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Colo. director gets incentives for Evel Knievel documentary from state film commission

DENVER - When a state like Colorado offers money to moviemakers, it's often to lure Hollywood. The latest grant from the Colorado film commission is to an Academy Award-winning director from Denver who's making a movie about Evel Knievel, showing incentives can help homegrown talent.

The Colorado Economic Commission granted Daniel Junge just over $94,000 for "Being Evel," the Denver Post reported Friday. State film commissioner Donald Zuckerman endorsed the incentives, and told The Associated Press on Friday that to get the money, Junge will have to show he has spent about $470,000 in Colorado to make the film. Nearly half of that will be to hire 25 crewmembers, Zuckerman said.

"What we get out of it is people work, people pay taxes," Zuckerman said. "We spend the people's money wisely and we get good return."

Junge told commissioners he'll film interviews in Denver for the movie about the daredevil who died in 2007. The Post reports that while making his pitch, he showed commissioners the 2011 Oscar he won for the short subject documentary "Saving Face," which he co-directed with Pakistani director Sharmeen Obaid-Chinoy. That documentary is about acid attacks on women in Pakistan and a plastic surgeon dedicated to helping them.

Film incentives have sparked controversy across the United States, with some arguing taxpayers reap little benefit. Todd Haggerty of the National Conference of State Legislatures said that it can be tricky to put a dollar figure on what incentives produce for a state, and that spending in hopes of recouping taxes at some later date can be a particularly tough sell during a recession. But Haggerty said that for every state that tweaks or rolls back an incentive program, another state inaugurates or expands one.

Haggerty, a fiscal policy researcher, told AP that movie incentives draw attention because of Hollywood's celebrity cachet, but that the questions surrounding them are part of a broader debate on how states lure business in hopes of creating jobs and building industry.

Zuckerman described Colorado's incentives as a relatively modest 20 per cent of what producers spend in the state. In many cases, producers end up getting less from the state than they had requested because they spent less than expected here, he said.

Colorado had seen little filmmaking before his office opened almost three years ago, Zuckerman said. Since then, he said, two projects that were granted incentives have been completed in Colorado, and two others are due to start production. The most prominent, the recently completed "Dear Eleanor," is about two teen girls on a road trip across America during the Cuban missile crisis. It, brought stars Jessica Alba and Luke Wilson to Boulder County and was granted $500,000 in incentives, Zuckerman said. He said officials are still waiting to see the producers' report to determine how much of that will be paid.

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