In between silver-screen car chases and indie rom-coms, local filmmakers and state legislators got down to business on the future of film in Colorado during the closing weekend of the 33rd annual Starz Denver Film Festival. As 5280 associate editor Julie Dugdale reports this month for the magazine, it comes down to money. Colorado doesn’t offer the kind of state-issued financial returns driving most film projects. While some states have 25 percent (New Mexico) or 42 percent (Michigan) cash-back or tax-break incentive programs for filmmakers’ in-state production costs, the Colorado Film Incentive Program, established by the state legislature in 2006, offers only a 10 percent rebate.
Notable local filmmakers weighed in on the situation this weekend, including Precious producer Sarah Siegel Magness, who explains, “It’s not a personal thing. People love Colorado. You think film crews like producing in Baton Rouge? That place is hell. But filmmakers are going to go where they can get the best return on their investment. Until we raise the incentive returns, we’re not going to attract the big features here.” Magness suggests lobbying for a higher filmmaker-return percentage and creating an advertising campaign in Los Angeles about why Denver is a great place to film.
Oscar and Emmy award-winning director Daniel Junge continues to live in Denver and frequently flies back and forth between New York and LA. “I live in Colorado for the lifestyle. It’s worth it because my head is clear here. But it’s challenging, because you just can’t get the face time with broadcasters and producers like you would living in New York,” he says. “I look forward to the day I can sit down in front of a [group of] New York film executives and say that I’m a filmmaker from Denver and have them not give me a ‘that’s obscure’ look.” Magness, who maintains houses in both LA and Denver, says she would love to make another feature film in Colorado: “All I need is the right movie, and I’m in.”