Reeling in Hollywood
Four Corners Film Office pulling in productions

Marc Snider, of the Four Corners Film Office and Exposure Productions, fits a hood over a studio light in the Exposure studio in Bodo Park on Monday. The Film Office launched recently in order the hopes of enticing filmmakers to the Southwest./Photo by Stephen Eginoire

by Christine Rasmussen

Not only is it fun to be watching a film and see a place you recognize (“That’s where I go for Happy Hour!” … “It’s Engineer Mountain!”) it means work for local actors, camera assistants, caterers, construction crews, even seamstresses, to name a few.

Attracting more film, media and TV production to the region is the goal of the nascent Four Corners Film Office, which officially launched in April with the hiring of coordinator Dave Welz. The agency will be a one-stop resource to help with location shots, permitting, securing local crews, logistics and attending to the many other requests film crews have.

After nearly two years of collaborative efforts between its advisory board, community partners and the Colorado Office of Film, TV and Media (an arm of the state’s Economic Development Office), the Four Corners Film Office may be the factor that entices bigger productions to the area the likes of “City Slickers,” “Butch Cassidy and the Sundance Kid” and “True Grit” – all shot in or around Durango.

“There is a lot of energy behind our mission,” Welz said at a recent Film Office kickoff reception. “There are a lot of resources here: people with technical skills and of course we have geography in the Four Corners region that is unmatched, so we think we have a real opportunity.”

The diversity in the area is its strongest draw, according to Marc Snider, chair of the Film Office Advisory Board. “A production can be in one spot and film mountains, desert, western landscapes, a little bit of urban – small town, certainly.”

Film production crews use the gamut of services, from production assistants to drycleaners. “Anybody who thinks they can provide a service that can be used for the film community should contact the Film Office,” Snider said. “We not only want to have contacts set up – because when a film calls it’s usually short notice and they need things quickly – but also we’re finding that in Colorado versus other states with tax incentives (for film productions), we can save them money if we can work out deals with different service providers. If the film crew is given five or 10 percent off to stay at a certain hotel, for example, it’s money that establishment might not have received otherwise.”

Customer service will be a distinguishing trait of the Four Corners Film Office to keep the area competitive with other locales. “These people are calling lots of places all over the world, weighing what can be the easiest,” Snider said. “If we can knock their socks off by how easy the little things are and how welcoming we are, we can sway them to come here.”

Even a television-commercial shoot means potential work for set or prop builders, art directors, cowboys and makeup artists. Horses, ATV’s and land may also need to be rented. “We are specifically looking for people who own private land, large properties or ranches, who would be open to renting land out for a day, because filming on state or federal land takes much longer to rent,” Snider added.

Regional community development organizations see the potential for an economic boost, as organizations such as Region 9 Economic Development District and the Durango Business Improvement District (BID) have partnered with the Film Office. “Besides things like art and culture that film and media production bring to a community, it’s an economic driver as big as any other that we could go after,” Snider explained. “And it’s near recession-proof. Typically, the worse economically the country is, the better film does. During the Great Depression there were huge numbers of people going to movies.”

Snider added that because most of the film industry works freelance, word of mouth spreads quickly from one production to the next: “When they work on another job, they will spread the word about how ‘film friendly’ we are to a whole new group of people.”

Welz sees film production as “a pretty green form of economic development,” as it doesn’t require the building of new infrastructure. “Southwest Colorado and the Four Corners are very unique areas, and I’m happy to be able to represent the Film Office and hopefully bring some outside money into the area without a lot of impact,” said Welz, who brings 15 years of marketing, sales and communications experience to his new post. “Everyone benefits as that money gets spent around the community over and over.”

The next step will be reaching out to local chambers of commerce and tourism offices to inform them of the Film Office mission. “What is important right now is that every call from film, media, TV coming into our service area gets funneled to us,” explained Snider. “We are working on a job right now that said, ‘We didn’t even know this (office) was here; this is so great,’ and it went from 50-50, to, now that Dave went out and helped them, almost for sure.”

The Film Office will initially cover Southwest Colorado then eventually spread across the Four Corners, up to Moab, down into Farmington, west into Kayenta, east to Creede. The web site will ultimately have a gallery of location shots and a listing of local film professionals and other filmmaker resources.

The board is also seeking two new members – preferably from outside Durango as they need regional representation – and its next task is to secure more funding. “Our funders are great but we are looking for more support,” said Snider. “Dave is part time now, to get ball rolling, but the more resources we have, the more we can do.”

To find out more, check the Film Office web site: www.4cornersfilmoffice.org.

 

 

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