filmed around Salt Lake City, said he thinks the unique landscapes available in the state are one of the major advantages to shooting films or series here.

    ?We can look like back East,? he said. ?We can [also] look like the West. We have that diversity.?

    The breathtaking landscapes and enjoyable environment here are some of the key factors that Utah has to offer to the movie industry, he said.

    Currently, Utah gets much of its attention in the industry through the Sundance Film Festival, which brings in revenues of more than $45 million during its annual 10-day run.

    ?The benefits [of the festival] are almost impossible to calculate,? Allen said. ?They?re huge.?

    The festival brings in tourist dollars, celebrities and ambassadors.

    Along with these benefits, Leigh Von der Esch, executive director of the Utah Film Commission, said the festival also brings publicity to the state that it might not otherwise be able to afford to purchase.

    Supporters of the new incentive bill are hoping it will have some of these similar effects.

    Light said when people choose to shoot films or series in the state, it positively affects many different groups: workers, businesses and even taxpayers. He said for every dollar given, it will generate anywhere between $2 and $6.

    ?Economically, it fits so much,? he said. ?There?s a gigantic ripple effect that this industry has been able to provide.?

    And because of this, those in the Utah film industry are doing all they can to educate the younger generation emerging into the industry.

    Light said he and others are hoping to come to BYU to help students understand how to do well in the industry and to take advantage of Utah?s resources.

    ?They?ll be affected too if this industry fades away,? he said. ?We want to keep the work here ? let this talent shine here.?

    In the mean time, the governor is expected to sign the bill sometime this month. The bill will take effect July 1.

    Some movies filmed in Utah, all or in part:

    ? ?She Wore a Yellow Ribbon? (1949)

    ? ?Rio Grande? (1950)

    ? ?My Darling Clementine? (1946)

    ? ?Indiana Jones and the Temple of Doom? (1984)

    ? ?Drive Me Crazy? (1999)

    ? ?Footloose? (1984)

    ? ?Independence Day? (1996)

    ? ?National Treasure? (2004)

    ? ?The Sandlot? (1993)

    TV Series Filmed in Utah

    ? ?Buffalo Dreams? (2005)

    ? ?Everwood? (2002)

    ? ?Rescue 911? (1989)

    ? ?Touched by an Angel? (1994)

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