Boulder on screen

Among the movies that have been filmed, at least in part, in Boulder:

"Sleeper" (1973), starring Woody Allen and Diane Keaton

"Alferd Packer: The Musical" (1996), starring Trey Parker

"About Schmidt" (2002), starring Jack Nicholson, Kathy Bates and Dermot Mulroney

"Catch and Release" (2007), starring Jennifer Garner, Timothy Olyphant and Kevin Smith

In the film "Catch and Release," Timothy Olyphant watches a sad Jennifer Garner walk alone along Boulder's Pearl Street Mall.

"What is it with this town? Everyone's so happy all the time," Olyphant says with swagger, his hands in his pockets.

A bit later, Olyphant continues, "This is like a Patagonia Disneyland. Maybe they're all medicated."

The two actors spent time in Boulder in 2005 while filming the feature-length movie, which grossed $15 million after its release in early 2007.

The Boulder Convention and Visitors Bureau tried to capitalize on the film's Boulder ties, creating a walking tour of each spot where the movie was filmed or set, spokeswoman Kim Farin said.

Yet the walking tour wasn't as big of a hit as Farin anticipated.

"We gave it a whirl, and it didn't gain any traction," she said. "I think (filmmaking) can do a lot for tourism, but I don't think that's happened to Boulder yet."

It may happen soon enough. Earlier this month, the Colorado Legislature passed House Bill 12-1286, or the Film Production Activities in Colorado Act. The legislation, which advocates have pushed for since the early 2000s, was signed into law by Gov. John Hickenlooper on Friday.

The bill upped the film incentive program from 10 percent to 20 percent, which means that feature films, television shows, music videos, commercials, documentaries, video games and other media forms produced in Colorado can earn a 20 percent rebate on money spent in this state. The law allocates $3 million of state funds to the program.

Actress Jennifer Garner listens for a cue to walk as her body double, Shauna Duggins, waits in the foreground during filming of "Catch and
Actress Jennifer Garner listens for a cue to walk as her body double, Shauna Duggins, waits in the foreground during filming of "Catch and Release" on University Hill in in July of 2005. The film came out in 2007. ( JOSHUA LAWTON )

More than half of local production must be done by state residents to be eligible for the cash rebate, according to the new law, up from 25 percent. In-state production companies are eligible for the rebate if they spent at least $100,000. Other companies must spend $1 million to be eligible.

New Mexico, one of Colorado's rivals with its appealing scenery and backdrops, has been offering filmmakers 25 percent cash rebates since summer 2011. Many film-related businesses are hopeful the new law will help Colorado catch up.

While Donald Zuckerman, director of the Colorado Office of Film, Television and Media, doesn't anticipate that the new law will bring immediate change to Boulder and Colorado, he said he is hopeful about the impact it can have on local businesses.

Boulder has more than 100 film-related companies, many of which have noticed a decline in demand since the start of the recession.

"It should make a substantial impact and keep our infrastructure intact," Zuckerman said. "The infrastructure for filmmaking has been quite rusty and in decline. It's a start. It's not enough money that it will turn us into Hollywood. We're hopeful that we can demonstrate to the Legislature that this was worthwhile and perhaps the following year get more money."

Funding flat

Scott Roche, founder of Boulder's Coupe Studios, has been working on original music for television and film since the early 1980s. Roche's team worked on "Saving Face," the 2012 Oscar winner for best short documentary.

Coupe Studios grew during the recession, partially because of an increase in demand from businesses trying to amp up radio and television advertising.

"We've ridden through a couple recessions, but nothing quite as fierce as the one that we're maybe cycling out of right now," Roche said. "Recessions tend to clear things out a little bit. There's fewer jobs coming along, but we're getting more of them."

Other Coupe clients, like small film companies and cable networks, lost corporate sponsorships and pulled back on post-production services, Roche said. He noted that the recession also made it more difficult for documentaries to find funding.

But in the last year, and especially in the last six months, the audio business has picked up.

