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Lights, camera bringing lots

Aspen Times Staff Report

A lot of Aspenites may find themselves on the silver screen at about this time next year, when a movie now being shot at locations around town is released.

The production of “Sheer Bliss” renews a question the Aspen Chamber Resort Association has been pondering – should the resort promote itself as a locale for film and commercial shoots?

“I’m approached a few times a week from companies that want to film something – usually it’s a car commercial,” said Patti Hecht, public relations manager for the chamber.

Hecht acts as a liaison, making sure production companies obtain the necessary permits from the city, Pitkin County or the U.S. Forest Service, and helping link them up with local support staff and lodging as needed.

As the ACRA delves into defining its marketing plan next year, it will likely discuss whether the chamber should take a more proactive role in bringing such business to town, Hecht said. The decision, she said, will depend heavily on how the community feels about it.

Colorado has a film commission, and many communities in the state have their own film commissions to promote their locales for film productions, Hecht noted.

With or without a marketing effort, though, Aspen attracts its share of such business, she said.

“Production happens here whether or not we’re facilitating it,” Hecht said.

The productions can occasionally mean disruptions and inconveniences for the local populace, but bring welcome business to Aspen.

“They come in for a short period of time, and they spend a great deal of money,” Hecht said.

On Sunday night, for example, part of Hyman Avenue was blocked off to accommodate still photography for a Chevy advertisement.

“They required ten hotel rooms and hired numerous local people,” Hecht said. “They needed to make snow in town so they hired a local company to come in and make snow.”

More significant impacts – both good and bad – come with a more in-depth production. When all is said and done, Candlelight Pictures will have spent some three months in Aspen for the production of “Sheer Bliss.”

Preproduction for the independent film began in September. Actual shooting began Nov. 1 and won’t wrap up until mid-December, according to Russ Cundiff, assistant to the producer.

The movie is being shot at locations all around Aspen and Snowmass Village, as well as on the ski slopes. In all, the production is employing at least 150 people, including locals, Cundiff said.

“We’re really trying to pick up the character of Aspen,” he said. “We have a ton of locals as extras.”

The script was written by Mark Botvinick, formerly a Snowmass ski instructor and employee at the Main Street Bakery and Cafe. It’s the story of four recent college grads who forego “real” jobs for life in Aspen, according to Cundiff.

Bill Dinsmoor’s Main Street Bakery served as a movie set for a day. The restaurant, which normally closes for an off-season cleaning, remained closed an extra day to accommodate the filming.

Dinsmoor said he stopped in to watch the action and was pressed into service as an extra in the scene along with several of his employees. Watch for him sipping coffee at the cafe when the movie comes to theaters next year.

“The coolness of being in a movie is offset by the tedium of being involved in shot after shot for footage that may or not be used,” said Dinsmoor with a chuckle.

The restaurant received a “nominal” payment for the day, but Dinsmoor said he’s all for Aspen promoting itself for such productions, so long as the end product is complimentary to the town.

“I think it’s great for the town,” he said. “There will be a lot of Aspen footage – it will look clearly like an Aspen film.”

That may not always be the case. A pickup truck advertisement may depict little more than the vehicle, but that doesn’t seem to keep production companies from ringing up Hecht.

“People want to film in Aspen,” she said. “Think about the choices – going to Timbuktu for a day or a week or coming to Aspen. Production companies want to come here.”

The production of “Sheer Bliss” has brought a convoy of semis, trailers, trucks and vans to various streets around Aspen in recent weeks. At least one vehicle was towed this week for parking on Bleeker Street behind the Hotel Jerome – in spaces blocked off for two days for the moviemakers.

The caravan even took over a section of HOV parking established to encourage carpooling among commuters who come to Aspen.

“I know we’ve lost a number of parking spaces around town,” said City Manager Steve Barwick. “The City Council has reviewed it and is OK with it. We know it’s got some disruptions involved with it.”

The city will reimburse anyone who’s eligible to use the HOV lane but found themselves paying to park in the Rio Grande parking garage instead, Barwick said.

The film crew apparently also created a traffic jam during commuting hours on Highway 82 one day this month. City Councilman Tony Hershey relayed citizen complaints about it to the council.

The city requires a special events permit for film and photo shoots within its borders and collects revenues from the permit fees. The fees vary, depending on the number of days a production reaquires. The permit for the Chevy photo shoot cost $500, according to the city clerk’s office. No information was available on the total bill for the “Sheer Bliss” filming.

Production companies also pay $1 per hour for each parking space they take up, or $8 per day per space, and are billed for time the local police spend on the scene.


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