Utah urged to boost filmmaking incentives – Skimpy fund costing state millions, officials tell panel

Nearly 20 movie producers bypassed filming productions in Utah this year because of a depleted motion picture incentive fund, Utah Film Commission officials told a legislative group on Monday.

The Legislature earlier this year created the $1 million fund to bolster the state’s film industry. However, the funding was $2 million short of what Utah’s movie industry said was needed to make a difference.

At a Tourism Task Force meeting Monday, Rep. Sheryl Allen, R-Bountiful, said $1 million was simply not "cutting it" when compared with other state film incentives.

"We’ve either got to do the full $3 million and try it or, in my opinion, just say we are not going to be in this game and get out," Allen said. "And then we are truly left behind, because these film companies go where the money is."

Only six film productions benefited from the $1 million fund, according to Leigh von der Esch, director of the state’s Office of Tourism.

Aaron Syrett, director of the Utah Film Commission, said 65 movie production companies asked about the state’s incentive. Of that number, 35 had funding in place for their productions. If Utah had set aside $3 million, Syrett said, nearly 20 of the 35 producers could have received some incentive from the state.

The fund awards producers who film their productions in Utah and encompasses both feature films and independent films. Incentives are capped at $500,000 and are paid after production is completed, based on the economic impact of the production to the state.

Von der Esch said for every $1 incentive given to a film production, the state captures $6 back in taxes, yet the limited dollars prevented the film commission from going after bigger productions.

By Dave Anderton
Deseret Morning News

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