Greg McRae, a sound engineer, works on a film project at Coupe Studios in Boulder. The studio had seen its film work slow down during the recession, but
Greg McRae, a sound engineer, works on a film project at Coupe Studios in Boulder. The studio had seen its film work slow down during the recession, but this past year as seen a noticeable pick-up in business. ( MARK LEFFINGWELL )

"We've never been busier with independent film productions," he said. "We've mixed more films in the last year than we did in three years prior to that."

Programs such as Kickstarter, an online donation tool, have made it easier for small films to get funding faster, Roche said, one positive development that resulted from the recession. Corporate sponsors are returning slowly because they understand the value of having their name attached to local productions, he said.

As for the incentive program, it's a start toward making film a viable industry in Colorado, but even so, Coupe Studios producer Eric Singer said the state could do more.

"If we wanted to retain and grow production in Colorado, we had no choice," Singer said. "The more advantageous they make (filming in Colorado) from a financial standpoint, the better."

Cross-platform training

Filmmaker Bruce Borowsky co-founded Boulder Digital Arts, a technology and digital arts school, in 2004. Borowsky said he has seen a 10 to 15 percent increase in students each year since 2007.

"During a recession, a lot of people need to be cross-trained," Borowsky said. "You might have a photographer whose boss says, 'You need to make a Web site to put all those pictures on.'"

The ability to stream films on the Internet has revolutionized the amount of exposure artists can get, Borowsky said. The incentive program should mean an increase in recognition for Boulder filmmakers and the state itself.

"It's a level playing field now if you make a quality piece of work," he said. "You can get people to see it without spending a dime. Colorado has a very exceptional, vibrant community of creative film and digital professionals so it'll be exciting for them to get more and more work and be able to show off their skills to an audience."

Environmentally friendly

Michael Brown is president of Serac Adventure Films, a production company for expedition television and film. Brown and his staff work primarily on multi-year films, so it's tougher for him to determine the exact impact of the recession -- but he said he definitely felt it.

"We don't have the margins that we once did, but we're still here," he said.

The company stopped buying new equipment as often and tries to be as efficient as possible when filming on location. The company's next film school session at the Teva Mountain Games is "at capacity," Brown said, which is good news for the future. The eight-day course gives students the chance to make their own film at the games with instruction on camera techniques and storytelling.

Aside from the economic benefit the incentive program will bring to Boulder, Brown said it also will promote an industry that leaves behind a very small imprint on the environment and stimulates education and creativity.

"It's clean and interesting," he said. "It's not terribly environmentally impactful. It's a good industry, and not just because we're in it, but because of the way it impacts the state in other ways."

'Trickle-down benefit'

Sean Jourdan is a Boulder-based filmmaker and current director of "Teddy Boy," a feature-length psychological thriller. Jourdan raised more than $35,000 from donations to Kickstarter, and the movie is in pre-production.

Jourdan and his wife moved to Boulder from Chicago three years ago. Since then, he said he hasn't seen a lot of film production take place in Colorado, and the demand for his own freelance work also has slowed down.

"Mostly I've seen smaller independent films, which is great, but this has not been a sustainable industry for feature-film work," he said.

Because his wife has a steady job, they're able to stay in one place even when his freelance business is slow. Other freelancers are not so lucky, and must go where they can find work. With the increased incentive, Jourdan said, feature-length films will contribute to the local economy, and improve the quality of work done by Colorado crews and artists all around.

"It's a trickle-down benefit," he said "The crews start getting trained on bigger films and people can make their livings, and then help you on lower-budget, smaller independent films."

Jourdan believes the change will be gradual since Colorado has so much catching up to do compared to other states. But once it takes hold, he said, the film industry will see major growth.

"I can't wait to see it work here," he said of the incentive program. "It's going to take a little while for Colorado to get on peoples' radar screens. It's kind of an unknown. But it's a great place to film. Lots of sunshine, beautiful locations, lots of local talents.

"You're going to see some decent growth."