Chuck Wing, Deseret Morning News
Director Ryan Little, right, shoots a scene for "Saints and Soldiers" in 2003, with a canyon above Alpine standing in for WWII Belgium.

Ever been to Morocco? South Dakota? Saskatchewan? Istanbul? The Appalachians?

If not, there's a good chance you've seen their film doubles, all of which can be found in Utah.

Aaron Syrett, director of the Utah Film Commission, told the Rotary Club of Salt Lake on Tuesday that various settings in Utah can be used for those and other out-of-state locations in movies — one of Utah's strengths in competing for film productions.

"We've done Africa here. We've done China here. We've done New York here," Syrett said. "We did the Atlantic Ocean one time. The shot at the Great Salt Lake, if you get it narrow enough, it looks like the ocean. I'll sell that every single day if I can."

Even frigid climes were replicated in Utah for the makers of "National Treasure," who needed a snow scene.

"We got a call and they said, 'We need Antarctica.' We said, 'Fine. Here's Strawberry Reservoir,"' Syrett said.

Utah's film folks also have scrambled to find appropriate interiors. "Unaccompanied Minors," set for release Dec. 8, tells the story of children spending Christmas Eve at an airport.

"All those locations you saw there were the Salt Palace, the Sandy convention center, the Delta Center," Syrett said after showing the film's trailer. "We had to make an airport, so we pieced every single large location we have and made an airport for Warner Brothers."

The film commission has tried to make it easier for filmmakers to discover Utah's location diversity through photos available at the commission's Web site.

"We have hundreds of thousands of locations all over the state in this library system," Syrett said. "That's our main thing. That's the thing we sell. We sell Utah. If we don't have that, that product, in front of our clients, it's going to do us no good. We can show them how good it is to shoot in Utah all day, but unless they see it ... "

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In addition to the variety of settings Utah can provide, the state also is attractive to filmmakers because of the Motion Picture Incentive Fund put in place a few years ago, he said. The fund allows applying film companies to get a rebate of up to 10 percent of the money they spend on productions in Utah, up to $500,000.

That, he said, can help Utah compete for films with places like Canada, where tax incentives can reach up to 35 percent, and low-labor-cost countries like Romania.

Since Utah's fund was established, it has provided $3.3 million in incentives that resulted in productions that had an overall $49.2 million economic impact on the state, Syrett said.

"It's a great stimulator for our state," he said. "It's a great investment."

That also has helped create a turnaround in production spending in Utah. In 1999, productions' economic impact in the state totaled nearly $150 million. That dipped to just over $80 million in 2004, but the figure rebounded to about $144.5 million in the 2006 fiscal year.


E-mail: bwallace@desnews.com