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Posts Tagged ‘Film’

25th May
written by JHiggins

Tucson was once a mecca for films and television productions.  Over the past few years our neighbor’s over in New Mexico have done a great job of recruiting and retaining  movie/TV production companies. New Mexico under Gov. Richardson’s questionable leadership, put on the full court press to get the cameras rolling. The state of NM offered lucrative tax incentives to directly rebate production companies to do business in their state.  Other states have followed but NM seems to have got it right.

Arizona enacted their own $50m incentive but with a cumbersome process and some strings attached the production companies haven’t jumped on.  Maybe our state legislators can look at the structure and try to make it more attractive. The problem is an entire creative class of technical movie makers have watched prospects dry up here and moved elsewhere. It may be too late to get them back. The entertainment industry is one of those business that pays labor well and thrives in good economies and bad.

From the Tucson Weekly – April 19, 2001 – Read article HERE.

While the Tucson Film Office attempts to bring film production dollars back to the region–a task that is more difficult now than ever before–the media with their ebullience seem star-struck and provincial, an image that belies Tucson’s status as an almost-major footnote in the history of the motion picture industry.

That being said, it is hard to blame the media for such zealousness, as Arizona in general and Tucson in particular have always had a contradictory, if not ironic, relationship with the movie industry.

With the sun incessantly shining and the scenery transformed with every step-up in elevation, Arizona–especially Southern Arizona–is an ideal place to make movies…

Canada had already created the production service tax credit, a stroke of genius that offered foreign film and television production companies tax breaks on production labor expenses. The PSTC, coupled with further tax incentives offered in individual Canadian provinces, created a production-crew employment boom, and left a lot of film industry workers in California–not to mention workers in smaller, ancillary markets like Tucson–out of work.

Though the Tucson Film Office has been working hard to overcome runaway production, it may be a hopeless cause. A recent Director’s Guild of America study reported that in 1998 alone, the nationwide economic impact of runaway production had reached $10.3 billion, a five-fold increase since 1990.

With no studio, no sound stages, no government incentives, and a dwindling, disheartened crew base, it is hard to imagine how sunshine and scenery alone will bring the productions back to Tucson.

“Up until the fire (Old Tucson Studios) this community maintained a level of film production higher than most places,” Shelton said. “But when they rebuilt (Old Tucson) they didn’t rebuild the qualities and the things in the town that the film companies came here to film. They have made it pretty clear that their interest is primarily in tourism.”

And now our competitors over in Albquerque click HERE:

    MovieMaker magazine, a major trade publication in the film industry, cited Albuquerque as a “hot spot” in the United States for movie production. Here’s proof.
  • Did someone say snakes? It was announced that the fourth “Indiana Jones” film, tentatively called “Indiana Jones and the City of the Gods,” is to be filmed in the Deming area. Like the other movies in the series, it features Harrison Ford. Since 2003, the film industry has generated $1.4 billion in economic activity in New Mexico, according to the New Mexico Film Office.
  • Seeing stars: Albuquerque Studios opened its $74 million motion picture and TV production studio at the city’s Mesa del Sol development. Set on 28 acres, it includes eight sound stages. Several films, including “The Spirit,” starring Samuel L. Jackson and Scarlett Johansson, and several TV shows, such as “Breaking Bad” and “In Plain Sight,” have used the studio.
  • And Sony announced it would bring part of its Sony Pictures Imageworks from California to Mesa del Sol in 2008. This means an initial 150 to 250 new jobs for the Duke City, likely with a few hundred more later.
  • Hollywood moves in at Budaghers: ÁTraditions!, the former outlet mall and marketplace on Interstate 25 between Albuquerque and Santa Fe, plans to become a movie studio. It will accommodate feature films, music videos and TV sitcoms and commercials.
  • From Inside Tucson Business (HERE) this summer,  Shellie Hall the director of Tucson Film Office has been trying to sell our community to the film industry.

