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Why draw curtains on filmmakers?

Dear Editor:

Having sat through a Pitkin Board of County Commissioners meeting last week, I have a new appreciation for our commissioners.

Let me respond to a few points raised at the meeting.



Many productions have chosen not to film in Pitkin County because of our permitting process (contrary to Commissioner Michael Owsley’s statement). I know of two Klaus Obermeyer Jr. shoots, which went to Eagle and Garfield counties, respectively; the feature film “Mr. and Mrs. Smith” went to Glenwood; “Dumb and Dumber” went to Breckenridge. (Lots of people younger than 30 ask me where those scenes were filmed “in Aspen,” and isn’t that the demographic we’re trying to capture?)

Why does Commissioner Rachel Richards want to ban car commercials? That is what she said at the meeting – she doesn’t want a car commercial with a helicopter filming the car. (All car commercials use that heli-shot, so that means a complete ban on the most lucrative and lowest-impact type of location shooting.) Since that type of shoot makes one-third to one-half of the local market’s income, it is effectively telling your local production companies to move to another county. But that sounds a bit like whining, and there’s enough of that in local politics already.




The use of the words “live broadcast,” according to Richards, was specifically to exclude car commercials. If the intent is to create a specific ban for a specific type of shoot, then that is the way to write the code, as Commissioner Rob Ittner attempted to clarify. It would set a hell of a precedent and might even make national news.

Commissioner George Newman was skeptical about investigating the Moab Film Commission’s standard operating procedure. His reasoning was that if we copy Moab, we will encourage more shoots here, and he doesn’t want more shoots here. Moab has more oversight than Pitkin County – and at no out-of-pocket cost to the electorate. It is precisely because it has a higher volume of location filming that Moab has crafted a code that benefits both the electorate and the visiting filmmaker. Investigating how other like municipalities handle similar situations is not a weakness. It should be your first step.

The film industry leaves no trace after it’s left (other than the cash in your pocket). Owsley still characterizes the film industry as “exploitative” because we “exploit” the view. Owsley, we do not frack. We make documentaries exposing frackers (Greg Poschman’s “Land Out of Time). This incendiary language polarizes the discussion. I shall always endeavor to remain polite at public meetings, and I respectfully request the same from my elected officials.

Clearly, Newman, Owsley and Richards think filming is something that should be discouraged in Pitkin County. I would certainly like to know why this type of economic development has been singled out as undesirable.

I look forward to the ongoing process of crafting a film-permitting process that benefits the residents of Pitkin County, including the film-industry professionals who reside in Pitkin County and those who benefit from our services.

Ziska Childs

Aspen


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