Marshall Moore, executive director of the Utah Film Commission, rattled off a number of big-budget films that were made in the state recently, including "John Carter," "The Lone Ranger," and "After Earth," and "any one of those productions could have used a facility like this," he said.
The studio will be comprised of three cores: soundstages to shoot motion pictures, television shows and commercials; a film school in partnership with Utah Valley University; and a retail component that will include the museum, restaurants and a 100-room hotel.
The studio also will stress the most advanced technology in digital filmmaking to help contain the cost of making movies and to wow audiences with the latest in special effects.
Ericksen turned to a digital company, EMM Technology, to outfit the studio with the software, hardware and services necessary to create movie magic. EMM, which originated in Virginia, is relocating to Park City to work with the studio.
"It's essential, and it is growing," Larry D. Cox, chief operating officer for EMM, said about the role of digital filmmaking in Hollywood. "You don't have to capture and recapture scenes anymore. You can create the scenes or capture them once and use them again in a variety of ways. But the real beauty of it is in time management and control of costs. If you don't have to fly armies of actors and support teams out to a location; you can save millions."
Citing the Oscar-winning film, "Life of Pi," as an example of digital filmmaking that will improve and become less costly over time, so "if you could reduce the time required to make such an excellent, sophisticated movie as that from four years to three years … to months, imagine the savings in time costs and studio energy."
Ericksen has partnered with Orem's UVU to create a curriculum in digital media for the studio's school, which not only will provide classes and internships for local students but also for students from abroad.
"We believe that this will be a partnership that will be successful for many years to come," said Michael Savoie, UVU's dean of the College of Technology and Computing.
The campus is being financed by Ericksen his family are owners of Orbit Irrigation in North Salt Lake and a series of private investors from China. He said the Chinese film industry is interested in learning more about western techniques in filmmaking.
Ericksen, who is an intellectual property attorney in Davis County, has always been interested in the entertainment industry and represented some of the local talent that have appeared on the hit television show "American Idol." It was while making some videos for the syndicated version of that show that he became interested in more filmmaking, he said.
"I really enjoyed it and came back to Utah and was contacted by a company that was looking for a motion picture studio in Utah, and they thought the only place that it would be viable in would be in Park City."
The construction on the first phase of the studio, the soundstages, will be completed in the fall of 2014. The rest should be finished sometime in 2016 or 2017, Ericksen said. He also is negotiating with a national chain to build the hotel.
The film commission's Moore acknowledged that once the studio is completed, it might be difficult to get enough film projects to keep the soundstages operating year round.
The state has a film incentive program that offers up to a 25 percent tax credit to filmmakers if they make their movie in Utah. But the state has only allocated $6.8 million per year for the program, and he said that's not enough to attract productions to keep cameras rolling all year.
"What we're going to have to do in the future is once they build this studio and see that there is this facility here we're going to have to see if there is a way to raise that cap so we can attract a TV series and big-budget features here," Moore said.
Park City Film Studios
What is it • A 374,000-square-foot movie studio that will include three soundstages, digital media offices, special effects stages, restaurants, a hotel and a film school.
Where is it • Off of U.S. 40 near the east entrance into Park City.
Who owns it • The $125-million studio is being financed by local attorney Greg Ericksen as well as a team of private Chinese investors.
Completion • The first phase, the soundstages, will be finished in the fall of 2014. The rest is expected to be completed in 2016 or 2017.