State invests in reality show promoting business
Entrepreneurship • GOED board offers tax incentive to series promoting business.
Published: March 14, 2014 02:08PM
Updated: March 14, 2014 04:53PM

Call it a hybrid between “Shark Tank” and “American Idol.”

That’s how producer Rod Blanchard described the reality television series he wants to begin filming in Utah this spring, “American Gnuity.”

“We want to inspire Americans to follow their dreams,” he told the Governor’s Office of Economic Development board, which on Thursday approved a financial incentive of up to $595,110 to support the series dedicated to showcasing “the workings of American free enterprise.”

Much like “Shark Tank,” which features colorful Dallas Maveriks owner Mark Cuban and other rich people who help budding businesspeople to get off the ground, “American Gnuity” focuses on emerging entrepreneurs.

“We’re scouring the countryside for contestants,” Blanchard said, “and will bring some to Utah to vet them.” Those who pass that test get some air time on the show, with viewers determining which business enterprises are most interesting.

Then the contestants’ business plans will be examined by a panel of experts, who will include executives from Dell and a national advertising agency.

“Our goal is to find companies with billion-dollar potential,” Blanchard said, noting that because so many ambitious business ideas are out there, “we feel like our show will have a long run. … We’ll feed that pipeline” of entrepreneurship.

He has not yet signed a contract for a network to carry his show, but said he is involved in negotiations with several outlets, including Fox Business News, CNBC and Bloomberg.

GOED board members backed his dream, unanimously extending “American Gnuity” a post-performance tax credit of $476,000 to $595,000, the level depending on several criteria.

To be eligible for the tax credit, the producers must spend at least $1 million in the state. Blanchard’s application indicates that should be easy. It foresees $2.4 million in spending during 45 days of film production involving a 17-member cast, 28 crew members and 50 extras.

The GOED board also approved a post-performance tax credit of up to $60,000 for a television show, “Let It Go,” that dramatizes a man’s decision to forgive the drunk driver who killed his pregnant wife and two children in an automobile accident.

Scheduled to be shot for three weeks during May, producer Dan LaPray’s show will have a cast of 12, crew of 19 and 50 extras. LaPray, a Brigham Young University product, expects to spend $300,000 on the project.

That is $100,000 more than required by GOED, which also wants at least 85 percent of the cast and crew members to be Utah residents or students.

mikeg@sltrib.com

Twitter: @sltribmikeg