Film production in Utah provides jobs, opportunities

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When people think of movies, they often picture larger-than-life stars who attract massive audiences and amaze the world with their performances. However, for these stars to reach such heights, hundreds of crew members help create and film-imaginative worlds for the stars to inhabit.

Shantell Guy, a Utah-based costumer, notes the best part of her job is the trust formed between herself and the actors she works with.

“The trust I build with an actor allows me to be creative with the art of wardrobe,” Guy said. Her responsibilities are often crucial in filming a perfect stunt or emphasizing a character’s status.

Utah’s filmmaking industry has long been a vital part of the state’s economy, allowing Utahns and aspiring BYU filmmakers to participate in professional filmmaking. In 2017, Utah’s tax incentive for filmmakers brought over 1,900 jobs and nearly $60 million in revenue to the state, according to KSL.

In 2012, Utah revised its tax incentive policy for filmmaking, promising a 20 percent tax credit for film productions, making the state an attractive location to film television shows and movies. According to Salt Lake Magazine, studios like Fox, Disney and HBO have spent nearly $270 million in Utah since the tax incentive was passed.

Utah-based filmmaker and BYU alumnus T.C. Christensen said many of his films might not have been made if not for Utah’s tax incentive.

“Films are a business, and you have to succeed or you can’t keep making them,” he said. “The tax incentive is what pushes the financing over the top so it all works.”

Utah’s tax incentive doesn’t show any sign of stopping, either. In the 2018 Utah legislative session, Sen. Jake Anderegg, R-Lehi, sponsored SB 185, which allows the state “to provide motion picture incentives for companies engaging in post-production work in Utah.” That, according to the Deseret News, would increase Utah’s motion picture incentive by $5 million.

Anderegg said the proposal would continue to bring jobs to the state.

“They film here in Utah because we have fantastic scenery, it’s a great place to work, (there’s a) highly educated workforce and a really good collaborative environment,” he said.

While film projects provide plenty of entertainment, they also offer opportunities for Utah residents to develop professional skills and take part in popular productions like “Westworld” and “Andi Mack.” 

Christensen said that although he films all over the world, his favorite place to make movies is Utah. He added that a major reason filmmakers choose the Beehive State is the variety in terrain, great tax incentives and hardworking cast and crew members.

“I have what I call the ‘T.C. stable of actors,'” Christensen said. “I use them over and over because they do such a good job and have always been there for me.”

Guy said cast and crew members in Utah have formed a tight-knit community, one she calls her “film family.”

For BYU students interested in jumping into Utah’s film industry, Christensen offers four tips for success:

Go to a school with a good film department.

Study beyond the assignments. Read film books, watch great movies and find ways to get on sets.

Make friends in film school. They create a great support system and can help you throughout your career.

Don’t just talk about it; make films.

KSL News details four films shot in Utah that premiered at the 2017 Sundance Film Festival in Utah.