With film incentives at risk, amount of local productions is down

Mar 31, 2016

A screenshot from a video produced by Vital Films.

Last week, Colorado Gov. John Hickenlooper expressed concern about whether film incentives would be cut from the state budget. Film crews have brought $151 million into the state’s economy. It’s a big concern that is already showing itself in the Roaring Fork Valley.

According to Pitkin County documents, only two filming and photography permits were issued in 2015. That’s a lower amount than each of the past four years.

Matt Hobbs founded Vital Films a few years ago by shooting music videos, but he realized that his company needed to diversify.

“We saw that skiing was awesome, but it was kind of hard to pay the bills,” Hobbs said.

Vital Films began working on bigger productions. Whole Foods, Skype, Microsoft. But now those opportunities are starting to dry up. Each of the past few years, Pitkin County received and approved around five permits to shoot or film in the area.


Mike Kraemer is in charge of reviewing permit requests in Pitkin County. He can’t remember the last time he turned down a permit. But this downturn has him stumped. If he had to guess, he said the reason these numbers dropped last year is because of location.


“For production companies in Denver, it’s probably easier to get to Breckenridge or Vail,” he said.


There’s also tons of federal legislation that prohibits shooting on many areas in the wilderness and on open space land in the Roaring Fork Valley. And there’s an even more basic issue.


“You don’t have many resources here,” Hobbs said. “You don’t have a studio to go film. You’re going to have to rent all your gear, ship it in from somewhere else just to work here. There are a few things that just make it a hard place in general to do production.”


Still car companies like Jeep have been coming and shooting nearly every year. So far in 2016, two filming permits have been approved. Hickenlooper said last week that it is important to keep good jobs for people in the state as Congress figures out the budget. Film incentives could be some of the first items on the chopping block.