Colorado Wants Robert Redford To Shoot His Next Film Here. And The State Is Willing To Pay

Photo: Actor and film director Robert Redford
Actor and film director Robert Redford is also founder and president of the Sundance Institute.

Colorado officials today took a big step to draw Hollywood icon Robert Redford to the state to shoot a film for Netflix.

The Colorado Economic Development Commission approved $1,500,000 in film incentives for an adaptation of the novel “Our Souls At Night.” The book was the last written by Colorado author Kent Haruf before his death in 2014.

“It was important for us to bring this to Colorado because it is a Colorado story, it’s by an acclaimed Colorado writer,” deputy film commissioner Lauren Sloan said. “So it’s important for us to keep this in Colorado as opposed to shooting in a neighboring state.”

The EDC members all agreed to give the film funding during a special meeting called to consider the project. The package offered to “Our Souls At Night” equals about half of the state’s annual film incentive budget.

That public money comes from Colorado's Office of Film, Television and Media -- a division of the Office of Economic Development and International Trade. Lately, Colorado has allotted $3 million a year for its film incentives program. That amount gets approved by legislators each year.

“This is a very big budget for us,” Sloan said. “We haven’t had a project of this size since 'The Hateful Eight.'"

Colorado gave a $5 million rebate to Quentin Tarantino’s latest blockbuster, which was shot in Telluride last year.

The team behind "Our Souls At Night" expects to spend more than $17 million in Colorado. To get incentives, the shoot must hire at least half its crew from the state. The production company plans to hire 103 people from Colorado for its crew as well as 13 cast members, Sloan says.

The funding works like a rebate. To qualify, out-of-state companies have to spend at least $1 million. After the film is finished, approved projects can get back up to 20 percent of what they spent in the state.

But in the case of “Our Souls At Night,” that’s money the Colorado Film Office doesn’t have right now. So producers have agreed to receive less than half that amount once a contract is signed, explained Colorado film commissioner Donald Zuckerman.

“Clearly they were struck with the beauty and our locations, and they wanted to come here enough that they’re willing to sacrifice in terms of what they could get elsewhere,” he said.

This leaves about $950,000 in film incentives for the state to offer for the remainder of this fiscal year.

“We want to use that money wisely,” Zuckerman said. “It’s the people’s money, and we will be careful about how we spend it.”

Ritesh Batra, the 37 year old behind 2013’s “The Lunchbox,” will direct the movie. Location scouts have already visited towns ranging from Salida to Yuma, and the filmmakers could base their operations in Colorado Springs. Shooting would begin this fall.

Image: Kent Haruf and book

Set in the eastern plains, the book centers around a widow named Addie. She asks her neighbor, Louis, who is in a similar situation, if he will spend the nights in bed with her for companionship. Jane Fonda will star in the film’s lead role opposite Redford, who will play Louis and is also producing the film.

Last year, the Denver Center for the Performing Arts Theatre Company announced its intentions to adapt “Our Souls At Night” for the stage. But that project was halted once the movie rights were acquired.