Monday, May 14, 2012

Lights, Camera... Action?

Every so often, we hear the usual talk about Nevada's need for economic diversification. And then, we see... Nothing. But is change finally on the horizon? Local filmmakers hope so.

Although the neon and casinos of Las Vegas have long been featured in movies, too often film crews only spend a few days in the city before leaving the state to finish the filming and production elsewhere, Ramirez said.

“They’ll come here just to get the lights and the stuff they don’t want to fake, then they’ll go back to New Mexico,” he said.

Silver State is run by [Chris] Ramirez and Mark Balint, both film industry veterans, out of an office at Emergency Arts downtown, which they share with Ramirez’s dog Abby. The company employs two other full-time staff members and says it can assemble as many as 100 freelance crew members for shoots.

Ramirez and Balint are fierce advocates for bringing more of the film industry to Las Vegas. They say the city offers a versatile environment — including suburbs, mountains, desert and urban neighborhoods — in which to shoot movies, commercials or television series and that its proximity to Southern California gives it an advantage over other states trying to woo the film industry.

“Nevada has a surprising amount of looks between northern Nevada and Las Vegas,” Ramirez said. “You can fake a lot of different areas. For a movie we did years ago, I used Sunset Park for Connecticut.”

But luring more film production to Nevada likely will require the state to offer some sort of incentives, Balint said, similar to tax credits offered to the industry in 44 other states.

“If we were able to narrow that (incentive) gap, we’d get a lot more production here,” Balint, Silver State’s head of production, said.

And I can see where they're coming from. My neighborhood can probably fill in for some idyllic California suburb. Town Square can probably fill in for... Well, a real town square. The Henderson Pavilion can probably fill in for some other famous concert venue.

And then, of course, we have "The Real Deal". Instead of film crews using a California, New Mexico, or Canadian film lot fill in for our Fabulous Las Vegas Strip, they can actually film there! And the same goes for Downtown Vegas, Red Rock Canyon, Valley of Fire, Hoover Dam, and more.

So why aren't more movies made in Nevada? And why especially aren't more movies made in Southern Nevada, which has already become "Little Hollywood" as celebrities party here, do concerts here, and increasingly lure more tourists here?

It's complicated. For starters, there was legislation last session to expand tax credits for local film production. That bill died in committee.

Of course, it also doesn't help that our state never really seems to take economic diversification seriously, especially when it comes to Clark County. Think of all the opportunities we could actually pursue... If only we invest in the public infrastructure necessary to attract stable businesses and grow an educated workforce. The opportunities are always here, but when will we ever chase them?

At least with the film industry, we already have most of the infrastructure they're looking for. They're just looking for more tax credits, and it looks like a deal can be made. You know, it will be nice for Nevada to be known for more than just celebrities' naughty behavior. Maybe, we can actually become famous for the right reasons.

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