In 2011, Kingman, population 3,176, hosted the premier of a low-budget film titled “After the Wizard,” an Oz-based movie made in and around Kingman by California director Hugh Gross.

In 2011, Kingman, population 3,176, hosted the premier of a low-budget film titled “After the Wizard,” an Oz-based movie made in and around Kingman by California director Hugh Gross.
“It was an amazing experience,” said Kingman Chamber of Commerce executive director Wanda Kelsey. “Hugh has become a friend. He’s been here six times, once spending the night in our home. He’s ready to film here again if he finds the right script.”
Gross and his cast and crew filmed only five days in Kingman. Several townspeople were extras. A local boy earned a major role. During that time, Gross spent between $10,000 and $12,000 in the community. Kingman provided transportation and covered catering for the shoot.
“That doesn’t count what the theater took in at the premiere later, or the residuals we get from the DVD release of the movie,” Kelsey said. “I’d do it again in a heartbeat. Hugh was so easy to work with, and walked us through what we needed to do. I can always call Hugh if I have questions working with another company.”

How to get a project
Nick Barton of Prestigious Films, Wichita, writer/director of the newly released “Wichita,” playing April 17 at the McPherson Opera House, offered a list of needs to lure a film crew to town.
“First, identify the types of films possible in your area. If a film is rural-based, if they need small-town America, then you’re an option.
“Next, list what makes your town unique. You have a really beautiful courthouse and downtown. Note those places that are aesthetically pleasing. Get production stills made to show them off.
“Inventory your avenues of support: Number of caterers, restaurants, hotel rooms available and their rates, because there can be between 300 and 500 cast and crew staying in town for up to six months.
“Production support will want to know about places to buy batteries, duct tape, hardware, so having a 24-hour store like a Wal-Mart is a plus. A list of production companies and personnel in the area reflects availability if they need a camera or additional camera staff.
“Even things like an all-night McDonalds and a movie theater so there’s something to do during their time off are a big plus.
“Then decide what the city is willing to do to woo in a film company. Where will they be allowed to shoot? What incentives are available? If Joplin, Mo., gives 25 percent off on room rates, and you don’t, it can make the difference.
“How much power they can use off the grid; whether they can bring in generators, reroute a power line or close off a street if necessary: These are all questions to consider because they might be asked.”

A lucrative partnership
“If people are spending $10 million to $20 million on a film, no doubt they’re scouting four or five towns at least. Kevin Costner scouted seven towns for the making of the ‘Hatfields and McCoys’ miniseries. Some of those options were in Kansas,” Barton said.
Attitude makes a difference.
“How the scout, and then the crew and cast, are welcomed by the city and its people, makes a big difference, first for them to come make a film, and then for them to come back for other projects.”
Peter Jasso, executive director of Kansas Creative Arts Industries Commission (KCAIC), added that forging a partnership is key.
“Having a single contact to funnel all of the information and deal with all types of productions is important. How they’re treated will mean the difference” in getting return business.
As much as 50 percent of a film’s budget can be spent on travel, hotels and food. On locally made films, it can be as much as 100 percent. Also, film crews may hire locals for builders, runners, drivers and extras, among others.
“In Kansas, we tend to get independent films, documentaries, reality-based projects, commercial, shorts or locally generated films,” Jasso said.

Success story
Jasso cited Kingman as an example of a location success story.
“I just made myself available and took care of everything they needed,” Kelsey said. “Hugh didn’t have to spend time calling all over town.”
John Holecek, director of the McPherson Opera House, supports promoting Kansas film makers in any way possible.
“It’d be neat to have a film shot here in McPherson,” Holecek said. “We could never match the incentives given in other states, though I think if the city got behind the idea, we could make that happen here. Why not?”