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Filming on public land.

Filming on Public Land

The issue of public land use is just as explosive for Utah as the proposed abortion law. Film commissioners have much to say about the impact of wilderness/environmental activists on the industry. Much filming occurs in Utah's national parks and public lands.

Bette Stanton, director of the Moab film commission, said, "Down here, it's an everyday battle with environmentalists. They put a lot of pressure on the BLM here to go overboard on environmental assessments - even for just film shooting. By doing so, they create such a workload for local agencies that it puts a hold on filming permits for sites that have never been submitted for approval before. The film companies have to pay for an archeological survey.

Kanab, once known as Utah's Little Hollywood, faces the challenge of having its most appealing scenery on public land. Dennis Judd, head of the Kanab Film Commission gives one example of how wilderness policy made one film company turn away from Utah. "The company filming |Rambo IV' found exactly what they were looking for near Kanab - they found landscape that looked like Afganistan. But because it was a wilderness study area, they couldn't get a permit - it might have taken up to a year to get, if they could get it. They said they would have spent $1 million here - they needed wranglers, carpenters, and 300 horses. But, they had to opt for Yuma, Arizona and Israel instead.

"Projects like that could bring in hundreds of thousands of dollars to our economy. Film crews need lumber, carpenters, extras, teamsters, motels, cowboys, livestock, and Indian guides. It could be big business down here with year-round jobs if we could knock out the red tape."

Stanton observed that film crews are very sensitive about the environment. They need to be - it's an investment in future location shots. Stanton gave the example of how after filming a big car chase scene, the "Thelma and Louise" film crew restored the area and left it with more vegetation than it had before. The AFCI is developing a program to promote environmental conciousness on film locations and to encourage crews to recycle used materials by donating them to local agencies.

Brant Calkin of the Southern Utah Wilderness Alliance believes that the film industry is good for Utah. Of the impact of wilderness advocates on it, he commented, "It's propaganda that we're adverse to filming or that we're negatively impacting the industry. What the film industry does on public lands should be judged on a case-by-case basis."

At the Moab BLM office, Mary von Koch explained what it takes to get a film permit on public land. There are two types of permits, basically - simple permits and set construction permits. The Moab area usually issues 30 film permits a year, most of which are simple permits for commericals. The set construction permits are used for movies. Simple permits generally take up to three days to obtain; set construction permits avearge one to two weeks, allowing time for an archeological survey of the area.

In her experience, Von Koch said that filming sites always get cleaned up. Even if a film company isn't especially environmentally conscious, its local business liason will take care of the site restoration. "Ultimately, the BLM is responsible for making sure the site is restored," she said. "The process we have in place ensures this."

When asked about the impact of wilderness and environmentalist activists on film permits, Von Koch said, "Environmentalists have never held up a film permit. They have requested copies of the environmental assessments, but that's it."

PHOTO : Car commercial being filmed near Moab, Utah.
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Title Annotation:Utah's struggle to maintain the environment yet encourage the film industry use of public land
Author:Bullinger, Cara M.
Publication:Utah Business
Date:Nov 1, 1991
Words:608
Previous Article:Lights, camera, action! Utah's film industry comes of age.
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