PROVO -- A film production company that specializes in LDS-themed movies hopes to give mainstream filmmakers an assist with construction of a full-spectrum production facility in Provo.
Orem-based Halestorm Entertainment will run the studio, which will be built on a 2.94-acre lot in northeast Provo at the Riverwoods Office Park, and rent it out to other filmmakers.
"There are so many films that come through town that don't have a place to hang their hat," said Dave Hunter, who runs the movie production company.
Earlier this month, Halestorm's Apex Development purchased the land for $547,000, said Jon Anderson, a real estate agent for Colliers International. Construction of a 32,000-square-foot office building and a 16,000-square-foot sound stage is expected to begin in July and should be completed by December.
"We will have a full-blown facility," Hunter said. "We will be the only game in town."
That makes Hunter happy, but it also thrills Utah's film industry, which has been worried about the declining number of of movies being filmed in Utah.
"We're very fortunate in this state to have the LDS-themed movies that are hiring so regularly because it's so prolific," said Leigh von der Esch, director of the Utah Film Commission. "I think we are quite the envy of other states between L.A. and New York because of the strength of our indigenous movie community."
Despite that, von der Esch said that the mainstream film industry isn't coming to the state because Utah doesn't offer the tax or investment incentives that other states give filmmakers.
For that reason, von der Esch gathered with other filmmakers Tuesday at the Capitol to encourage lawmakers to pass financial incentives to attract more movie productions.
SB190, which is being drafted by Sen. Howard Stephenson, R-Draper, would offer production companies a sales and use tax exemption for working in Utah, but has not yet been introduced at the Legislature.
However, two other smaller measures have been proposed: HJR23 recommends a study about possible incentives, while SB240 would fund a task force to write a strategic plan for the entertainment industry.
"We need the business," von der Esch said. "And this (studio) would be another tool in our tool box."
Dixon Holmes, who works for Provo's economic development office, said the city has never targeted filmmakers but the film industry's "diversity" would be a positive for Provo. He also said the city "would work with anyone who would positively contribute to the local job market."
Founded in 2001 by Hunter and fellow Brigham Young University film graduate Kurt Hale, Halestorm Entertainment found success with their its feature film, "The Singles Ward," and brought in more moviegoers with "The R.M." and "The Home Teachers." In total, the movies have made more than $10 million.
Halestorm's latest film, "The Best Two Years," takes a comedic look at Latter-day Saint missionary work. A premiere performance was Wednesday, and the general opening is tonight on 22 movie screens in Utah.
Hunter said that Halestorm's films are popular because they manage to be funny without being offensive. The company's planned venture into mainstream films will also be family friendly, he said.
But even if Halestorm makes it big in Hollywood, Hunter promises one good LDS-themed movie a year for Utah's LDS audience.
"There is an endless amount of Mormon fodder for our films," he said.
Dave Hunter runs Halestorm Entertainment, which specializes in LDS-themed comedies.
The actors from "The Best Two Years," a comedic look at missionary work, attend the premiere at Jordan Commons Megaplex on Wednesday.
Several people have written to ask me why, with the recent releases of Pride and Prejudice and Halestorm's latest feature The Home Teachers, I haven't written any reviews of these films. The fact is that I have been sequestered from the world in preparation for some very important exams that are just around the corner for me, and it would take something extraordinary to bring me out of my cocoon right now. Well, actually it took TWO extraordinary things...