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Alaskans in the Film Industry

Alaskans, from left, Kevin Kurka, Michael Bergstrom, Eric Lizer and Michael Collier, working on the set of the film Frozen Ground, winter 2011. Frozen Ground, starring Nicolas Cage and John Cusack, was the second big-budget film to take advantage of Alaska's Film Tax Incentive.
Allen Parks photo
Alaskan Charlie Sears, video assist for Frozen Ground.
Deborah Schildt photo
Alaskan Shane Reeves, audio technician for Frozen Ground.
Deborah Schildt photo
Alaskan Bob Crockett, location manager for Frozen Ground.
Deborah Schildt photo
Alaskans, from left, Kevin Kurka, Taylor Hurlburt, Michael Bergstrom, and Estevan Padilla on the set of Frozen Ground.
Deborah Schildt photo
John Krasinski on the set of Big Miracle at West High School.
Darren Michaels / Universal Pictures photo
Alaskan Tom Trainor works on the set of Big Miracle, on Ft. Richardson.
Darren Michaels / Universal Pictures photo
Cinematographer John Bailey working on the set of Big Miracle at West High School.
Darren Michaels / Universal Pictures photo
Actress Drew Barrymore on the set of Big Miracle, at West High School.
Darren Michaels / Universal Pictures photo
2nd 2nd Assistant Director, Alaskan Stacy Stuart on the set of Big Miracle.
Darren Michaels / Universal Pictures photo
Steadicam operators on the set of Big Miracle, at the Hotel Captain Cook.
Darren Michaels / Universal Pictures photo
Alaskan Deanna Moore on the set of Big Miracle.
Darren Michaels / Universal Pictures photo
Alaskan Greg Kern, second from left, on the set of Big Miracle.
Darren Michaels / Universal Pictures photo
Alaskans on the set of Big Miracle, at the Aviation Heritage Museum.
Darren Michaels / Universal Pictures photo
Alaskan Sierra Winegarner working on the set of Big Miracle.
Darren Michaels / Universal Pictures photo
Alaskan Gene Boyda, right, on the set of Big Miracle in downtown Anchorage.
Darren Michaels / Universal Pictures photo
Craig Medred

Film is a sexy industry, far from the grimy politics of Alaska’s favorite moneymaker, oil and gas. So why, in the waning hours of the Alaska Legislature, did SB 23 become the political equivalent of a final, last-ditch football play? Blame it on oil and gas.

Much of the most recent legislative session was devoted to debate over Gov. Sean Parnell’s proposed oil tax reform and the prospect of an instate gas pipeline. As a result, SB 23 sat in House subcommittees, languishing, despite what state Sen. Johnny Ellis (D-Anchorage), a sponsor of the original bill, said was strong bipartisan support in the House.

Meanwhile, those who had cast their lot with Alaska film watched anxiously.

Bob Crockett, general manager of Piksik -- a production support company that’s a subsidiary of NANA Development Corp. -- and president of the Alaska Film Group, said that there was concern as the session wound down with no move to act on the bill.

“Everybody’s perspective was that it was going to pass,” Crockett said. “But then it didn’t. And then it didn’t. And then you have the last night of the session. We didn’t think that it was going to pass at the 11th hour. And then, all of a sudden, it did.”

Carolyn K. Robinson, a founder of Sprocketheads -- another production company popular with studios making films in the Last Frontier -- said she was watching the session anxiously as SB 23 was taken up at the last moment in the House.

“I was just thinking, ‘This can’t be happening, this can’t be happening,’ ” she said. “It was rather stressful. Lots of chocolate was being eaten.”

Ellis, however, didn’t feel much nervousness, having been through numerous legislative sessions.

“I’ve learned to see several chess or checker moves ahead, so I was able to remain pretty calm,” he said.

He still had to sit and watch as the bill was passed around from legislator to legislator, with various other tax credits tacked onto it -- gas storage tax credits, oil and gas exploration credits, a small-business tax credit.

Read the full story here.