Utah film contest rewards with Sundance exposure

AP News
Posted: Nov 24, 2009 10:40 AM

Filmmakers around Utah are rushing to wrap their entries for a contest promoting the state as a desirable destination for film production.

The 30-second commercials generate a modest $1,500 cash prize for the winners, but many filmmakers aren't after the money.

The spots will saturate Park City during the renowned Sundance Film Festival, creating an opening for the filmmakers to mingle with Hollywood's biggest movers and shakers.

Meanwhile, the cash-strapped state gets creative promotional work done at bargain prices while developing homegrown talent.

"The commercial contest is a springboard for other things," said Marshall Moore, director of the Utah Film Commission.

The ultimate goal of the campaign, however, is landing major motion picture productions as competition from other states is increasing.

More than 40 states offer rebates, grants or tax credits to help cover production costs for movies, TV shows and commercials.

This year, Utah increased its tax credit from 15 percent to 20 percent. The move has helped the state go after bigger projects, such as the upcoming "John Carter of Mars," the first live-action film from Disney/Pixar Animation.

The state offered $5.5 million in incentives to land the film, which is expected to generate more than $27 million in spending next year.

One of last year's winners was 27-year-old Tony Henrichsen of Salt Lake City, whose ad featured a production assistant who wakes up to find his kidney was taken and sold to help pay for an over-budget film. The spot says all the crew really needed to do to save money was film in Utah.

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Henrichsen said his win improved his name recognition in the state's film industry.

"I run into people all the time who say, 'Hey, you made that commercial,'" he said. Henrichsen is using some of his winnings to produce a feature-length science fiction film.

The contest deadline is Dec. 2. Winners will be honored on Dec. 15.