Colorado Film Office has been giving money to movies that don’t qualify, according to a state audit

The Colorado Film, Television, and Media got more money-related bad news Monday after learning earlier this year that its budget would be slashed going forward.

On set during the production of "Amateur," a Netflix feature film being shot at Regis University. (Kevin J. Beaty/Denverite)

filmmaking; set; film; tv; production; kevinjbeaty; denver; denverite; regis university; colorado;
On set during the production of "Amateur," a Netflix feature film being shot at Regis University. (Kevin J. Beaty/Denverite) filmmaking; set; film; tv; production; kevinjbeaty; denver; denverite; regis university; colorado;
On set during the production of “Amateur,” a Netflix feature film shot at Regis University in 2016. (Kevin J. Beaty/Denverite)

The Colorado Office of Film, Television and Media got more money-related bad news Monday after learning earlier this year that its budget would be slashed going forward.

A state audit looked at about 30 percent of the 31 movies, documentaries, commercials and other projects that received incentives from the Film Office between fiscal 2013 and 2016. The nine projects audited received about $1.9 million in incentives even though none of them met all the requirements for funding, according to the report released Monday.

About 7 percent — $129,000 — was awarded to three projects that did not qualify for taxpayer money at all, according to the state audit.

The Film Office was set up in 2012 to “expand and revitalize” the film industry in Colorado. One of the office’s main jobs is to administer the Colorado’s film incentive program that offers financial rebates to companies producing films, television shows, commercials and video games in Colorado.

Between fiscal years 2013 and 2016, 31 projects received $10.6 million in incentives, according to the state.

In order to qualify for the money, at least half of a production’s employees must be Colorado residents and the company must spend $100,000 in the state if the company is based in Colorado. If the company is from outside of the state, it must spend $250,000 to $1 million in the state.

In April, Colorado legislators were split on how the office should be funded going forward. They ultimately decided to reduce the office’s budget by about 75 percent from a $3 million in past years to $750,000 for the new fiscal year starting in July.

To be more efficient with the new budget, the head of the Film Office said the agency will not go after big projects like “The Hateful Eight” and “Our Souls at Night” and instead focus on smaller productions. The Colorado Office of the State Auditor also made several recommendations that could help the Film Office manage its money better.

Here are the key recommendations:

  • Implement controls to only pay incentives for projects the Film Office verifies as meeting the qualifications and that have contracts or purchase orders properly executed.
  • Implement a documented application procedure, expand policies and procedures to include uniform criteria and require that documentation be maintained related to all potential incentive projects and approval decisions.
  • Expand data collection and evaluation of the benefits of the incentive program and use complete and accurate data.

Adrian D. Garcia

Author: Adrian D. Garcia

Adrian D. Garcia is on business and trends for Denverite, serves as treasurer for the Colorado chapter of the Society of Professional Journalists and on the board of the Denver Press Club. He can be reached at agarcia@denverite.com.