Hollywood Alaska

The formerly "Everybody Loves Whales," - now called "Big Miracle," the first major, modern movie filmed entirely in Alaska is about to hit theaters. The tale of serial killer Robert Hansen, starring John Cusack and Nicolas Cage, filmed in Anchorage this fall. Other major-studio films are considering an Alaska shoot, even as an army of reality TV camera crews continues to prowl the state. Producers credit the state’s fledgling tax incentive program – one of the most generous such public subsidies in the country – with enticing movie-makers to the Last Frontier. How long will the gold rush last? Is the state getting a big enough return on its investment? Welcome to Hollywood, Alaska.

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Barrow-based 'On the Ice' hits iTunes - 5/14/2012 4:42 pm

‘Twilight: Eclipse’ director tapped for Alaska-based thriller - 5/14/2012 10:42 am

Producers scout Fairbanks, Anchorage for $10 million thriller

From Kyle Hopkins in Anchorage --

In a quiet cabin overlooking the woods north of Fairbanks, a troubled wildfire lookout lives alone with his mysterious past. One day, his estranged brother comes calling.

That’s when things get decidedly Cain and Abel in an untitled, $10 million thriller that an independent production company plans to film in Alaska as early as this fall. Joshua Zetumer, a writer on the upcoming “Robocop” reboot, penned the brother-versus-brother script with Alaska in mind.

“It sounds like there have been a couple big projects that have come through here and had a lot of success,” said Jeremy Kipp Walker, head of production for New York-based
Wayfare Entertainment Ventures.

The company finances independent films designed to appeal to a wide audience. They focus on genres with a built-in fanbase. Think thrillers. Sci-fi.

One of Wayfare's most recent movies, 2011’s “Sanctum,” was shot for $25 million with James Cameron (“Titanic,” “Avatar”) attached as an executive producer. It made $100 million worldwide, Walker said.

This week, Walker and director of physical production Evelynda Rivera are in Alaska, scouting locations in Fairbanks and Southcentral. It’s unclear if they’ll have to build a cabin or can find one that fits the script for their latest project, in which the main character, a “fire watcher,” lives in the isolated frontier.

The narrative is set in 1995, outside of Fairbanks.

“It’s sort of man-versus-man in the middle of nature,” Walker said as the filmmakers sampled a new special called the “Baja Bowl” –- cashew cheese, vegan sour cream -- at Middle Way Café today.

The pair scanned the Anchorage restaurant. They're looking for potential caterers and craft service providers for the film, they said.

“It’s a great menu. It’s definitely very L.A.,” Rivera told Middle Way general manager Jacob Davis.

The visit comes as lawmakers prepare to review a new version of a bill that would reauthorize the state’s expiring film incentive subsidy. A House Finance subcommittee provided Sen. Johnny Ellis, D-Anchorage, with an amended proposal today, said subcommittee chair Rep. Mia Costello, R-Anchorage.

Among the changes: The amended bill would link the amount of spending that can be subsidized for movie stars salaries to the amount movie-makers spend on Alaska hire, Costello said. (More on that later this week.)

Costello said she is waiting to hear back from Ellis on the proposed changes. The bill must eventually move to the full House Finance committee for a vote.

If the incentive is not renewed, it will dry up next year. Ellis has proposed extending the program through 2023 with the state offering an additional $200 million in incentives.

“Hunter Killer,” the big-budget submarine thriller from Relativity Media, has pre-qualified for the subsidy. A producer on that film, Jeff Waxman, told the Daily News in February that at $50 million to $100 million it would be the largest movie filmed under the Alaska incentive program.

It's unclear if "Hunter Killer" will be produced. "If it goes, it's coming to Alaska," Waxman said in an April interview.

The thriller that Walker and Rivera are scouting in Alaska this week might film in the spring of 2013 to avoid competing for Alaska crew members with the larger production, Walker said.

The producers wanted to visit Alaska now while there was still some snow on the ground – a requirement of the script, Walker said. The production would employ about 75 crew members. Because Wayfare funds its own movies, the film is already financed but the moviemakers won’t move forward until they’ve secured the director and actors, he said.

Other recent Wayfare films include 2009’s “Ondine,” starring Colin Farrell, and “It’s Kind of a Funny Story” in 2010 with Zach Galifianakis.

Walker and Rivera arrived in Alaska Sunday, visiting a Fairbanks-area hot springs, Arctic Valley in Anchorage and other potential shooting locations. They’ll leave at the end of the week, Walker said.

While some of the people involved in the film, including the director, have worked in Vancouver before, Walker said he’d prefer to shoot in Alaska if possible.

“This is definitely our strong preference. We’re here to make sure we can make it work,” he said.

The script calls for a third-act showdown between the opposing brothers, Walker said. “A good comparison, tonally, is Sam Shepard’s play, ‘True West.’”

The movie will likely be revealed at the Cannes Film Festival in May, Walker said. Until then, he said he’s keeping the director and cast, including a “movie star actor,” under wraps.

Look for updates on the film on the Facebook page of Anchorage production services company SprocketHeads.

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