When Clint Eastwood filmed "Pale Rider" in Idaho's Sawtooth region, the production put $5 million into the state's economy. And about $200,000 was unloaded in Sun Valley when another film crew spent four days working on a television movie about author Ernest Hemingway.
When Pontiac filmed a commercial at Craters of the Moon last June, the automobile company spent $80,000 in five days and "took up almost every motel in Arco," a state film promotion specialist said.Peg Crist, head of the Department of Commerce's film bureau, told a Chamber of Commerce meeting that Idaho's film and promotion budget ranks fifth lowest in the nation.
Funded at $80,000 a year, the bureau must compete with the likes of Texas, Florida and Illinois, which each appropriate $500,000 annually to lure movie productions. Film-promotion budgets in most states average $100,000 to $150,000, Crist said.
Before the film bureau was created 18 months ago as part of the Department of Commerce's expansion and restructuring, its budget was $6,000 and a part-time person ran the show.
Competition is fierce for feature filming because a major production can spend up to $100,000 a day, and television commercials can drop $12,000 to $15,000 into an area's economy, Crist said.
Restaurants, motels, courier services and lumber yards can all benefit from a film crew moving into town, she said.
Last fiscal year, the movie industry spent more than $600,000 in Idaho, but the amount can fluctuate from $5 million one year to $100,000 the next, Crist said.
"Until the last 11/2 years, Idaho was pretty much out of sight, out of mind," she reflected.
In addition to Pontiac, Porsche and Nissan filmed commercials in Idaho this year and three or four other automakers took a look at the state. A Pontiac director was so impressed with the state that he looked for a home in Sun Valley, she said.
A.T. & Cosmo, a Japanese film company based in Los Angeles, promised to return to Idaho after taking aerial shots of circular irrigation fields between Burley and Oakley last September. It inquired about shooting the Shoshone Falls and a bird refuge, but was unable to do so because of the drought. All in all, it brought 16 people into Minidoka County.
In the past week, the Idaho Film Bureau processed seven inquiries from companies doing feature films. Some are long shots and one would do a week's work, Crist said. Since advertisements appeared in trade publications, inquiries have tripled.
The bureau also plans to participate in trade shows and print 5,000 Idaho Production Guides in mid-February to send filmmakers. The guides will be published by Diamond Sun Productions of Ketchum.
California recently passed legislation to prevent states such as Idaho from siphoning off its $6 billion motion picture industry, according to Barbara Orr, a Diamond Sun representative.