New council seeks film productions to bolster economy

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MANCHESTER — The newly formed Vermont Production Council has "greenlit the Green Mountains" in its endeavor to promote resources from across the state, and connect those resources with content creators seeking locations, experienced screenwriters, cinematographers, and more.

In doing so, the organization also hopes to bolster the state's economy and encourage youth retention.

"Vermont is rich with production resources," said Jennifer Rutherford of Velocity Media, a VPC council board member. "Our objective is to streamline the process for outside productions looking to film within the state, and ensure they are connected with talented personnel, versatile locations, and rental houses, and are aware of the numerous resources available to them."

"Vermont is an ideal and idyllic place for film production," said Sal Tassone, Sal Tassone, executive producer of Los Angeles-based Zen Master Films. "It boasts picturesque locations, and the diversity of landscapes here satisfy the majority of scenarios that writers portray in their scripts."

One of the VPC's first initiatives, a short film titled "The Land" (which debuted at ITVFest on Friday afternoon), was created for the express purpose of demonstrating the ease with which all necessary services, locations, and equipment can be attained for filming.

"The budget for 'The Land' would have been a little over $100,000 if it was shot in New York or L.A. We shot it here and it ended up being a $40,000 shoot," said ITVFest director and VPC board member Philip Gilpin Jr. "We did it as a proof of concept so that people could see not just what Vermont looks like, but to show that it can be done."

"Traditionally, our state does not offer any tax incentives. What we have found through our case study of 'The Land' that it's cheaper to produce here," added Rutherford. "We really want to help people actualize that."

In bringing productions to the state the VPC asserts that increased workforce opportunities, particularly for young Vermonters, will follow.

"This is a green industry, it's an independent industry, and it fits with the fiber of Vermont and it's pioneering and independent spirit," said Rutherford. "It provides a lot of workforce opportunities for young folks not just in the filmmaking business, but there are also a myriad of opportunities to work alongside it."

To further support young Vermonters aspiring to a career in the film industry, the VPC hopes to work closely with local schools like Burr and Burton Academy to develop a career pipeline of sorts.

"We want to create economic growth, but we also want to create an environment in which these kids at the school who want to become cinematographers directors and producers or whatever else can do that," said Tassone. "We want to create programs where we bring in industry professionals who will teach them, and maybe even give them an opportunity to be involved. One of the goals is to create an institute specifically for that."

The economic potential in attracting film projects to the state is a driving force behind the VPC, which points to major projects filmed in Vermont such as "The Cider House Rules," "Baby Boom," "Funny Farm," and "White Christmas." These films provide hundreds of jobs, according to the VPC, as they require the expertise of individuals in a number of fields, including skilled laborers such as electricians and builders.

In the past month, the VPC has formulated an online directory of Vermont-specific filming assets including companies, individuals, and locations available to work with film productions. Interested business or property owners, as well as individual contractors, are encouraged to submit their information to be listed, Rutherford said.

"If people are interested in becoming locations or if they have vendor opportunities or a catering service, we'd love to meet with them and talk about that," he said.

In bringing these projects to Vermont, however, the VPC also hopes to ensure that local businesses and workers are treated fairly.

"Our premise is to also to negotiate on behalf of the community so that they're not taken advantage of, they're protected legally," said Tassone. "We would be sort of the middle man in making sure that they're getting a fair price for what they want to do."

The VPC also hopes to attract more second-homeowners and full time residents to the state, an articulated goal of both state and local governments.

"We're working to build an economic community that comes here, they've discovered this place and they stay, they buy houses, and their kids come to an amazing school," said Tassone. "It's a multilayered plan; it's not just about getting people to come here and film, it's about getting them to come and stay."

While bringing the ITVFest to Manchester was one step in that process, says Gilpin, the formation of the VPC represents a more sustained effort.

"The aim of ITVFest as a whole is to nurture and provide opportunity for independent series productions," said Gilpin. "The VPC is a welcome partner for ITVFest and gives us the opportunity to have a year-round economic impact throughout the state. It is a partnership that we hope to grow over time."

For more information, visit http://www.vermontproductioncouncil.com/.

Reach Cherise Madigan at 802-490-6471.

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