    In the 2006-2007 fiscal year, Tucson had more than 400 days worth of film production, booked more than 11,000 nights of hotel rooms, and the equivalent of 7,650 days of work by local talent, according to Film Office Newsletter.

    “All without a single big budget, mega-watt, studio motion picture,” Hall said.

    While net numbers may be down a bit over previous efforts, Hall says her five-year comparison average still rings an impressive cash register.

    The average production this year was about $7 million.

    The Arizona Motion Picture Tax Incentive, approved by the Legislature and instituted three years ago, is a marketing tool intended to make filming in Arizona less taxing by returning 30 percent of expenditures to producers. The incentive started at 20 percent and was raised to 30 percent on expenditures in excess of $1 million. It has a cap of $50 million.

    “While we have tax credits and incentives, states like New Mexico (and Louisiana and Connecticut) have no cap at all on how much they will give as an inducement to film in their state, so they’re winning in the race to get the plum contracts,” Hall says. “We’re going back to our legislature to see if we can improve on our incentive package to be more competitive with New Mexico. We already have some competitive advantages with our neighboring state, particularly our close proximity to the Los Angeles film industry. We’re not asking for more money, just trying to make access to what we have easier. We can work within the mandated cap, we just need to change the way the current clunky and bureaucratic procedures are administered.”

    Despite costs continuing to increase and discretionary budgets continuing to shrink, Hall remains optimistic about the future of the film industry and the part the Tucson Film Office will play.

    “Even in the Depression, movies did well because people like the big screen and they need to escape,” she said.

    Lee Allen is a Tucson-based freelance writer.

    It’s encouraging that we do in fact have an office and an effort. It’s encouraging that the state legislature has given us some tools to be competitive.  It boils down to results and measuable increases in our regions film related revenues.  Getting the ball rolling may take some public and private sector support. Production companies will go to areas that are receptive, areas that are economically beneficial to their business models and where the support crews are in place and ready to work.  Like most of our economic issues in the region we have some ground work to lay before we see rusults.

    From Tucson Films latest newsletter:

    Some of the lows, well, those mostly have to do with the projects that got away…like a 3:10 to Yuma (the original shot here) or HAMLET 2 which claims to be Tucson in the film but was actually shot in Albuquerque (and we so wish it were the other way around).

    One loss, especially sad for the Tucson production community, is that the National Association of Latino Independent Producers (NALIP) decided, after 5 years of holding their 10-day Producers Academy here, to move it to Santa Fe. The city of Tucson, the MTCVB, UA Media Arts & Hanson Film Institute, TFO and others did everything we could to keep them here, but New Mexico did more.

    From the Tucson Citizen regarding ‘Hamlet 2′ a low budget film that pokes fun at Tucson HERE :

