Wednesday, November 23, 2011

Film company’s permit up for renewal

Permission allows L.L. Bean, Apple and others to shoot on public land

Express Staff Writer

Diamond Sun Productions, the company responsible for placing Sun Valley in spots for Budweiser, Ford, Apple Computers and L.L. Bean, is applying for an extension of its permit to film and photograph on public lands.

Sun Valley's appearance in everything from catalogs to commercials is governed by the U.S. Forest Service if the shoots are conducted on public land, said Ed Cannady, backcountry recreation manager for the Sawtooth National Recreation Area.

Production companies must gain a permit in order to conduct the shoots, as the placement of models, animals and cars can sometimes damage the land and require restoration. But gaining a permit can take months, which Cannady said is often too slow for out-of-town companies.

"They often show up one day and want to shoot the next," he said.

As a result, Diamond Sun Productions and the Forest Service have worked out an agreement in which out-of-town production companies can work with Diamond Sun and under that company's permit to enable faster turnover.

"They essentially become me for the duration of the shoot," said David Butterfield, owner of Diamond Sun Production Co.

Butterfield marks up the location fees for non-local companies, though locals can work under his permit with no additional cost.

This arrangement benefits Butterfield, but helps the Forest Service as well. Cannady said the Forest Service and Butterfield are normally on location, ensuring that all work is being done in accordance with permit provisions.

"We still go out on shoots and make sure they're toeing the line," Cannady said, adding that car companies often want to go off designated roads while shooting, a practice prevented by Forest Service supervision.

Butterfield said his involvement also helps once the company leaves the area, especially if it wasn't as low-impact as it promised before the project.

"These companies will say anything coming in," he said. "When they leave, you can't get them on the phone."

After a shoot, roads may need regrading, fields may need reseeding and trails may need grooming. A 2003 Super Bowl spot featuring Clydesdale horses playing football in a field filmed in Sun Valley required a year for Butterfield to track down the company and ensure it paid to repair the damage caused during filming.

"David is really good at keeping the bit in these guys' mouths," Cannady said with a laugh.

This would be Butterfield's third permit extension, meaning he has been filming for more than 15 years in the valley.

The demand has been rising slightly, Cannady said, including from a production company working with the Discovery Channel that recently did a shoot of the mountains for a segment on North America.

"Our mountains are amazing, and people want them in their backdrops, they want them in their foregrounds," Cannady said. "They are still very much in demand."

Public comment on Butterfield's application will be accepted by the Sawtooth National Recreation Area until Dec. 23 and can be submitted to Cannady at or 5 North Fork Canyon Road, Ketchum, ID 83340.

Katherine Wutz:

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