Sundance Festival Marks Annual Opportunity For Utah Film Commission

Jan 31, 2019

image from film.utah.gov
Credit Utah Film Commission Website

While filmmakers wrap up their time spent showing their films here, one Utah government agency is working hard to make sure they come back to the Beehive state to create film.

The Utah Film Commission is a state agency funded by the legislature. The commission’s Director Virginia Pearce explains what they do.

“We really serve to market the state of Utah for production and we do that both outside of Utah and inside of Utah. So, we encourage both local and out of state productions. We focus on helping people hire Utahns, helping people use local businesses. Anything from transportation to casting services.”

Pearce says that the Sundance film festival offers a unique opportunity for networking and promotion of the state.

“It’s fantastic I talk to other film commissions who are extremely jealous of the fact that 50,000 of our customers come to my backdoor. Sundance has always been a great platform for film. This is really our chance to show that Utah’s not only a place for film exhibition but a place for film production.”

The ongoing statute uses $8 million annually to incentivize the film industry to create films in Utah, Pearce says that the incentive is essential.

“Eight million dollars sounds like a lot of money but when you look at other states that we compete with regularly, New Mexico has a $50 million incentive, Vancouver spends about $400 million a year, California has $300 million. So, we really have to be selective when we’re talking to filmmakers about who’s a good fit here. It’s obviously not the giant blockbuster films, we just can’t afford them. I think, especially with Sundance, we’re a great fit for independent films obviously we have some television series which has been great for us. We’ve had Yellowstone here in Summit County and Andi Mack through Disney Channel for the last couple of years.”

Pearce says Utah’s locations are what makes the state competitive.

“People love Utah for it’s locations. They love it for how easy it is to get in and out and people are super friendly. We are still very interested in having film so I think they see that. There may be other markets out there that are a little weary of the film production because they’re so big. So, we’ve had some great conversations with some filmmakers that are very interested in bringing their next production here.”

The new film studio out at Quinn’s Junction has also helped to entice the industry to make film in Utah.

“It’s a great facility. Filmmakers love it. It’s obviously unique to be in a brand-new studio most of the studios out there that are commonly used have been around for a long time, so I think filmmakers are impressed by the newness. It’s a beautiful space. Obviously, they’ve been very busy for the last couple of years with Yellowstone. It did definitely help us get Yellowstone because they needed that big studio space.”

Recently the film industry has been pushing for a larger incentive. That increase would come directly from the Utah Legislature.

“There’s definitely interest from the industry. There’s been a couple of articles lately industry has expressed an interest in growing the incentive. Currently, the Utah Film Commission is not looking to make any requests of the legislature, but I think industry are out there talking to people.”