    “I guess they thought about filming in Tucson, but it all came down to money, as it always does,” Kreinbrink says. “With all the incentives New Mexico offers compared to Arizona, it was a no-brainer.
    “I don’t think they even looked here for locations.”
    “‘Hamlet 2′ is a low-budget film that came in under the radar,” says Hall. “I didn’t hear anything about the project until it got to Sundance.
    “Arizona does have a tax incentive program, too, but it is more awkward to use, not as film-friendly as the one in New Mexico,” Hall says. “We are trying to get the state Legislature to make Arizona’s incentives more film-friendly. We’ve been working on it for three years. We’re preparing now to make another push in January.”
    While the wheels of government turn much slower than the reels in Hollywood, Tucson’s film industry is shrinking just as Albuquerque is turning into the Movieland of Enchantment.
    “If I was able to relocate, I would probably give moving to New Mexico some serious thought,” Ginn says. “There simply isn’t enough work here, and it does affect the quality of one’s life.”
    Hall confirms the brain and talent drain. “A lot of our Arizona work force is over there right now . . . working,” she says. “Their families are here, but they are over there.”
    From the actual movie Hamlet 2, pretty much sums up the Tucson film industry efforts:
    The camera pans right to a weathered city limits sign reading “Tucson” as a voice-over narrator solemnly pronounces this is the city “where dreams go to die.”Granted, Coogan’s schoolteacher character gets no respect from anybody. Because most of the cast members play his disgruntled students, maybe it is appropriate to keep taking pot shots at the city.
    But at the movie’s end, one of the so-called responsible adults in the cast tells the students to cheer up: “No matter where you go in life after this, it will always be better than Tucson.”
    Hamlet 2 cast
    As recent as April of this year the Star ran a story about a possiblilty of an investment in a soundstage HERE :
    Hall said a soundstage might be “overstepping” the demand for movies right now, but she supports it in the long run. The community media center is needed, though, she said, especially given Tucson’s large “indigenous” independent movie community.
    Moviemaking has been a boon for Albuquerque’s economy, said Ann Lerner, director of the Albuquerque Film Office.
    Lerner said the direct spending from the film business has exploded since 2004, jumping from $11 million in 2004 to $83 million last year.
    In contrast, spring-training baseball in Tucson generates an estimated $30 million in direct investment — an amount that a group of Tucson business leaders says justifies $9 million in new taxes a year to save.
    In Albuquerque, the movie industry also has boosted Downtown, said Brian Morris of Albuquerque’s Downtown Action Team, allowing the city to keep its young talent with high-paying jobs while also recruiting young professionals around the county who are looking for an urban living environment.
    Hein: A leader is needed
    City Manager Mike Hein said the idea of collaborating in tough fiscal times is always worth exploring. But he said the project needs a leader who can bring together Tucson’s fractious interests. The idea that there are multiple potential revenue sources makes it more feasible, Hein said.
    “If there are multiple parties with multiple pockets, it’s certainly easier to put together deals,” Hein said. “It all comes down to a business plan.”
    The economic impact in New Mexico reached over $1.2 billion in 2007. Read it HERE.
    The state’s Film Office frequently touts its achievements, which include helping attract more than 85 films and television projects to the state since 2003. Officials say the activity has added over $1.2 billion to New Mexico’s economy.
    Incentive programs include a 25 percent tax rebate on all film expenditures subject to taxation by the state, loans of up to $15 million per project, with back-end participation instead of interest, and no state sales tax (an option that can’t be used with the tax rebate).
    New Mexico’s programs are “clean, simple and directly accessible by productions themselves,” Witt said. “I think that’s key to going forward.”
    17th June
    written by Downtown Dudette

    Someone with a video production experience put up a post on AZ Starnet that’s worth a read. The story is on the City of Tucson’s $820,000 journey into movie business. Apparently based on stock footage, video production market rates both locally and from national firms and video editing techniques we could have got the same 15 minute film from local access Channel 12 for just under a grand.

    Nothing really surprises me anymore about Tucson’s leadership.


