Just five short weeks after Governor Hickenlooper stood before journalists, lawmakers, and members of the film industry at the state capitol to announce the decision of Hallmark to film its latest mini-series in Colorado, the cable network said that it was moving production to Canada. The reason: environmental concerns about building a set from scratch and inadequate tax incentives.
This is a significant black eye for the governor, as he heralded this opportunity in the Hallmark Channel press release as something that would have a “positive economic impact for our state and provide tremendous national exposure for Telluride and all of Colorado.”
As part of the deal that the state brokered, Hallmark was supposed to create 100 – 200 Colorado jobs, open a casting office in Denver, film between six and 13 episodes of the show, and possibly shoot up to 87 additional episodes.
The Colorado Economic Development Commission approved the $2.7 million tax incentive for Hallmark in June, under a 2012 law that increased the maximum incentives from 10% to 20%. What this means is that Colorado taxpayers will reimburse the production company for 20% of the costs that it incurs in the Colorado-based production of a film or TV series.
But in spite of the governor’s big talk, it seems like there were problems with this from the start. The tax incentives were not going to include the incremental episodes. Filming location problems have been simmering for weeks, with multiple venues eliminated for various reasons. Despite the struggles, Hickenlooper’s commissioner of the state’s film office confidently announced two weeks ago “I think it’s all been resolved.” Clearly it was not.
It will be interesting to see if Hallmark films the minimum amount required under the deal and walks off with our $2.7 million. Perhaps the governor needs some new negotiators at his Economic Development office, but when bureaucrats are working with other people’s money, taxpayers usually lose.