Thanks in part to such hits as “The Hangover” and “Ocean’s Eleven,” Las Vegas continues to exert a strong pull on filmmakers and TV producers everywhere. After all, nothing compares to the casinos, shows and 24/7 party vibe of the self-dubbed “entertainment capital of the world.” The city’s famous Strip “is unique and world-famous,” boasts Charlie Geocaris, director of the Nevada Film Office. “It draws production crews year-round.”
But Nevada isn’t just glitter and spectacle. The state’s dry lake beds and sand dunes can double for the deserts of the Middle East. Its northern wilderness area known as the Sierra region has attracted filmmakers like Sean Penn, who used it as a backdrop for “Into the Wild” and “The Pledge.” And the Hoover Dam has starred in blockbusters such as “Transformers.”
According to Geocaris, other popular locations in the state include Lake Tahoe, Red Rock Canyon and Reno. In addition to its rugged and picturesque terrain, Geocaris points out that Nevada also offers such cinematic locations as ghost towns, miles of scenic roads, cowboy towns and picturesque lakes. Nevada’s Valley of Fire continues to be popular for musicvideos, feature films, and commercials that require its striking red rocks and iconic scenery.
While Nevada does not offer an incentive or tax rebate program for the film and production industry, Geocaris says there is no corporate or personal income tax, no unitary or inventory tax and there is an abatement of room tax after 30 days.
Nevada also stays competitive thanks to “free and accessible permitting, very little red tape, and a strong local crew base — many of whom have moved here from California,” Geocaris continues. Even with stiff competition from Louisiana and New Mexico, the state attracts “between 400 and 500 productions annually.” The film office also offers the Nevada Production Directory, which lists available crew, vendors, equipment houses, production and post-production support services and notable locations throughout the state.
In terms of production facilities, Nevada is home to a variety of sound stages and insert studios, along with a strong support infrastructure that includes lighting and grip, camera and equipment rentals.
“Our smaller stages are mainly used for commercials and the larger ones have been converted from warehouse spaces,” says Geocaris. “We don’t have state-of-the-art production facilities yet, but we’ve been meeting with people who’re talking about building one in the Las Vegas area.”
Las Vegas itself has blossomed over the past few years into a big broadcast center, with television production churning out a steady stream of content — and revenue.
“We get everything, from the talk shows like ‘Ellen’ to big award shows like the Latin Grammys and the Miss America Pageant,” Geocaris adds. “And they always shoot a lot of B-roll around town, so it’s great visibility for us.”
• It’s work, not play, for producers in Sin City