Director of the Nevada Film Office
Interviewed June 22 by phone from his office
How has 2009 been so far for film production in Nevada, compared to previous years?
So far it has been kind of quiet. I think the whole [potential Screen Actors Guild strike] issue dragging on kind of kept a lot of productions from starting, but since that period, we’ve been getting a lot more calls, since that seems to have been resolved. But it’s kind of started slow, and it started slow throughout the country. I’ve talked to a lot of friends in Chicago and other places, New York and LA, and I think people were just a little fearful of starting major projects with the SAG contract still up in the air from a year ago.
Do you think the success of The Hangover will be a big plus for Nevada film production?
Yeah. When we’ve seen things like when MTV’s Real World debuted, and then when Ocean’s Eleven came out, we saw a lot of new types of productions, writers kind of writing more about Las Vegas and more about Nevada. We’ve seen when you have hits like that, when things are real popular all over, internationally, there’s kind of a snowball effect. And Vegas itself has really been carrying Nevada. We’ve seen a decrease in some of the production in Northern Nevada, but Las Vegas itself is a one-of-a-kind street, and it’s not something that people can green-screen and shoot on a stage, so it’s still very popular for people wanting to come here from all over the world.
- The Interview Issue
- Scott Zieger: Co-chief executive officer, BASE Entertainment
- Al Mares: Bounty hunter
- James Woodbridge: Music promoter, philosophy professor
- Sunset Thomas: Adult entertainer, reality-TV star
- Alexandra Berzon: Pulitzer Prize-winning reporter
- Cindy Funkhouser: Co-founder, First Friday
- Keith Schwer: Director, UNLV Center for Business and Economic Research
- Rev. Deacon Bonnie Polley: Chaplain, Clark County Detention Center
- Dave Kirvin: Partner, Kirvin Doak Communications
- Vicki Pettersson: Author, Signs of the Zodiac novel series
- Candice Nichols: Director, The Center
- Lawrence Sands: Chief health officer, Southern Nevada Health District
- Virginia Valentine: Clark County manager
Are you facing any budget cuts with the overall state budget crisis?
We did lose one of our positions. We have an office in Carson City, and the current budget eliminated one of our positions. That was something that obviously we weren’t happy with. And we’re also losing some of our marketing money for this upcoming year, starting July 1. But we’re going to have to face it like everybody else and just try to do the best we can.
Do we have a tax-credit program for film production in Nevada?
No, we don’t, and it’s one of those things where we’re kind of fighting with one hand tied behind our back, because of the other states that have them. But it’s an interesting phenomenon that’s been going on for about five, six years now, and we’ve been trying for six years now to try to get a program launched, and it just is not something that the powers that be are looking to vote into place, any kind of incentive package for Nevada. We’ve tried to educate as best we can as to the benefits of having an incentive package here, and pointing to our neighboring states that are benefiting and having productions go to these neighboring states that otherwise would come here. But we just cannot get anyone interested in passing something for us.
How do we rank among states in terms of the amount of film production that we attract?
It’s really hard—no one does a very good ranking, because everybody reports revenue differently. We report actual dollars spent on location, whereas some states will report the entire film budget, so it’s very misleading. Some states—in other words, if a film comes in, like [George Clooney film] Up in the Air came in for three days, some states would say, “Well, that’s a $40 million movie. They spent $40 million.” We do actual dollars, what they would spend on location. So it’s hard to rank Nevada versus Illinois versus whatever, but $100 million last year puts us—we used to be in the top five, and right now it’s safe to say we’re probably within the top 10 in terms of revenue.
At this year’s CineVegas, the opening film, Saint John of Las Vegas, even had Las Vegas in the title, and yet was shot almost entirely in Albuquerque. How do you combat things like that?
It’s just really frustrating. That’s why when we try to educate people on the advantages of some of these incentive packages, we bring up all this information, in terms of tourism benefits, but definitely in terms of having these projects shot on location, the huge benefits. We also point out a film that shot up in the Reno area a year ago last March, called Love Ranch, that hasn’t been released yet. It stars Helen Mirren and Joe Pesci, and was directed by Taylor Hackford. They shot two and half days in Reno, and the rest of it was all shot in Albuquerque. And it’s an entire movie set in Northern Nevada that should have filmed the entire production in Nevada. It’s frustrating, but it’s also something that we’re trying to educate people on that we’re really losing a lot of revenue as a result. When the movies come out, people think it’s Las Vegas, or they think it’s Nevada. They don’t know, the actual viewers, but the crew people working, all the hotels that benefit, all the rent-a-car companies, all the other service people—these are people in New Mexico benefiting, not people in Nevada.