On Sunday, Sept. 20, the Breckenridge Film Festival is hosting the Colorado Filmmakers Forum. Colorado directors Alexandre Philippe, Mitch Dickman, Sean Jourdan and Academy Award winner Daniel Junge, along with Colorado actor John Ashton, gather to discuss the benefits and limitations of filmmaking in Colorado. The event is 3–5 p.m. at the Breckenridge Town Hall Theater, and will be moderated by Colorado Film commissioner Donald Zuckerman. The Summit Daily caught up with Zuckerman before the forum to talk about filmmaking in Colorado. Zuckerman, also a movie producer himself, came to Denver four years ago from L.A. after Gov. Hickenlooper appointed him film commissioner.
Summit Daily News: What are some of the topics you will be focusing on in the forum?
Donald Zuckerman: I think the main topic is why Colorado. … The whole idea is it’s a panel about Colorado filmmakers — why did you pick Colorado, and what do you have next, and are you going to try to make that in Colorado — why here? We have an incentive program that’s way better than it was a few years ago, but we still don’t have incredible funding, we are almost out of money now and our year just started July 1.
SDN: Tell me a little more about the incentive program.
DZ: We have an incentive program to encourage people to film in Colorado, so we encourage people from out of state to film here, and we encourage people who are already here even more to film here.
If you’re making a really low-budget film, which some of these filmmakers on the panel have done, you’re probably going to make it wherever you live. It’s not about incentives, it’s how can I make a film with almost no budget, and the easiest way to do that is if nobody has to travel anywhere and you can rely on your contacts and friends and people you know. And when you get into bigger budgets, it’s very much about the incentive programs in various states or countries, and that’s what people focus on.
SDN: What are the benefits to being a filmmaker in Colorado compared to more conventional filmmaking cities?
DZ: There are a number of benefits. First of all, we have a lot of almost virgin territory, because although about 300 movies were made here from the beginning of cinema, til seven or eight years ago there came a time when incentives were almost everywhere and we didn’t have a good incentive program, so for a five-year period before I got here, nobody was coming. So if I was a director or cinematographer, and wanted to shoot a movie, ideally you’d find locations that are unique or that people haven’t seen a lot. There’s nothing in New Mexico that hasn’t been shot, I’ve made some movies there myself. …
Because the citizenry is not used to seeing a lot of filmmaking, it’s very exciting to them, so they are generous with their real estate, their properties. … We have all these great locations, we can pull off anything but an ocean, and today we can CGI an ocean. … Filmmakers get a lot of bang for their buck here, and we have a lot of very talented people who are crew, and a lot of student filmmakers, well over a thousand student filmmakers who want to work on films and are willing to intern.
SDN: What are the drawbacks of being a filmmaker in Colorado?
DZ: We need more film here to have a more robust crew base, if we had two or three movies come at the same time, it would be a problem. Certainly three would be a problem, even three small movies. If the really big movies like “The Hateful Eight” (directed by Quentin Tarantino, filmed near Telluride) are required to hire 50 percent local, when you have a crew of 300 it’s not that easy, because people like Quentin Tarantino are used to working with the best of the best, but they were able to do it here and they were happy. If they made a lot more movies here, we could handle three movies, four movies, five movies at a time, which you can do in New Mexico or Louisiana, or Toronto, or Vancouver or L.A., where we can do 20 movies at a time. So that’s a little bit of a drawback but it’s not something that will keep people away because there are enough qualified people.
SDN: What are your goals with the forum, what would you like people to take away from the discussion?
DZ: I’m hoping they’ll take away that Colorado is a wonderful place to make movies. Most of the people at the forum probably live here, so they already know it’s a great place to live, but they need to hear that it’s also a great place to work.