Both iconic and ordinary: Film locations keep Moab in focus

By Rose Egelhoff •The Times-Independent

As the home of iconic red cliffs and open blue skies, it is no wonder nearly 100 movies have been filmed in the Moab area in past decades. But that’s not all Moab has to offer, said Bega Metzner, director of the Moab to Monument Valley Film Commission.

“We have this incredible range of mountains, and incredible rivers and beautiful winding roads,” Metzner said. “I would love to have people film more in the mountains and places that are not so iconic-specific … Monticello, Bluff, Blanding. Those places could be other parts of the country, but shooting here it could be like, Iowa. There’s something about those towns which is really interesting.”

Despite the number of movies made here, the bread and butter of Moab’s film industry is commercial work, Metzner said. REI and Arc’teryx have recently made commercials in the area. Car commercials are ubiquitous. There are also television shows that film in the area, and the occasional music video. “There’s a TV series called Adventure Capitalists. They came and there’s designers who are trying to pitch their outdoor sports equipment of some kind to these investors, but the investors actually test those things in real time on the show and then decide if they’re going to invest in it or not. They came and shot here last year,” Metzner said.

As film commission director, Metzner’s job is to facilitate filming of whatever project wants to come to town. She takes people out on initial scouting trips and watches their amazement as they witness Moab’s scenery for the first time. She points filmmakers in the direction of the correct land management agency for permitting, whether that be the Bureau of Land Management, School and Institutional Trust Lands, or in the case of Monument Valley, a tribal park. Metzner has also compiled a web directory of businesses and crewmembers that can serve filmmakers. Businesses or film industry professionals who would like to be listed can fill out a form on the website

Sometimes it falls to Metzner to fix odd problems, she said, like finding a propeller to repair a broken drone or procuring replacements for camera microdisks. “It comes down to me fixing the problem,” Metzner said. “It’s like being a production coordinator, a producer, a director and travel agent all at the same time, which can be really fun but it also can be really exhausting. I work pretty much 24-seven in a weird way … We’re getting calls from foreign countries. Their hours are different. They need information as quickly as they can get it. I can’t not answer the phone because then we could lose the job to another state or another area.”

Losing a film job means losing all the economic benefits that come with a production – nights spent staying in hotels, meals out, sometimes employment for the community. “Because I work for the city, part of my job is to help get the work to the community if I can. So having them try to hire local people, hiring local production assistants, local camera crew if they’re available … if I can get any kind of production that’s here to actually use our locals rather than bringing in their people, it’s something that I like to try and push.”

The film commission is also involved in outreach events for the community. “I don’t think that most film commissions take it upon themselves to do as much community outreach-related things as I am trying to do. I’ve been part of this community for a really long time on and off,” said Metzner, whose 12-year-old son attends Grand County Middle School.

“I want children to be able to access the motion-picture industry in whatever way they can and learn about it.” The film commission has sponsored bimonthly outdoor children’s movie screenings, for example. Metzner has also held “Media Hive Mix and Mingle” events. Likeminded media people have been able to gather, share information and photos, and meet new people in the industry.