The creator of upcoming series "Andi Mack" was thrilled when her show was picked up by the Disney Channel. She wasn't so thrilled when told that Disney wanted to produce it in Utah.
"That was all Disney," said Terri Minsky (whose credits include "Lizzie McGuire"). "I'd never been here. I was, like — 'Why Utah? What are we going to get in Utah that we couldn't get in Pittsburgh or Los Angeles or New York?'
"And then we came to Utah. And it was, like, 'Oh. Oh, well. OK. I see the point.' "
The Disney Channel, which has a long history of producing TV movies here, made a deal with the Utah Film Commission to bring "Andi Mack" to the state.
"We ended up shooting stuff that was so beautiful. Just spectacular," Minsky said. "Just in Liberty Park, I was, like, 'I don't know why we really need to go anywhere else.' "
"Andi Mack" is half-hour comedy about 13-year-old Andi (Peyton Elizabeth Lee), whose life is turned upside down when her older sister, Bex (Lilan Bowden), suddenly returns years after leaving the family behind. It's wrapping up production on a 13-episode first season — tentatively slated to premiere in spring 2017 — on a local soundstage and locations in Sugar House, the Avenues, Wasatch Junior High and Magna's Main Street. The production team has spruced up Magna, adding awnings and signs and turning an empty storefront into a cool restaurant.
According to Virginia Pearce, director of the Utah Film Commission, the "Andi Mack" production will pump at least $9 million into the local economy. And more than three-quarters of the crew are local. Which is another bonus, according to Minsky.
"It turns out there's this crew and producers and people who are very upbeat and work hard," she said. "I didn't know anything about Utah. That was a relationship that Disney had and I've just been the total beneficiary of it."
"I've shot around the world. The one place I had never shot in my entire career is here," said executive producer Michelle Manning, Paramount's former president of production whose credits include "Sixteen Candles," "The Breakfast Club" and "Adventures in Babysitting."
"It's amazing here. Probably the most film-friendly place I've ever been."
"Andi Mack" is filmed here, but it's set in a generic small town somewhere in America.
Somewhere with mountains.
"In the beginning, I was, like, 'Can we please not show the mountains?' " Minsky said with a laugh — an effort to make the setting nonspecific.
"I just didn't want it to be that identifiable," she said. But that changed when she forgot to give a director instructions to keep the mountains out of the shots.
"And the school we picked, when you look out the windows you see the mountains," she said. "How are you going to avoid that?
"So we finally just went with — they look pretty good," she joked.
Scott D. Pierce covers TV for The Salt Lake Tribune. Email him at firstname.lastname@example.org; follow him on Twitter @ScottDPierce.