Lights, camera, action
The “majesty” of the Three Lakes has lured a Denver filmmaker to Grand County to shoot scenes of his first feature film.
Sean J.S. Jourdan of Denver is partnering with Maryem Ersoz, Boulder, to co-produce the independent film “Teddy Boy,” a psychological thriller.
The project is planned to be filmed in and around Denver and at Lake Granby. Jourdan wrote the screenplay, which “centers on the story of a rising tennis star who becomes entangled in a savage charade with a grieving middle-aged couple while staying in their picturesque Colorado mountain home,” according to Jourdan.
The story parallels that of a true story Jourdan and his wife Deborah heard while staying at the home of a host during a film festival in Northern California, Jourdan said. The woman of the home had lost her son to suicide a year prior. The story “deeply affected my wife and myself,” Jourdan said.
The screenplay has already received some attention as a finalist for Woods Hole Film Festival, Beverly Hills Film Festival, Cinestory and as a semi-finalist for the Big Bear Lake International Film Festival and Visionfest Feature Screenwriting Competitions.
In preparing for the shooting of the film, the producer-writer-director who moved to Colorado from Chicago two years ago, said he drove around Colorado and “looked at a lot of beautiful lakes. Lake Granby is definitely my favorite.”
For a sailing scene and scenes that take place on shore, Jourdan decided Lake Granby was suitable for its mostly uninhabited shores.
“It would be easier and cheaper to film at places closer to Denver,” he said, “but those lack the majesty of Lake Granby. For us, we’re willing to spend the extra money to make that happen.”
Bill and Penny Hamilton of Granby have already offered Jourdan the use of their sailboat for a key scene in the movie, Jourdan said.
“If I had more money, I would literally film the whole thing in Grand County,” he said.
Shooting of the 1.5-hour movie is slated to start in May. Jourdan anticipates a total of 24 days of filming, and post-production could take six months to a year. Jourdan may have a screening in Grand County when the movie is ready next year.
Jourdan’s first independent feature film was made possible due to a substantial investment from him and his wife, he said, plus financing via the Kickstarter crowdfunding platform online. His production company Kekule Productions raised $35,633 through Kickstarter, and per Kickstarter guidelines, no funds from committed backers would have been applied had the project not met its funding goal.
Director of photography Kuba Zelazek, currently filming the reality TV show “Jerseylicious,” is slated to helm “Teddy Boy.” The production will feature Colorado cast members Kevin Sean Ryan and Danielle Prall along with Chicagoan Joseph Louis Bicicchi.
“As a fan of the genre, I’m looking forward to working with a tremendous cast and crew as well to create a film, in Colorado, that will play to an international audience,” said Jourdan. “It’s going to be an emotionally moving film with more than a few thrills to match.”
Very few films have been staged in Grand County, which because of Grand County’s beauty, baffles the independent filmmaker.
“I don’t know why,” Jourdan said. He knows of only one black and white production that was filmed in Grand County as late as the 1950s.
Attracting film productions to Colorado has become the goal of new state Film Commissioner Donald Zuckerman, who at the Capitol is pushing for a 20 percent tax rebate incentive for filmmakers (up from the current 10 percent) plus a loan guarantee up to 20 percent to make Colorado competitive with other states.
The bill, House Bill 1286, passed the House and this week was introduced to the Senate Business, Labor and Technology Appropriations Committee.
Proponents say attracting the film industry to Colorado, where only 22 films have been made in the past decade, would mean more jobs and economic spending on locations.
In the past decade, “a lot of states have gone after the film industry and Colorado has not done that,” Zuckerman said. “Colorado offers a meager incentive that is not attracting the business. We now hope to level the playing field with our sister states nearby. Given Colorado’s outstanding diversity and natural beauty, and given we have skilled labor here for movies, we’ll get people here.”
Zuckerman visited the C Lazy U Ranch in Grand County this winter and hosted an informational meeting that was attended by Grand County Tourism Board members and chamber of commerce members.
“There’s not that many lakes in Colorado. Not that many not far from an airport. That’s beneficial. There are going to be films that want to work there,” Zuckerman said of Grand County.
Commercials and films pump money into the economy. Producers may hire extras locally, crews shop locally, productions need local caterers and supplies, and the list continues.
“Believe me, money gets spent when doing these things,” Zuckerman said.
A “modest” movie can have a budget in the $6 million- to $7 million-range, he said.
“Intangible benefits” also come from films, such as from tourism after projects are viewed.
“In the last couple of years, 115,000 people a year take the paid tour of the Stanley Hotel in Estes Park just because of ‘The Shining,'” Zuckerman said. “It brings a lot of people to that town.”
Grand County’s proximity to Denver and its natural beauty should be a “no-brainer” in attracting the industry, agrees Penny Hamilton, Granby Chamber volunteer. But the county still lacks a volunteer committee dedicated to this mission, she said.
“We need to reach out to bring these people in,” she said. “We need to start getting a successful track record of having shoots here.”
“Everybody we’ve met has been friendly and helpful,” Jourdan said of the hospitality he’s witnessed in Grand County thus far. He said he hopes his film will pave the way “so that if another film comes up, they will be greeted with the same kindness and generosity.”
Jourdan’s modest-budget independent film is still in need of a pontoon or speed boat, as well as housing in Grand County for his crew.
Originally from Albuquerque, N.M., Jourdan relocated to Denver after receiving a master’s of fine arts in film and video at Columbia College Chicago.
His short films, including “An Open Door” and “The Beekeeper” are currently distributed by Shorts International, via iTunes. His feature length screenplay, “The Beekeeper,” was recently a finalist for the Sundance Screenwriter’s Lab.
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