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Moviemaking in Aspen not all fun and games

John Colson
The Aspen Times
Aspen, CO Colorado

ASPEN ” It hasn’t been all champagne powder, parties with the stars and easy going for the makers of a film being shot in Aspen.

The makers of the film “Cougar Hunting” made a last-ditch appeal Wednesday to do some filming inside the Pitkin County Courthouse, and for a while it seemed they might have had a chance.

But at the end of the meeting, the county commissioners decided not to reconsider their March 17 decision against the moviemakers’ request, meaning there will be no scenes of the movie shot inside the historic courthouse building.

On the same day, a local woman complained that the scenes being shot at various locations around town are inappropriate for young children, “in bad taste” and is “bringing the town down” in the eyes of visitors and residents alike.

The movie’s co-producer, Matt Sinnreich, appeared at the county commissioners’ regular meeting Wednesday to ask the board to think again about allowing one day of filming in the courthouse.

“A lot of things with this film have changed,” said Sinnreich, after telling the commissioners that he had lived here in his younger years and had attended classes in the Red Brick school building.

“We’re not trying to portray anything in a negative light,” he said of the film, which is about two 20-something men who come to Aspen after growing tired of dating women their own age in their college town. While here, they pair seeks out what one account termed “elderly vixens” ” older, available women, known in popular parlance as “cougars.”

Sinnreich described the film as being about “a self-empowered older woman who knows what she wants” and “a light comedy.”

A scene in the courthouse, at which two divorced parents are reunited after their son climbs in through a window to talk with them, “makes the movie real … it’s the climax of the entire movie,” Sinnreich explained.

Although some commissioners were not happy about the unexpected nature of the appearance by Sinnreich and location manager Emily Weston at the meeting, board chair Patti Clapper seemed favorably disposed toward reopening discussion about shooting in the courthouse.

“It’s still an open issue,” she said.

But after the meeting had moved on to the “open discussion” section of the agenda, Commissioner Michael Owsley said he didn’t “know why we’d bring it up. Tell me the conditions that have changed, for use to reconsider.”

Clapper and Commissioner George Newman noted that the filmmakers had offered to make some sort of “contribution” to local charities or human services organizations. But Owsley shot back that the film “is not up to our standards” in terms of content, and accused the filmmakers of trying to “hold you hostage” with unannounced appearances and requests for immediate decisions.

“It’s incumbent upon us not to be reactive,” he said, “but to develop a policy” that covers such matters.

And, said Commissioner Rachel Richards, “we have had no public feedback, and I’m sure it will be ferocious” if the issue were to be reopened.

In the end, the board voted, 3-2, with Clapper and Richards on the losing side, to not reopen discussion of the matter, meaning the prohibition against filming inside the courthouse stands.

Paula Damaso, who described herself as 50, an avid skier and an Aspen resident, said in a telephone interview that she grew alarmed as she watched the crew filming at the base of Aspen Mountain on Wednesday.

“I think I’m a pretty liberal person,” she said. But “I’m fairly appalled. It looks almost like soft porn.”

She said male actors were dressed in lycra leggings with socks stuffed down the front “to make themselves look well-endowed,” and one was “humping a snowboard” as two female actors strutted across the snow near the Silver Queen Gondola in tight, revealing attire.

“It might be kind of funny at five o’clock or something, but this was 10:30 in the morning … this is a family mountain,” Damaso said, adding that she watched as a young boy asked his mother, “Mommy, what’s that?” pointing to the man humping the snowboard.

“This is no famous movie,” she continued with some humor. “If it was Mel Gibson or Kurt Russell, that’d be different.”

She noted that the lifts stop running on April 12, and wondered why the filming could not have waited until next week.

Filming is supposed to run through mid-May, according to Sinnreich.

jcolson@aspentimes.com


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