Saturday, June 30, 2007

SIC Approves Loans for Swing Vote & The Burrowers

State council OKs financing for two movies
by David Miles
From The New Mexican

The State Investment Council on Tuesday approved a $15 million state loan for a political comedy starring Kevin Costner and roughly $7 million to finance a science fiction thriller about subterranean creatures who prey on the inhabitants of a Wild West town.

The council unanimously approved no-interest loans for the movies Swing Vote and The Burrowers. A two-year, $15 million loan was approved for Swing Vote, in which Costner plays Bud Johnson, an apathetic single father who faces the daunting task of casting the deciding vote in a presidential election.

The film has a $20 million budget, and Costner is putting his money behind a bond to ensure the project is completed, said Peter Dekom, a Beverly Hills, Calif., entertainment attorney who is paid $319,000 a year to serve as the state’s film adviser. “It’s a larger budget; it’s got marquee names; it’s a theme that’s unbelievably timely,” Dekom said of Swing Vote.

New Mexico will receive 8.5 percent of any profits the film makes after paying its production costs under the terms of the loan. Swing Vote will be filmed primarily in Albuquerque and Belen, with two days of shooting scheduled for Santa Fe, producer Jim Wilson said. Shooting is scheduled to begin July 23.

The investment council also approved a three-year, roughly $7 million loan to finance the entire budget of The Burrowers, which will be produced by Lions Gate Entertainment. New Mexico will receive 15 percent of the film’s profits that remain after paying its production costs.

The Burrowers centers on a missing family of settlers in the North Dakota Territory in the late 19th century, said Jim Gladstone, Lions Gate’s executive vice president of business and legal affairs. Although local residents are quick to blame American Indians for the family’s disappearance, they learn that “supernatural creatures” are responsible, Gladstone said.

Shooting is scheduled to begin July 9 in Santa Fe and the Sangre de Cristo Mountains, according to the New Mexico Film Office.

The film crew is using effluent water to grow the tall grass featured in The Burrowers, said Lisa Strout, director of the film office.

“Think of Jaws with ripply grass,” Dekom said.

Film producers are expected to hire 135 New Mexico crew members and 12 out-of-state crew members, the film office said. Swing Vote is expected to result in 205 jobs for New Mexicans and 37 jobs for other crew members, according to the office.

State Land Commissioner Pat Lyons, a member of the investment council, expressed concern the State Investment Council has more than $80 million in outstanding loans to Lions Gate. “We want to keep an eye on that,” Lyons said.

But Dekom said Lions Gate has agreed to extensive provisions guaranteeing to repay the loan for The Burrowers, and he said all of the company’s New Mexico projects appear to be heading for profits. “Lions Gate is one of the most consistently profitable motion-picture studios in the business,” Dekom said.

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