By Jim Angell, Cowboy State Daily
Wyoming’s Legislature may have missed an opportunity by killing a proposed film incentive program, according to an acclaimed Wyoming author.
“I would certainly say so,” said C.J. Box, a Saratoga resident. “Also, for no good reason. They’re not spending any money.”
Box is the author of the popular “Joe Pickett” book series, which focuses on the crime solving activities of a Wyoming game warden. He was in Cheyenne last week to argue for HB 164, which would create a film incentive program for companies spending more than $200,000 in Wyoming.
The bill fell one vote short of winning approval from Wyoming’s House.
Supporters argued that other states with incentive programs often become the sites for the filming of stories set in Wyoming, such as the “Longmire” series based on the works of Wyoming author Craig Johnson.
Box is working with Paramount Television to develop a television series based on his Pickett novels and he said without an incentive program, it will be very difficult to get production companies to even consider Wyoming.
“There’s no guarantee it would be filmed in Wyoming, but it is probably less likely it will even be considered without any kind of incentive,” he said.
The bill would have created a program allowing the Wyoming Office of Tourism to reimburse production companies for up to 15 percent of their expenses while filming in Wyoming if they spent at least $200,000.
The program would have been financed in part with carryover funds from the Office of Tourism and the bill carried no request for additional state money.
“I don’t see a downside, especially to that bill,” Box said. “There was not one dime set against it. I’m trying to figure out what kind of reasoning there would be. So many of our legislators say they want a growing and diversified economy.”
While not as large an incentive program as those available in some other states, the plan would have been a good first step for luring productions to Wyoming, Box said, which in turn would have helped create an experienced workforce for film production.
“That’s what happened in New Mexico, to the point that Netflix is building a production studio there,” he said.
Box had hoped the program might be in place in time for Wyoming to be considered a filming location for the Joe Pickett series, which takes place in locations around the state.
“I’ll be honest and say I’d love to see it filmed in Wyoming,” he said. “(The series) moves around the entire state, from Jackson to the Red Desert. The last book was set in Saratoga. There’s a possibility the whole state could get some benefit from it.”
Wyoming launched a film incentive program in 2007, but it was allowed to expire in 2011.