TELLURIDE – With the real estate and development industries the town relied upon for jobs and revenue in the post-mining era now unreliable sources of both, a new Telluride Film Commission plans to target the film industry in hopes of generating a more sustainable local economy.
“We’re going to do everything we possibly can to bring commercials, catalog shoots and even film here to Telluride,” said Telluride Town Councilmember Thom Carnevale, who announced the launch of the TFC’s new website (funded by $1,800 in private donations) when council met last week.
Carnevale got the idea to formalize the town’s outreach to film productions as council made round after round of cuts to the 2009 budget because of multi-million dollar revenue shortfalls.
“We did many years back have a fairly thriving number of commercial companies that came here; we were really on track,” he said. “We would like to see it come back on the radar screen.”
To that end, Carnevale contacted locals Tim Territo, who founded Telluride On Site Productions in 2003 offering location, casting and production services, and production coordinator Ted Wilson.
“I’ve known what kind of money it can bring in,” said Territo who has over 20 years of experience as a location scout and assistant director.
Wilson estimated that a small, one-day commercial shoot utilizing a crew of about 20 people alone could bring about $75,000 into the town.
“There is so much potential for local revenue,” he said.
Together they approached Telluride Tourism Board Chief Executive Officer Scott McQuade, and the TFC was born.
Although the TFC operates under the TTB to maximize marketing opportunities, it is funded entirely through private donations.
Luring a film production to a location, “can be enormously productive for a resort community,” said McQuade, explaining that the benefits are both short and long term.
Not only do production teams spend money in hotels, restaurants and shops while on location, but the appearance of a location on-screen can breed familiarity and recognition.
“That kind of PR value and exposure would cost millions to buy,” he said. “It can provide greater impact than most marketers can dream of.”
According to a fact sheet prepared by the Colorado Film Commission prior to the passage of House Bill 09-1010 signed by Gov. Bill Ritter in June, actor Sean Penn’s 2007 adaptation of “Into the Wild” boosted tourism to Alaska by over 100 percent while director Peter Jackson’s “The Lord of the Rings” trilogy increased travel to New Zealand by 34 percent.
Commercials, photo shoots and feature film productions are not alien to Telluride and the region, where British Vogue, Eddie Bauer and Macy’s have done photo shoots, Budweiser, Chevrolet and Visa have filmed commercials, and movies from True Grit in 1969 to The Prestige in 2006 have shot scenes. The 1998 film Scrapple was filmed about and shot entirely in Telluride
While the commission bears the name Telluride, its mission is to promote the region to the film industry as an affordable, accessible site for on location filming.
To that end, if it can find the funding it plans to attend the Association of Film Commissioners International locations trade show in Santa Monica next April with the Colorado Film Commission. There, the TFC will have an opportunity to sell producers and other decision makers on all the region has to offer.
“We want to get the word out there that we want to shoot here in Telluride, that it’s easy for them to shoot and there are a lot of skilled people here to work,” said Territo.
“The goal is to be welcoming to the film industry,” said Town Manager Frank Bell, who has been involved in the establishment of the commission.
Bell said that the town could help achieve that goal through means such as streamlining its permitting process and by using public resources to close streets for filming – not unlike what it does for festivals and other events – for example.
The TFC’s efforts dovetail with those being made by the state, which re-established the Colorado Office of Film, Television and Media and provided tax incentives to attract and grow film production throughout the state when it passed H.B. 2010 last summer.
“The state is key in all of this too,” said McQuade.
But so, too, is the community, which in the past has met the film industry with mixed response.
“It will take the community to help make it work,” said McQuade.
Still, the commission is hopeful that its efforts will go far.
“I think it could bring in several millions of dollars into the community, and during good times even more,” said Carnevale.
To make a tax-deductible contribution to the Telluride Film Commission, send a check, payable to the Telluride Tourism Board, to PO Box TK, Telluride, CO 81435, and earmark it TFC.