ST. GEORGE – In a meeting city officials hope to be the first of many, the St. George City Council met with representatives of the Utah Film Commission Thursday about the possibility of bringing film production projects to the St. George area and Washington County overall.
Southern Utah, and Utah in general, is no stranger to the film industry.
Derek Mellus, a representative of the Utah Film Commission, said one of the most popular areas to film in Utah is the Bonneville Salt Flats. Other locations, such as Monument Valley and Lake Powell, have been featured in various motion pictures like “Mission Impossible 2,” “Need for Speed,” and “John Carter.”
There is also the Sundance Film Festival in Park City that attracts big names in the film industry each year, as well as the smaller, but growing DocUtah documentary film festival that kicks off next week.
“(DocUtah) could be our next Sundance eventually,” Mellus said.
Films shot in Utah’s southwest region over the years include “The Conqueror,” and “The Searchers, both starring John Wayne, “Butch Cassidy and the Sundance Kid,” “High School Musical 2,” and the “The Electric Horseman,” among many others.
It is the UFC’s job to market Utah as a filming location to international and domestic film makers, Mellus said, and it does so though the Internet via its website, YouTube and Twitter, and other means.
Film productions that come to Utah are offered tax incentives though the state’s Motion Picture Incentive Program. It is a “post-production, fully refundable tax credit of production dollars spent in the State of Utah,” according to the film commission’s website. Productions that spend $200,000 to $1 million and up in-state can qualify for the 20-25 percent rebate on every dollar. Tax exemptions are also offered.
Film productions can also have economic impacts on the communities they temporary settle in for filming. A film crew may be in town only a couple of day, yet can end up spending millions of dollars during that time, Mellus said.
Mayor Jon asked Mellus how St. George, could become a stronger attractant to perspective film productions.
Mellus said there are three factors that are considered when choosing a location for a film:
- Will the location work well creatively with the film script?
- Is the location logistically feasible?
- Is the location financially feasible?
If the location works with the script, then logistics and financial feasibility come next.
“You guys are in a great position here,” Mellus said, noting the city’s close proximity to places like Las Vegas and Los Angeles. He also said the climate tends to be more temperate and welcoming in January, which can be an advantage to film makers.
Having a skilled and local work force on hand that can answer a film maker’s needs is also important, and Mellus said Dixie State University appeared to be producing that work force.
As for the financial side of things, that’s where the tax incentives come into play, he said.
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