Leadville Film Commission puts Leadville in the Spotlight

The mission of the Leadville Film Commission is to facilitate film production and create economic and creative opportunities for the small businesses, residents and storytellers of Leadville, Lake County and the surrounding areas. This nonprofit organization is powered by a group of volunteer board members led by Executive Director Doug Smith.

The seeds of the project were planted in the summer of 2016 when a guest of the Lake County Tourism Panel suggested the idea. Smith was driving the guests around and already had an interest in film. Later, while working at the visitors’ center, he met a location scout from Denver and was able to identify useful local resources and help scout some locations. Those efforts resulted in a crew of 25 people coming to the area for a 25-day project.

“We just played liaison, helping them with location scouting, permitting and other troubleshooting,” recalls Smith.

The crew shared information about their budget, which helped him understand the economic impact that single project had on the community. “So, at first, it was reactive, seeing what info and support companies needed and then filling those needs,” Smith said. “Now we know more about what needs exist, and we have the website that offers those services.”

The strategy seems to be working, as there are companies returning for additional projects. The commission’s three main goals are to:

Simplify the process.

Shine the spotlight.

Entertain and educate.

“Simplifying the process” involves taking the guesswork out of what it takes to do film production in Lake County. The biggest tool for this outreach is the website. One page has a location guide with photos of gorgeous mountain scenery and historic buildings. Another page has a checklist where film companies can find answers to other logistical questions, such as what permits are needed for filming on Bureau of Land Management land or whether paperwork is needed to fly a drone.

Smith explains, “By simplifying the process, opportunities open up.”

“Shining the spotlight” on local people is a focus as well. Over 200 people have signed up to be in the “extras listing.” There are other locals who have experience behind cameras and in sound editing rooms. Expanding the list to include representatives from Chaffee County will connect people with an even wider range of skill sets.

“Entertain and educate” includes a variety of outreach activities like promoting film events from local filmmakers.

“We want to help them get their creative content out there,” says Smith.

The film commission recently received a grant from the Lake County Community Fund to create a video equipment library that will provide free access to high quality equipment. This equipment will be used by local individuals and organizations ‒ like an after-school club at the intermediate school and a film club at the high school ‒ to help encourage the next generation of artists.

The next steps for the film commission are revisiting and expanding existing connections and working toward sustainability. The current budget of $4,400 is limited but is used to great advantage. In addition to the grant from the Lake County Community Fund, the commission received funding from the Colorado Office of Film, Television and Media this year. Ongoing efforts include looking at the websites of other regional commissions and establishing connections to film festivals and the state film guide to expand industry awareness of what is here.

“I want to network with Denver production companies as much as possible, just so we are always on their minds,” Smith says.

People or businesses interested in knowing more about the Leadville Film Commission or being listed in the commission’s production guide can visit the website at filmleadville.com or email Doug Smith at doug@filmleadville.com.