FILM: Utah Gets Ready To Go Hollywood

Written by Mckay Stevens on . Posted in Film

4,500 new jobs. Massive rebates. 20% tax credits.

This may sound like a government bailout, but it isn’t. These are the major highlights to Senate Bill 14, approved by the Utah legislature and scheduled to take effect tomorrow.

But what does this have to do with film? In a word: everything. SB 14 is an initiative that aims to bring even more major studio productions to Utah. It offers savings and incentives that will make shooting a picture here nearly impossible to refuse.

With roughly 90% of all film crew members hailing from Utah and possession of the widest spectrum of locations of any state, Utah is truly a one-of-a-kind establishment for quality productions.

The more frequent usage of our state for major productions means even more jobs for you. If it were not for the universities in Utah Valley with ever-expanding film programs, this may have been only a distant dream.

Once the bigger scale productions arrive, many of the crew positions, extras casting and even leading roles will all be found right here, plucked from amongst the students. For those who have always dreamed of a career in Hollywood: don’t move a muscle. Hollywood is coming to you.

Utahns really are about to become full-time participants in big budget film production.

Nothing can quite compare to working on a film set. It seems as though there is a consistent flow of adrenaline streaming right out of the lens and bringing a welcome infection to cast and crew alike. Working on-set is intense, and if you don’t know what you’re doing, everyone else can see it. The phrase ‘fake it till you make it’ does not exist on a movie set.

Now, by bringing this to light, Rhombus feels it necessary to also give you a few explanations and introductions to working in the industry. So sit back, pop some of that whole wheat, gluten/sugar/taste free, ‘I can’t believe it’s not Styrofoam’-based health corn, and enjoy.

  • If you’ve never worked in film before, you will find it difficult beginning anywhere other than a Production Assistant, or PA. The PA is responsible for absolutely everything that nobody else wants to do. You are the grunt man, the pawn, the servant. If you ever assume yourself to be more than that, you won’t have a job much longer. That being said, as soon as you learn the ropes of production assistant, it can be a very rewarding job, and your dedication in that area will usually start you on the path to where you’d like to be.
  • The vocabulary and methods of film vets is in a world of its own. If you don’t know the names of all the gear and the slang for the different aspects of the set and of the shoot, you will be lost. This article would be far too long if I listed everything about their slang and methods. The best way to prepare yourself is to find some related literature. I found this little tidbit called “The Production Assistant’s Pocket Handbook.” It’s a 63-page booklet containing everything you need to know and then some. I find the sub-heading more than fitting: “Because nobody has time to tell you what you need to know.”
  • You’ve seen them in the credits, but never known what they do. Grip: adjusts and maintains production equipment on set. Gaffer: head of the electrical department. Foley Artist: sound effects. Best boy: the two kinds are ‘best boy grip’ and ‘best boy gaffer.’ The best boys serve as assistants to the Key Grip and Gaffer.
  • What if I want to direct, produce or do something else on set?” Take it from someone who has been there, had the experience, and made his share of mistakes: you do not start right at the top. It would be a lie to say that nobody has ever done it, but I guarantee that whatever position you would like to hold on a film set, you will be better off by beginning at the bottom, because that’s what everyone else around you has done, and there’s no such thing as entitlement in this industry. You prove your worth by being dedicated to the position you’re in, and not necessarily the position you want. Even those with great ideas don’t become writers and directors overnight.
  • Avoid stepping on toes. There is a specific process from concept to production. It has always been there and the fruit of said process can be witnessed in the bounty of great films we have before us. Don’t try and change that. The old adage rings true, “Don’t speak unless spoken to,” but only in regards to trying to rewrite what is already in place.
  • And going hand-in-hand with the previously stated, I would add: Ask questions. Nothing will frustrate a director, 1st assistant director, line producer, or anyone else more than a person who prefers his pride over a few minutes of humble pie and a successful shoot. If you don’t know something, and even if you’ve already been told but forgot, you have to ask! Shooting days are budgeted down to the last dime, and if it drags on because some assistant or intern doesn’t know what he’s doing, it can be very damaging to a shoot and people may lose their trust in you.
  • Most (locally) are very forgiving of early mistakes. Everyone makes mistakes. The point is that you look for your mistakes instead of waiting for someone else to point them out. It costs money, and nobody wants to pay you to lose their money. You will find in your experience that it is not the intention of veteran filmmakers to degrade you. They have all been in your shoes and understand the tremendous pressure you feel. Now multiply that by ten and you will begin to understand their pressure. They mean nothing personally, and you must learn from your mistakes and move on confidently.

If this post has scared you out of the film career you thought you wanted, please reconsider. There are strict guidelines you must follow, and many things you must know, but if you heed the previously outlined points, you will make it.

There are so many other aspects to this industry. We could go on for pages, but most would get bored and move on to another article. This should be a sufficient introduction for you, however, to the magical world of filmmaking. Welcome.

Mckay Stevens (NOT the one from the Vibrant Sound) is a film writer for Rhombus. Follow him on Twitter at


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