Lights, camera, cha-ching: Utah film shoots boost rural economies

Local News

SALT LAKE CITY (ABC4 Utah) – Movies and TV are part of a multimillion dollar industry in Utah, and the state’s unique landscapes and striking settings are also helping attract more film crews – good for state and local economies. 

Virginia Pearce, director of the Utah Film Commission, said there are currently three big television shows in production or post-production – all shot in Utah. “Andi Mack,” Disney Channel’s hit, is filmed in Magna and Salt Lake City. “Yellowstone,” starring Kevin Costner, is in production in Park City. And HBO’s smash “Westworld” just wrapped shooting its second season in southern Utah. 

An early contender for Oscar glory, Wind River, was filmed in Summit and Wasatch Counties. The story of a Native American girl murdered on an Indian reservation has been a sleeper hit, despite being produced by The Weinstein Company, which has been reeling from the scandal surrounding Harvey Weinstein. The film’s commercial and critical success could attract more award-worthy film shoots to Utah. 

That shoot required local talent that knew how to thrive in harsh weather conditions during a tough shoot. 

“So much of the movie requires snow,” said Basil Iwanyk, producer for Wind River. “It takes a certain type of person to work in these conditions, and we found them.” 

70 percent of the shoots in 2017 took place in rural areas, providing that extra boost for smaller communities, Pearce told ABC4 Utah. 

Pearce said while Utah has provided settings for many blockbuster films, television productions provide longevity and economic sustainability over a longer period of time. 

“Our goal has really been television series’,” said Pearce, adding TV provides more jobs. She talked about the years in the 1990s and 2000s when “Touched by an Angel” and “Everwood” shot in Utah, and how important those series’ were to Utah’s economy. 

“Overall, the film industry is about a $110 million industry in Utah, and it creates almost 5,000 jobs a year,” Pearce said. 

Rising demand for great television shows via streaming services like Netflix and Amazon have Utah poised to possibly get more big productions to come. 

“[New platforms] have opened up new markets and new talent, and Utah is definitely in a great space to take advantage of that,” said Pearce. ‘

Pearce also added Utah is competing with other states to provide larger tax breaks for film crews in an effort to attract more productions. 

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