CASPER, Wyo. — The Casper City Council passed a resolution on Tuesday, November 2 in support of the establishment of “Film Casper,” an office within the Visit Casper organization that is aiming to attract film and television productions to Natrona County.
Visit Casper has launched a webpage for Film Casper that includes information about what the office will work to do. Film Casper is also seeking people to sign up to serve as vendors or crew for future film projects in the community. People can also register their businesses and homes as potential filming locations.
The passage of the resolution on Tuesday came after Film Casper’s Kelly Eastes told the city council in September that Natrona County had recently missed out on two opporunities to host television productions, including an opportunity to host the shooting of “Y: 1883,” the prequel to the television series “Yellowstone.”
Film Casper is aiming to work with filmmakers and production teams to help make projects happen by coordinating with local and state agencies.
Visit Casper CEO and Natrona County Commissioner Brook Kaufman told the city council during the September discussion that the Film Casper initiative is also looking to align with the Wyoming Office of Tourism’s efforts as it works to convince the Wyoming Legislature to reinstate tax incentives for film and television productions in Wyoming.
Visit Casper is not able to offer tax incentives to film and television productions, but is looking to streamline the permitting process in Casper and Natrona County to make the area a more appealing destination.
Wyoming previously offered tax incentives for film and television production starting in 2007, but those went away in 2018. However, with the state implementing a statewide lodging tax, Kaufman told the council there is hope that the legislature may have more appetite to bring the tax incentives back.
The Wyoming Legislature’s Joint Travel, Recreation, Wildlife & Cultural Resources Committee has been looking at reviving tax incentives for film projects at the state level. Not having tax incentives is a non-starter for many in the film and television industries, and the state lost out on most of the 167 production inquiries made in 2020.
The proposal being considered by the Joint Travel, Recreation, Wildlife & Cultural Resources Committee calls for using solely lodging tax revenues to budget a rebate incentive program up to $3 million per biennium.
Kaufman said that even if tax incentives for film and television production are not reinstated in Wyoming, she thinks it is still important to work to streamline the permitting process in Casper and Natrona County.
She pointed to the shooting that was conducted in the area in summer 2020 for “Street Outlaws.” Kaufman said the permitting process for that shoot began on the county side. Typically, a permitting process would start through Natrona County Planning and Zoning and then come to the Natrona County Commission for consideration. That process would ordinarily take at least 60 days.
Kaufman said that the Natrona County Commission did choose to expedite that process for Street Outlaws, but that there were some challenges and the production company later came to the City of Casper with some requests.
Having a more streamlined permitting process would make it more efficient to determine whether the area is suitable to host productions and for the city and county to say yes or no to requests.
Kaufman told Oil City in July 2020 that the “Street Outlaws” production had generated an estimated $1.8 million for the local economy. Natrona County Commission Chair Rob Hendry put the figure at north of $2 million.
Making Film Casper the community’s designated film agency will allow Film Casper to join international film associations, according to Kaufman. She told the council that that would help Film Casper make connections with more film and television producers that may be interested in bringing projects to the area.
Eastes, who recently left an administrative position within the Natrona County School District, said that he previously ran a film office for Natrona County.
That got started when he was running the Natrona County Park Department in 1996, when “Starship Troopers” production came to the county. Eastes said that Starship Troopers production led to over $4 million of direct spending in the county.
Seeing that impact, the Natrona County Commissioners at the time directed him to start a film office. Eastes said that he helped service “many projects” over the course of the next seven years before he took a position within NCSD.
Once he left his position with NCSD, Eastes said he started speaking with Kaufman about getting those film office efforts started again.