Local views fill theaters and living rooms across the world
Scenes from Utah are used in movies all the time
October 1, 2017
Utah has long been used for spectacular film locations, including for classics such as Stagecoach, The Searchers and Fort Apache. While much of the historic action centered on the southern red rock country, act two is now heading to the northern mountains, in Summit County.
Why do filmmakers work in Park City? There's a highly-trained group of film crew professionals here, for one. The proximity to a large airport (just 90 minutes from Hollywood), plenty of lodging, and scenery also lures crews to scenery as varied as mountains to red rocks to rivers to urban. Utah's dynamic beauty has been featured in over 800 film and television productions, and there are plenty of iconic backgrounds. The State of Utah also has a vigorous tax-incentive program, with up to a 25 percent tax credit, which gets the producers' attention.
The local economic impact of the movie business is impressive. The Utah Film Commission estimates that, in 2016, over $72 million was pumped into our economy. A television series, or feature film, with dozens of crew members and everything from lumber to hardware to labor to food, adds up quickly.
One reason for all of this attention has to be the Sundance Film Festival and Sundance Institute. They've put Park City squarely in the viewfinder. Founded in 1981 by actor/director Robert Redford, the Sundance Institute helps develop independent film projects, bringing together composers, actors, writers, and filmmakers. And, for 10 days in January, Park City is the center of the universe for movies, during the Sundance Film Festival. Now, going into its 34th year, it attracts well over 50,000 attendees, screens over a hundred independent films, and pumps over $100 million into the local economy.
Then there is the new Utah Film Studio. In the past few years they have hosted a number of film crews, including the ABC Television series Blood and Oil (with Don Johnson), acclaimed feature film Wind River, and now, Yellowstone. A television series for Paramount (formerly Spike), Yellowstone stars Kevin Costner, who plays the patriarch of an immense ranch bordering our first national park. Summit County scenery doubles well for that remote, mountainous region.
Since August, Yellowstone, has taken over the Utah Film Studios, with over 100 crewmembers, equipment, and specialty vehicles. Inside the massive stages, carpenters are building sets, props are being collected, art departments are refining the look, location managers are finding film sites and casting agencies are finding local extras. They'll be in town for a while. Marshall Moore, vice president of Operations and Marketing there says, "This production will be here through February of next year."
Hollywood seems very pleased, and surprised, with such a fine facility. Mattias Alvarez is the production manager for Yellowstone, and a Park City native. "Many of them are surprised that it's so up to industry standards," he says. Yellowstone writer/director Tyler Sheridan, who garnered an Oscar nomination for Hell or High Water last year, calls it, "My home away from home." He also wrote the just-released feature Wind River, which features Summit County's snowy mountains. Wind River generated over $28 million in economic impact and employed over 300 local cast and crew.
Park City Manager Diane Foster sees this transition from a mining town, to ski town, to resort town, to arts town as a positive, but a challenge as well. "The biggest challenge with the film industry film is keeping up with our infrastructure," she says. As the film industry grows it will attract more well-paid professionals, who like the mountain lifestyle, work opportunities, and recreation. And it's not quite as dependent upon our changing and fickle climate. So, residents will start getting used to actors as neighbors, and seeing them around town into the future.