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'Lights! Camera! A Filmmaker Database!': State Wants To Boost Vermont's Film Industry

Director of photography Brad Heck shoots a scene on Vermont filmmaker Jay Craven's new project "Wetware."
Jay Craven, Courtesy
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Director of photography Brad Heck shoots a scene on Vermont filmmaker Jay Craven's new project "Wetware."

Vermont’s film industry might not ever rival Hollywood, but state officials here say they could do more to support filmmakers.
This fall a Los Angeles-based film crew was in Vermont shooting the movie Soulmates. And over the years movies like Baby Boom, What Lies Beneath and Me, Myself & Irene have set up their productions here.

But when filmmakers come in from other states, it's not always easy to track down a sound person or lighting tech.

Vermont Arts Council executive director Karen Mittelman says her group is helping the Vermont Agency of Commerce and Community Development create a database for out-of-state film teams that want to hire local crew members to work on projects.

“When a film company comes from out of state to shoot in Vermont, there’s evidently the perception that they can’t find the talent that they need in Vermont — if they need someone to be their gaffer or do electrical work for them — but I don’t think it’s accurate,” she said. “I think we have it here.”

Vermont used to have a film commission that offered tax breaks to filmmakers, but budget cuts shut down the program.

Elaine Haney Sopchak is project manager for ThinkVermont, a division in the Agency of Commerce and Community Development that works to promote business in the state. And she says that while there might not be a lot of state money to use, there could be other ways to encourage more film projects.  

"The film and television industry is something ... that can be grown. And it's a smaller industry than others in the state, but it's nonetheless an industry that we want to support." — Elaine Haney Sopchak, ThinkVermont project manager

“The film and television industry is something ... that can be grown,” Haney Sopchak said. “And it’s a smaller industry than others in the state, but it’s nonetheless an industry that we want to support.”

With the funded state programs shut down, Haney Sopchak says her office is looking for more cost-effective ways to support film and television productions.

Haney Sopchak has been reaching out to filmmakers, and she says that there are people making films in Vermont, but the industry needs some support and organization.

Tristan Homewood lays dolly track on a film set in Brattleboro.
Credit Jay Craven, Courtesy
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Jay Craven, Courtesy
Tristan Homewood lays dolly track on a film set in Brattleboro.

“The overwhelming need is connection,” said Haney Sopchak. “It’s been remarkable to learn about all these different amazing companies that exist in Vermont, in farmhouses tucked in the woods all over the place. And a lot of these folks don’t know about each other. It’s important to provide some kind of connectivity for them.”

Vermont’s community TV stations could be resources for equipment and for trained crew members, Haney Sopchak said, and independent filmmakers could also be better connected to film courses at Vermont colleges.

She understands that while money is tight, she does hope to go to the Legislature next year for some support.

 

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