“Yellowstone” isn’t coming back to Utah to produce new episodes, but the show’s star and its creator/writer/executive producer/co-star and sometimes director are.
Kevin Costner and Taylor Sheridan are both returning to the state to film new projects — Costner’s is a sweeping Western set in the 19th century, and Sheridan’s is a true-crime drama about the infamous, unsolved murder of a 6-year-old child. (”Yellowstone,” which filmed most of its first three seasons in Utah, moved entirely to Montana in 2020 because that state offered better tax incentives.)
And the producers of “Westworld,” which filmed much of its first two seasons in Utah, will also return to film a long-awaited, post-apocalyptic series based on the video game “Fallout” in Tooele County.
Those are three of 13 projects approved for state film incentives Thursday by the Governor’s Office of Economic Development. According to the Utah Film Commision, the movies and TV shows will generate an economic impact estimated at $142.4 million — and 90% of the projects will be produced in rural Utah.
Earlier this year, the Utah Legislature passed and Gov. Spencer Cox signed a bill that allocates an additional $12 million in tax credits to film and television productions that shoot at least 75% of their schedule in rural counties. That’s on top of the ongoing $6.79 million per year, plus a one-time funding of $1.5 million — bringing the total available tax incentives to about $20.29 million in both 2022 and 2023.
“This new rural film incentive allows Utah to attract more film production and remain competitive,” said Virginia Pearce, director of the Utah Film Commission. And Dan Hemmert, executive director of Go Utah, said the rural film tax credit “will introduce the film industry to new communities while supporting Gov. Cox’s goal of expanding economic opportunities throughout the state.”
All but five of Utah’s counties — Salt Lake, Davis, Utah, Weber and Washington — are designated as rural. Productions in those five counties are eligible for tax incentives from the pool of $8.29 million that doesn’t require shooting in rural areas.
The tax incentives offer rebates up to 25% of the goods and services that are bought in Utah, and of the salaries of Utahns on the crew. They are not, for example, paid to production companies for the salaries of out-of-state actors, directors, producers and writers.
Here are the projects approved Thursday by GOED’s board:
“Alma Richards: Raising the Bar” • Biopic about the first Utahn to win an Olympic gold medal. A school dropout from Parowan, Richards won the running high jump at the 1912 Stockholm Games. T.C. Christensen (“The Fighting Preacher,” “The Cokeville Miracle”) is the director/producer. Estimated Utah spend: $879,108. Location: Utah County.
“Cub Scout” • Independent film about an orphan/werewolf hiding in the Utah mountains who becomes “unlikely allies” with a college student after she escapes his claws. Jon Heder, who starred in “Napoleon Dynamite,” is one of the executive producers. Estimated Utah spend: $1,107,114. Location: Sanpete County.
“The Chosen” • Season 3 of the TV series about the life of Jesus Christ. Estimated Utah spend: $1,400,327. Location: Utah County.
“Dark Highway” • This independent film is a thriller about four friends who go to a ghost town with plans to post videos of themselves and “get famous” — but things go terribly wrong. Rocco DeVilliers (“Fly Boys”) is the director. Estimated Utah spend: $4,004,367. Locations: Emery, Juab and San Juan counties.
“Hondo” aka “Fallout” • The production company submitted this Amazon Prime series as “Hondo” — maybe to keep fans away from production? — but it’s clearly the long-awaited “Fallout,” which is based on the video game. It’s set in a “future envisioned by Americans in the late 1940s” that “explodes upon itself through a nuclear war in 2077.” Jonathan Nolan and Lisa Joy (“Westworld”) are the executive producers, and Nolan — the creator/executive producer of “Person of Interest” whose screenwriting credits include “The Dark Knight” and “The Dark Knight Rises” — is set to direct the pilot. Estimated Utah spend: $10,271,416. Location: Tooele County.
“Horizon: An American Saga” • This film is a sweeping drama with a large cast of characters, and depicts the settlement of the American West in a 15-year span pre- and post-Civil War. Kevin Costner co-wrote the script and will direct for the first time since “Open Range” in 2003. He, of course, won a best-director Oscar for “Dances with Wolves” in 1990. In addition to Costner’s production company, Territory Pictures, both Warner Bros. and New Line have signed on to “Horizon.” Estimated Utah spend: $53,925,008. Locations: Emery, Grand, Kane, San Juan and Washington counties.
“Joy to the World” • Jerusha Hess (who directed “Austenland,” and co-wrote “Napoleon Dynamite”) is set to direct this movie about Joy, an angel who welcomes the recently deceased to the afterlife — but she really wants to become a guardian angel so she can help Chad, a lost soul. Estimated Utah spend: $8,300,000. Locations: TBD.
“Recipe For Love” • TV movie about a big-city chef who opens a restaurant in a small town. She reluctantly enters a social media competition hosted by a famous internet food critic and falls in love with her rival — the guy who owns the diner across the street. Estimated Utah spend: $328,268. Locations: Salt Lake and Utah counties.
“Retreat” • This six-episode FX/Hulu series — from the producers of “The OA” — stars Emma Corrin (Princess Diana in “The Crown”) as Darby, an amateur sleuth who is one of 11 guests invited to a remote retreat by a reclusive billionaire. When one of the other guests is found dead, Darby sets out to find the murderer before anyone else is killed. The large cast includes Clive Owen, Joan Chen and Jermaine Fowler. Estimated Utah spend: $1,407,920. Locations: Emery, grand and Tooele counties.
“The Streak” • Documentary about the 1987 Salt Lake Trappers, a single A team that made baseball history by winning 29 games in a row. No member of that team made it to the major leagues, but Trappers memorabilia is on display at the Baseball Hall of Fame. Estimated Utah spend: $183,500. Locations: Salt Lake and Weber counties.
“Untitled Green Beans Show” • From the producer of “The Dark Crystal: Age of Resistance,” this Apple TV+ children’s show features a magical land full of music, dance, colorful cartoons and simple life lessons. Estimated Utah spend: $10,700,000. Locations: TBD.
Untitled movie • Nickelodeon movie musical about best friends stuck in a time loop on the first day of summer break. From the producer of “A Fiance for Christmas” and “Saints and Soldiers.” Estimated Utah spend: $9,966,336. Locations: TBD.
Untitled Taylor Sheridan series • The man behind “Yellowstone” returns to Utah with a project that seemingly couldn’t be any more different from that modern-day Western. This new project is a true-crime drama about the still-unsolved 1996 murder of 6-year-old beauty queen JonBenet Ramsey. Estimated Utah spend: $40,000,000. Locations: Summit and Wasatch counties.
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