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Nevada welcomes Hollywood, employment opportunities

Sure, bumping into Robert DeNiro, Bradley Cooper or Morgan Freeman can be exhilarating.

But something else happens when the big names are working in Las Vegas. The city’s film industry professionals get work, location fees are paid and production rentals are secured.

Can anybody say ka-ching?

In fiscal year 2012, 520 total productions were shot in Nevada, up from 479 the year before. Total production revenue for fiscal year 2012, which ended June 30, was $88.78 million, down from $102.53 million in fiscal 2011.

In California, 284 feature films were shot entirely or partially in the state during 2011. In general, the entertainment industry spends $30 billion per year in California. Numbers for 2012 weren’t available, and the California Film Commission doesn’t track the total number of television shoots.

Of the 520 projects in Nevada, 39 were feature films, 46 were commercials and 68 were documentaries. Most of the remainder were television series, reality programs, music video, corporate filming, student work or still photography.

"It’s been one of the busiest years in terms of features. That’s a trend that’s very encouraging," said Charlie Geocaris, director of the Nevada Film Office. "We think the future’s very bright."

Within the next six months, Geocaris said he expects the number of productions to continue rising. And with the recent three-week simultaneous filmings of "Hangover 3" and "Last Vegas," the local motion picture industry plans to build on its momentum.

"We just finished ‘Hangover 3,’ which was a sizable boost to the city," said industry veteran JR Reid.

Reid owns North Las Vegas-based JR Lighting, a 21-year-old lighting and grip rental house. He noted that as many as 50-75 locals worked on "Hangover 3" on any given day for three weeks, which was huge.

"Normally a feature film is here for a week. It was nice having a feature film that spent three weeks here," Reid said.

With the two features vying for people and equipment, October and early November were busy.

"Now it’s died down to a dull roar. These are traditional slow time periods for us going into the holidays," Reid said.

NEW YEAR BRINGS NEW BUSINESS

The industry will pick back up around New Year’s and into January, when commercials are being filmed for the Super Bowl.

But Reid’s business experienced another huge boost in recent months. JR Lighting worked on most of the Las Vegas presidential campaign visits of all candidates leading up to the Nov. 6 election.

"We were very busy during that time frame," Reid said.

Overall, Reid’s 2012 business is up 1 percent or 2 percent over 2011, but 2011 was down 15 percent from 2010.

"The overall industry has not picked back up to where it was prior to 2001," said Reid.

At Chris Ramirez’s Silver State Productions, business has been "absolutely crazy."

"We just finished ‘Hangover,’ which was a really, really big job for us and a lot of locals," Ramirez said.

Silver State provided many of the local production hires, including 50 security guards, for the feature film.

"The whole town has been super busy," Ramirez noted.

And last week, Silver State scouted locations for a week of filming for the upcoming remake of the Burt Reynolds film "Heat," this time starring Jason Statham. But after that, the production is gone.

"They’re shooting 99 percent in Louisiana because of tax incentives," Ramirez said. "The whole script takes place in Las Vegas."

While he had their attention, Ramirez tried to recapture some of that lost business and said he hopes the production will stick around a little longer. But he wasn’t very hopeful.

"We’re not going to be able to swing the whole movie to Las Vegas," Ramirez lamented. "But, if Nevada passes incentives in January, we won’t have time to read them all there’d be so many projects."

Silver State Productions also worked on seven music videos in the past few weeks. Add to that a smattering of awards shows and reality TV, and you see Ramirez’s point.

"Some of the bigger studios are seeing there’s capability here. I think that is really good for the whole local community," he added.

Record labels whose musicians are in town for a concert often will use it to their advantage, taping music videos while they’re here. 50 Cent and Wiz Khalifa, for instance, recently filmed in Pahrump while making a Khalifa tour stop in Vegas.

And when the music labels come, they usually book multiple sets with different artists to get as maximum bang for their buck. When EMI and London Alley were here recently their sets included shoots downtown, in the closed Sahara Hotel, the Neon Museum and in the desert.

A BOOST FOR OTHER BUSINESSES

Ramirez said Downtown Films has brought $500,000 in ancillary business to the downtown area since the summer.

And recently, the Vegas Producers Studio opened an 8,500-square-foot full-service facility that might help attract buisness to the city. Along those same lines, the Nevada Film Office promotes Nevada locations through multiple venues, including at the Las Vegas Film Festival.

Milo Kostelecky, director of the Las Vegas Film Festival, expanded the event from three to four days this year. About 5,000 people attended in 2012, and 2013’s three-day festival opens June 20 at the LVH. Kostelecky said his goal is to expand the event by 25 percent each year, and now he’s screening about 65 films.

"I’m a native of the city so it’s kind of personal," Kostelecky said.

While others see an uptick in business, Rich Hopkins doesn’t share their view. As the owner of Thrillseekers Unlimited, a stunt entertainment company, he said locals rarely have a chance to do stunts for big productions.

"It’s been really slow," Hopkins said. "It’s getting worse. … Vegas likes to call itself the entertainment capital of the world, but it’s not in the film industry."

For Hopkins, most of his work comes from New York or LA.

"Thank God I’ve got 20 years worth of connections. It’s just a matter of me hustling," he explained.

Contact reporter Laura Carroll at lcarroll@reviewjournal.com or 702-380-4588.

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