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June 30, 2017

This month, I attended the Producers Guild of America 9th annual Produced By Conference at Twentieth Century Fox studios in LA. More than 1,000 producers and directors were there and we heard from indie studios including 21 Laps (creators of Netflix’s Stranger Things) and industry luminaries Oprah Winfrey, Jerry Seinfeld, Damien Chazelle and Jordan Peele. 

The aim of the conference is to connect with other producers and gain perspective from those working in the field. One of the highlights was Oprah speaking with Ava DuVernay, rising directorial star (Selma and Disney’s upcoming A Wrinkle in Time), and first African-American woman to helm a movie with a budget over $100 million.

They spoke candidly about the ups and downs of “getting things done” as women in Hollywood and the hope they have that the industry can continue to change with the times, something I’m certainly passionate about addressing here locally as well. 

21 Laps Entertainment, who not only helmed Stranger Things, but also the Oscar-nominated Arrival and family favorite Night at the Museum, talked about quality over quantity, and how the team behind the scenes (from cast to director to crew) make all the difference. This hit home for me, particularly because our local industry is founded on a true love of film and an inherent desire to make a real contribution to the project. 

I felt reconnected with the larger industry but also more aware than ever that Utah’s creative community has all of the resources to continue to play a vital role both locally and globally.

On the set of Little Women

We visited the cast and crew on the set of Little Women. The modern adaptation of Louise May Alcott’s coming-of-age novel, featuring Lea Thompson and Lucas Grabeel, will be released in 2018 to coincide with the 150th anniversary of the book. Clare Niederpruem, who acted in the Utah-filmed Once I Was a Beehive, co-wrote the script with Krsti Shimek and makes her directorial debut with Little Women

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PA Training Workshop

Our office partnered with Avrec Art House this month to host our first Production Assistant (PA) Certification Workshop. Securing jobs for Utah productions is a shared passion and we hope this certification will assist our crew, developing their skills and making them more desirable for film, TV and commercial sets. The workshop was led by experienced Assistant Director Brent Geisler, known for his work on High School MusicalThe Giver and Granite Flats.

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New UFC Team Member

We would like to welcome Kenyon Virchow as our new Locations Coordinator.

Born and raised in Utah, Kenyon has a passion for photography and a constant thirst for adventure.  At the age of 8, he was introduced to photography by his dad who taught him the basics with his 1962 Voigtlander Bessamatic.

"I was always so proud back then carrying my dad’s 'Bessa' around my neck," he recalls.

He spends much of his time in southern Utah, hiking and canyoneering. You can follow Kenyon on instagram, @iloveutah

Highlights and Key Achievements

With this fiscal year coming to a close, we want to highlight just a few of the key achievements we have experienced. Below is a recap of just some of the action, and with a number of exciting opportunities ahead, this coming fiscal year looks to be another busy one. 

• Under the Motion Picture Incentive Program, 28 projects have been approved since July 2016, with an estimated total spend of $65,512,927 and 2,123 local cast and crew employed.

• Four made-in-Utah productions premiered at the Sundance Film Festival, more than ever before. Together, these films created an estimated $13 million for the state and hired 370 local cast and crew. Two of these productions went on to screen at Festival de Cannes, with one going on to compete in the Shanghai International Film Festival.

• Disney and HBO filmed first seasons of TV shows, Andi Mack and Westworld, and both announced a return to Utah to shoot second seasons of these now hit shows.

• We launched the Community Film Incentive Program to foster homegrown talent, offering a 20% cash incentive for projects with budgets under $500,000.

• Imagine Dragons filmed a hit music video at Park City Film Studios, and the likes of Volkswagen, Walmart, Ford and Woolwich have captured content across the state for their latest ads. 

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St. George

A converted airport hangar in St. George has been transformed into what is now known as Dixie State University (DSU) Film Studios. The industrial building holds around 14,000 square feet of studio space and an additional 5,000 square feet of classroom and office space. Independent feature Looking Glass, starring Nicolas Cage, filmed at the studio earlier this year. 

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