Utah Film Studios welcomed back a ‘Yellowstone’ production last month￼
Crews prepped and shot scenes for the hit series’ prequel, “1923”
The series, which stars Harrison Ford, Helen Mirren and Timothy Dalton, is slated to premiere in December, according to the Internet Movie Database.
“They took over two stages and a production office for four weeks,” said Marshall Moore, Utah Film Studios’ vice president of operations. “They built a 30,000 square foot exterior set on the stages, and they brought in dirt, scrub brush and camping tents. The set was so extraordinary, and it took a while to build and light it.”
This is the first time anyone from the “Yellowstone” family has returned to Park City to shoot scenes after the production pulled out of the state in 2020, after nearly three years of filming at the Utah Film Studios, Moore said.
“The reason for leaving is well documented in the media,” Moore said.
“Yellowstone” left the Beehive State for the greener pastures in Montana because of the low returns it received through the Utah Film Commission’s Motion Picture Incentives program that encourages the use of Utah as a production and filming site, according to Utah Film Commission Director Virginia Pearce.
“Due to a limited amount of film incentive dollars available, we were not able to fund ‘Yellowstone’ Season 4 at the levels we have in the past,” Pearce said in a statement issued to The Park Record back then. “While we understand that all productions must make decisions based on what works best for them, we are disappointed that ‘Yellowstone’ has decided to move the production.”
At that time, the Commission, a department of the Governor’s Office of Economic Development, offered a 20% or 25% post-performance, tax-deductible kickback to projects such as “Yellowstone” that spend a minimum of $500,000 in Utah.
While “Yellowstone” reportedly spent an estimated $80 million in Utah and was eligible for rebates of up to 25% from the state, the incentive’s annual $8.3 million cap prevented the Commission from matching rebates the production received for its previous season, said Moore.
Montana’s Legislature, on the other hand, had recently approved a $10 million incentive, he said.
To sweeten the pot, the Utah Legislature, during its 2022 session earlier this year, passed Senate Bill 49, sponsored by Sen. Ron Winterton, which increased the Utah film incentive program from $8.3 million to $12 million in tax rebates for productions that film the state.
Like moving to Montana to film season four of “Yellowstone” and its prequels “1883” and “1923,” returning to Utah to shoot some of the “1923” scenes were based on money, Moore said.
“It was a specialty set, something they were considering going overseas to Capetown, South Africa, to film,” he said. “Apparently it was more economical to come to Park City from Butte, Montana, where they are filming the show.”
Moore said that the “Yellowstone” production return to the Utah Film Studios was serendipitous.
“It was a case when their schedules worked and we could fulfill all their needs,” he said. “We had the availability and everything went right on schedule from day one to the end, without any setbacks, which is rare in production.”
When “Yellowstone” crews originally moved from Utah in 2020, Moore had always hoped to see and work with them again.
“When a show, especially a series, leaves, you don’t know if you will ever be connected to that group of people again,” he said. “You always leave the door open.”
So Moore was happy to accommodate the crew’s return and enjoyed seeing some familiar faces, including Ben Richardson and Phil Vargas.
Richardson has gone from being the director of photography and co-producer on “Yellowstone” to being a co- executive producer on “1883” and executive producer on “1923” according to Moore.
“We didn’t have much interaction with the cast, but they were very gracious and signed the call sheet for us,” Moore said. “It felt good to work again with the ‘Yellowstone’ family, and it was good to be back in the Paramount business.”
“Everybody signs in the show,” said co-director Anne Post Fife, who is deaf. “The whole show is signed from beginning to the end for the whole audience to enjoy and be a part of.”
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