    229. Comment by Don M. (saffronbindy) — June 17,2009 @ 4:37PM
    Ratings:   -1 +10
    Loose ends…
    The more I look at this video clip the madder I get. It is horrible. I’ll get into more technical details just later.
    I’m most PO’d that the city spends taxpayer money for the Tucson Film Office every year to bring films here. We OWN them. Why not use them? Same for Tucson 12. Nobody watches them, but they do produce very pretty video and win awards for it. We pay for every cent of them. We OWN them. Same for whoever shoots the videos for the Desert Museum. Some of those are nothing short of spectacular. Why not find out who that is? Strangely, someone told me it was really Tucson 12 who shoots the Desert Museum videos, which doesn’t surprise me.
    Next, the cost. I spent some time today calling around. Produced locally a 15 minute promotional video runs between $30,000 and $50,000. From the national companies it runs between $200,000 and $300,000. Not $820,000. We got took, big time.
    Then there is the $70,000 “oversight fee.” I mentioned this to one of the national companies and the person just laughed and said I was being “milked.” If you contract a video with any money behind it the video company gives you a full-time person to oversee your project. You and your employees have to do nothing. Even the smaller local companies will do this, but they will be part-time. Then there is the time deal. I asked all how long it would be before I got my video. Five years? Three? Two? Our video project has taken five. They all work on about the same schedule. Forty-five to 60 days for the first edit to be delivered, and about 90 days for the final product.
    Now the technical part. Being born and raised in Tucson I was annoyed that so much of the video (most of it, actually) was shot in Cochise and Santa Cruz counties. As I looked at the video it hit me. This was stock footage spliced together. I knew this because of the edits, and the fact that some of the cactus pictures had types of cactus we don’t have within 200 miles of here, and the cow herding picture had black cows in it. We don’t have black ones. Ours are brown.
    This is the technical part. Splicing stock footage together is hard. Takes a good video company to do it. You can see this yourself. When a scene shifts, from one clip to another, the video editor makes sure the colors in the first few seconds of the clip just shifted to more or less match the colors in the clip just shifted away from. This makes the transition easy on the eye. This video for Tucson is almost a tutorial in how not to do do scene shifts. One scene shifts from a man on horseback which is 85% pure white to another shot at night which is 90% pure black. Your eye cannot adjust that fast, and you will miss the first part of the second scene. Sloppy editing. Go to a new-release Hollywood movie and look at nothing other than the scene-shift colors. They will be perfect. They are perfect because they now use software to manage colors across scene shifts. If it shifts abruptly, it’s because the director wants you to notice it.
    I started looking for where the stock video might have come from. I found some of it. The black cows live in Colorado. You can buy your own video of the black cows. Same cows, same cowboy, same meadow, same mountains in the background. But is will cost you $500 to license it.
    We’ve been ripped off. For only $100,000 I would have been willing to put together a video just as good as the one the city bought. I would buy stock footage and download it. Stuff it into my movie maker software which can write broadcast-quality output, and deliver it. I would never leave my house.

    28th May
    written by JHiggins

    Join us tomorrow for an interview with Clay Frey, a local financial planner turned movie producer. Clay is talking about his B horror movie Dead On Site. We’re going to talk about the process, ups and downs and Tucson’s film industry.

    At one time Tucson had vibrant film industry. It started during the popularity of the classic westerns and carried over to films into the 80’s, that I grew up with, like Can’t Buy Me Love. For a full listing HERE.

    Southern Arizona had an entire industry of film trades people that  movie and television production crews could tap into for the next TV miniseries or feature film. Within an hour of Tucson a production could be in saguaro forests or tall pined mountain tops.  The scenic back drops are incredible.

    With the arrival  of film production companies came a lot of money. They hire local actors and behind the scene support personnel. They stay in area hotels and eat at local restaurants.

    Even with great scenic locations, close proximity to L.A. and the creative talent needed, the film industry migrated away. New Mexico is where most of the productions and talent is now. NM went on a major buying spree for all types industries. Their plan to attract business came at a price. We are seeing now how New Mexico may have overstepped things a bit, which eventually lead to improprieties and scandals big enough to keep Gov. Richardson out of the Obama cabinet. Whether or not New Mexico’s investment will pay off remains to be seen.

    We did a complete story on our local film history HERE a few months back.

    The biggest hurdle facing Arizona’s film industry revolves around the structure of tax credits given to production companies to entice them to choose Arizona.

    Just like spring training baseball stadiums that used to cost $28m and have now escalated to $125m, the stakes in the film industry have risen dramatically. Like many other economic incentives the community that offers the most money gets the business. Arizona has tried to implement a tax credit program but New Mexico issued a better one. Last year only $8m out of the total possible of $50m was claimed. The issue has to do with the amounts and levels of payouts as compared to competing states.  It may not be the right year to sweeten the offering given our states financial mess but it’s going to take some work.

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