For many years the state of Wyoming has lured some of Hollywood’s biggest productions from Quentin Tarantino’s recent hit “Django Unchained” to Steven Spielberg’s classic “Close Encounters of the Third Kind.”
Today Wyoming is considered the Cowboy state of America, and has a vast backdrop of locations including the famous Yellowstone National Park, the Great Plains and the Rocky Mountains. Every year the state welcomes a host of film productions, TV shows and commercials that search for a diversity of locations to feature in their storylines.
Filmmakers looking to shoot in the region can benefit from a cash rebate of up to 15% on their production spend as part of the Film Industry Financial Incentive program. For producers trying to find crews and locations, the Wyoming Film Office has an online database including in-depth guides on obtaining permits and resources to assist productions with their location scouting, and pre-production.
Colin Stricklin, Film Production Senior Coordinator at the Wyoming Film Office shared with me his advice for filmmakers looking to shoot in Wyoming, and how to benefit from the cash rebate system, which works differently to that of other states which offer a tax incentive program instead.
Interview with Colin Stricklin
Iain: How can productions qualify for a film cash rebate and do you have a selection process when it comes to the storyline of a film?
Colin: Our Film Industry Financial Incentive (FIFI) program is 12%-15% cash rebate with a $200K minimum to qualify. Just spend that amount within Wyoming, apply, and we’ll run you through the approval process in about a month. My office is based out of State Tourism though, so we have a unique take on film incentives. Basically, the more Wyoming-related content you include in the film, the higher the percentage goes. If we’re just a mention in the credits you get 12%. If the state of Wyoming is central to the story you get the full 15%. We’re very much pen to negotiation thought, and co-marketing ventures can easily net a higher percentage.
Iain: What do you have for those low budget productions who might not meet that $200K minimum?
Colin: Our annual Wyoming Short Film Contest offers a $25,000 Grand Prize for the winner’s next shot-in-Wyoming project. It’s actually accepting entries at the moment, with submissions closing on April 2nd. Full details are up at wyomingshortfilmcontest.com.
Iain: What are the popular places to film in Wyoming?
Colin: The greatest concentration of our crew lives and works in the Jackson area on the western side of the state. That’s the part of the state with Yellowstone and Grand Teton National Parks, not to mention a couple of world class ski resorts. That means we see a lot of documentary, extreme sports, and commercial production. That said, you can get great looks all over the state, including several hundred picturesque ranches. That’s a lot of private land available for production.
Iain: What films have shot in Wyoming?
Colin: There’s the classic stuff like “Shane” and “Close Encounters of the Third Kind.” But more recently Quentin Tarantino’s “Django Unchained” filmed its winter scenes in the Jackson area, Alexander Payne shot scenes for “Nebraska” near Buffalo, and the hit show “Modern Family” filmed its season three premiere “Dude Ranch” at Lost Creek Ranch.
Iain: What would you say were some of the unique advantages for productions wanting to shoot locally?
Colin: Every time I tour an LA-based producer through Wyoming, I get the same response: “People are really excited to have us here!” In this part of the country people are genuinely excited about film. Local communities go out of their way to be accommodating, and are genuinely happy to see production come to town. And that’s not just private citizens either. The State of Wyoming actually waves all location fees on state property.
Wyoming locations – timelapse
Iain: Can you provide filmmakers with advice on permits and rentals on location?
Colin: Though we don’t issue permits ourselves, our relationship with our state’s land managers can ease the permitting process. We’ve got most of our permitting info up online at filmwyoming.com, but we’re always available to field specific questions. Same deal with rentals, transportation, tax regulations, and more. The bottom line is that we’re a clearing house for production information in the state of Wyoming, and we’re more than happy to offer our expertise.
Iain: How long does it normally take for an application to be reviewed once it has been submitted?
Colin: That’s one of the big advantages of a cash rebate over a tax credit. After you submit your application we’ll turn around an approval in about a month. Then you just get us your expenses at the end of production, and we’ll cut you a check about four weeks later. No waiting around for tax season!