‘It’s devastating’: Local movie executives fear more productions will leave Utah without more incentives

UTAH (ABC4) – The saying goes, you don’t know what you’ve got until it’s gone.

However, in the case of film and television projects that leave Utah in search of greater tax breaks and incentives, industry experts know exactly what the state is missing.

Lots of money and jobs, especially for Utahans in rural areas.

“When they leave because we have no incentive to keep them here, it’s devastating,” Brooke Redmon, who works as a freelance producer for film projects in the state, told ABC4.com. “It’s devastating for the crew and it’s devastating for the state. Once they leave and they go to another place, they settle there, they get comfortable, they know the local team, they have their line producer there, they don’t not come back.

Redmon knows exactly what the impact can be, even down to the dollar amount. Recently, she worked — for free, hoping to be hired when the project landed in Utah — on a $5 million budget for a Hollywood producer scouting the state for his projects. Ultimately, however, the producer ended up moving his projects to Austin, Texas due to a shortfall in Utah film incentives.

Not only was this a missed opportunity to put Utah on the big screen, but it was also a huge loss to the local economy. When film and television projects are kept in the Beehive State, the payoff is huge for everyone, especially in rural Utah. A study commissioned by the Motion Picture Association of Utah (MPA Utah) and the Rural Utah Film Coalition found that for every tax dollar spent on the tax credit, seven dollars are returned to the state’s economy.

It can make a lot of money in small towns. Redmon describes a newly greenlit project that would pump $400,000 into a single hotel in Midway in the coming months. It is not uncommon for communities in northern Utah and especially southern Utah to also see a major influx of spending in hotels, restaurants, car rental, and other hospitality industries.

Having such a diverse background, from southern red rocks to northern Utah small town vibes, can pay off big when it comes to appealing to the film industry.

“People come to us because of the locations, and they need that statewide access,” Redmon says. “Every little community in Utah is part of it because we have so many different visual aspects in the state that we use every corner of it.”

The big pitch people in the showbiz industry make is simple: Money spent on movie projects in Utah comes back sevenfold. A larger funding pool to pull in more incentives could make profits even better, they say.

Some government leaders know that it is worth discussing and considering investing more money in the film industry. Work is underway at the legislative level to change the state’s incentive program with the introduction of Senate Bill 49 last week, which would exempt certain rural film productions from credit incentive amount limits. tax available.

“The most important thing about this is that it will allow us to have longer-term network television series that stay and stay in Utah,” said MPA Utah President Jeff Johnson. “It will be a longer term job and great for the economy.”

One of TV’s biggest shows, Paramount’s Yellowstone, has already come and gone from Utah due to better incentives in Montana. That, says Johnson, was a tough pill to swallow.

“One of the things that people don’t understand is that they think all of these incentives go directly to Hollywood or directly to the big movie stars. And that’s not how the incentives work. Utah,” Johnson says. “You have to hire locally to get those incentives, so when a big company comes in, they hire as many locals as they can because they only get tax incentives based on local hires.

So it’s not actor Kevin Costner who could benefit from a bigger tax incentive in Utah, it’s “Kevin”, the freelance or production assistant at Kamas who would benefit the most, according to local industry leaders.

Having already lost Yellowstone and other shows – including a few surprising ones such as BYUtv’s Dwight in Shining Armor, which moved its production to Georgia and Disney’s High School Musical The Series, which ended up moving to Los Angeles – we hopes that by raising the incentive cap, movie people in Utah can continue to work year-round.

And plenty of dough to spend when production wraps up for the day.

“The program really works. We’ve proven it time and time again,” says Johnson. “And if we get more money there, we can actually make it really useful for the state of Utah and especially for rural Utah.”

Gladys T. Hensley