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Governor proposes doubling state’s production incentive

Limited proposal sent to legislature’s joint budget committee.

By Richard J. Schneider

Gov. John Hickenlooper will be asking the Colorado Legislature to double the size of the state’s incentive for film, television, and media production in the state, from 10 to 20 per cent.

During the CFVA’s Nov. 16 Town Hall Meeting, State film commissioner Donald Zuckerman confirmed that the governor’s proposed budget for the next fiscal year includes a 20 per cent incentive, twice the current 10 per cent incentive, considered too low to attract even modest sized productions to Colorado.

Zuckerman, a former Hollywood executive producer hired by Hickenlooper earlier this year to run the state’s Office of Film, Television and Media (OFTM), said the current proposal will cap the incentive at $3 million in the first year.

Coupled with unspent funds in the state’s incentive fund, next year could see about $4 million available for incentives if the legislature approves the proposal,  Zuckerman said.

Since his arrival in Colorado earlier this year, Zuckerman has said he was aiming at independent films with $8-10 million budgets. His vision is to see about a dozen of these films being produced in Colorado, around the state and throughout the year, which would create permanent good-paying jobs in the state. His target number for new jobs is 1,000.

The initial proposal for the increased incentive is about one-fourth to one-third of his objective – 3 films for fiscal year 2012-2013 IN THE $8-10 million budget range, generating $25-30 million in economic activity in the state. “It’s not as big as we hoped it would be,” Zuckerman said to a crowd of about 100 CFVA members. “But the governor wants to test my thesis. If we did $25-30 million in production in the next fiscal year, it’s $25-30 million more than we’re doing now.”

The proposal for doubling the incentive percentage and increasing the annual cap to $3 million is contained in Hickenlooper’s proposed budget, which was submitted to the legislature’s Joint Budget Committee in mid-November.

For you Math Club members out there, quick arithmetic tells you $4 million at 20 per cent means the incentive would be paid on $20 million spent in the state. However, it’s likely that producers would be spending more than the $20 million once they set up shop to shoot in Colorado, hence the $25-30 million annual economic activity estimate from OFTM.

Zuckerman also said his office would see that the productions are spaced throughout the year and utilize as many locations around the state as possible. He said if the first trial period is successful, he hopes the state can increase its annual incentive cap in future years. The 2012-2013 fiscal year begins July 1, 2012.

While he has been working with related industry groups, such as lodging, restaurants, rental car companies, and airlines, in garnering support for the increased incentive, approval is not guaranteed.

The proposal must make its way through the Joint Budget Committee and then the state house and state senate.

The CFVA plans to monitor the incentive proposal and continue to assist in educating its membership, state lawmakers, and key officials around the state. A number of CFVA members have formed an ad hoc group to raise money for lobbying efforts. The CFVA, as a non-profit, is limited in the extent of its lobbying activities.

Zuckerman’s announcement was made during the CFVA’s first Town Hall Meeting, held at Lighting Services Inc. in Denver. Board members reported on their activities during the past year and answered questions from CFVA members.

Denver writer and long-time video producer Richard J. Schneider helps cover CFVA issues for the E-Bulletin.