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'Wind River' filmmakers take control back from Weinstein

This image released by The Weinstein Company shows Elizabeth Olsen, left, and Jeremy Renner in a scene from "Wind River." 

AP

CHEYENNE — It’s an old lament and I’m sure you have read it before.

It is about Wyoming being snubbed by big film productions that could or should have been shot in Wyoming.

The latest in this long history of missed opportunities is a new TV series, “Yellowstone,” starring Kevin Costner. It is being filmed in Montana.

As the president of the Wyoming Historical Society Doug Cubbison of Casper wrote recently in a newsletter:

“Wyoming’s brand, stories, history, heritage and culture are being exploited by our neighboring states and are fostering economic development elsewhere.”

He goes on to tell about the early 1926 movie, “War Paint.” The production film was filmed in various locations near Fort Washakie and starred Tim McCoy, who was from Wyoming.

The production poured money into the local economy and stirred considerable excitement.

The Lander newspaper “gushed that Lander will become the second or third Hollywood,“ he wrote.

The movie, sadly, is considered to be lost today and only the trailer survives at the Library of Congress. And Lander never became a second or third Hollywood.

Other movies filmed in Wyoming included John Wayne’s “Hellfighters” in 1958 and “Starship Troopers” in 1997.

Also, Clint Eastwood filmed “The Outlaw Josey Wales” in Wyoming and Steven Spielberg shot scenes in “Close Encounters of the Third Kind” near Devils Tower.

More recently, a few scenes from the film “Nebraska,” were shot in Johnson County.

But the movie “Brokeback Mountain,” which took place in Wyoming, was filmed in Canada. The popular “Longmire” TV series takes place in the fictional Absaroka County in Wyoming. It was filmed New Mexico.

The movie “Wind River” was about a murder on the Wind River Indian Reservation in Wyoming. It was filmed entirely in Park City, Utah.

Another recent production, “Hostiles,” the story of a U.S. Army party traveling through Wyoming en route to Montana, was produced primarily in New Mexico.

Cubbison blames these slights on Wyoming’s lack of a film and movie office and infrastructure to attract producers and film companies here.

Actually a film office in the Office of Tourism was set up in 2007 and still exists in state law. But it is pretty fragile. The operation fell on hard times with the state’s steep decline in revenues and ensuing budget cuts.

The new biennial budget for the Office of Tourism to promote a major state industry is $25.1 million, a decrease of slightly more than $4 million in recent years.

The Legislature this year allocated $16,363 in carryover money to the film office for incentives and branded entertainment promoting Wyoming or promoting the state as a tourism destination.

The tourism office is again this year requesting an interim study of the film office potential by the Joint Interim Committee on Travel, Recreation, Wildlife and Cultural Resources.

Diane Shober, the director of the tourism office, said one of the major handicaps in attracting productions to Wyoming is lack of trained work crews.

Another is money.

“A production company will not even look at a place that does not have incentive program,” she said.

Although the film office is no longer recruiting productions, it has in the past offered tax rebates on a percentage of money the film companies spend in the state.

Critics said it was too small a rebate to be competitive with other states, like Colorado.

Shober said she believes there is value in the film office program but it needs statutory authority.

Although the state may not get blockbusters, it could attract small production companies like documentary filmmakers who would train crews and ultimately could foster the development of a cottage industry.

An example of how the film office could use the branded entertainment advertising technique is if a production company planned to film a C.J. Box story.

Box’s popular stories are placed in Wyoming. The event would be ripe to promote the State of Wyoming, the brand.

“If you don’t have the authority you can’t take advantage of the opportunities,” Shober said last week.

The legislative management council will decide on interim topics, including the film office study, during a meeting in Cheyenne, April 19.

Contact Joan Barron at 307-632-2534 or jmbarron@bresnan.net.

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