A promising new project announced by the Colorado Office of Film, Television & Media last week has the state’s film commissioner feeling optimistic.
“Everybody talks about how much business came to Albuquerque because of ‘Breaking Bad,’ and that’s true,” said Donald Zuckerman, who leads the film office as part of the state’s office of Economic Development and International Trade. “But these projects could be fantastic for Colorado because they’d show the state in a positive way, and they’d be shooting Denver-for-Denver, for example.”
That’s not the case with most scripted shows set in Denver, from truTV’s “Those Who Can’t” (now streaming on HBO Max) to Tim Allen’s “Last Man Standing.” While the creators of both hail from Denver, producers for the network series decided to film them in Los Angeles for financial reasons — most having to do with Colorado’s relatively small rebates for in-state film production, as compared with New Mexico, Utah and other southwestern locales.
However, the projects that Zuckerman touted after an April 15 Economic Development Council meeting would all be based and filmed in Colorado, he said. And encouragingly, they extend beyond the usual commercials, reality TV shows and video game developers that often get his office’s money (though they all work hard for it, too).
“NBC Universal is making a TV pilot for ABC prime time, and then NBC would look at it and decide if they wanted to make a season,” Zuckerman said of the new project, which is planning to shoot in Denver and around Durango and Montezuma County this summer. “It’s cast-dependent, so they’re looking for that special Indigenous woman who could carry the show. It will probably be an unknown actor.”
First reported last week by the Denver Business Journal, the show would be the biggest network series to be produced in Colorado in decades, provided it’s picked up for a full season. Written and produced by William Jehu Garroutte, the untitled pilot follows the character of Alex King — an Indigenous woman from a southwest Colorado tribe — who eventually gets involved in Denver politics and runs for a U.S. Senate seat.
“The deal we made was for the pilot, but (NBC Universal) wants assurances that there’s going to be funding available for the series,” said Zuckerman, who declined to disclose details. “That’s something we’re working on.”
With $2 million from the state’s Economic Development Commission and another $250,000 from its legislature-approved budget for 2021, Zuckerman’s office is looking to reward projects that spend a certain amount of money in Colorado. The NBC Universal pilot certainly meets those criteria, with a planned, $7.8 million in-state “spend” that will likely see a $1 million rebate.
“We will have about $600,000 remaining between the two funding sources for this year after the $1 million NBC commitment,” wrote Kelly Baug, deputy film commissioner, via email.
More than 200 cast and crew members are predicted to arrive with the production, including at least 190 hired from in-state, according to a project summary from the April 15 meeting.
“The economic impact could reach up to $14,160,409,” officials wrote in the summary.
People inside the film office are also discussing a “star-driven Western that may come here,” Zuckerman said. “If it happens, which we think it will, the proposal will go to the EDC next month. We’re really excited about it and feel it’s a big opportunity.”
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