NPR for Northern Colorado
Play Live Radio
Next Up:
0:00 0:00
Available On Air Stations

Filmed Here Or Not, The State Still Feels The Impact Of 'Set In Colorado'

Andrew Cooper
Actor Samuel L. Jackson in a scene from the film 'The Hateful Eight.'

When Colorado Film Commissioner Donald Zuckerman hears about new television shows being set in Colorado, he typically doesn’t bat an eye.

He knows that being “set” in Colorado – at least on the small screen – rarely equates to being “filmed” in Colorado. Like the new Chuck Lorre sitcom. The Big Bang Theory creator’s yet-to-be-named new show, along with Parks & Rec star Adam Scott’s new project Buds, will be set in a Colorado marijuana shop.

“They didn’t even call us,” Zuckerman said. “And the reason is, shows like this are done in a studio… They’re set up for it in LA, and they’re set up for it in New York. It’s more cost effective for them to do it there, even if there is a (tax) incentive.”

At most, the show might send someone out to shoot some footage of the state to be used in opening or establishing shots.

Mork and Mindy did exactly that,” Zuckerman said. “It was set in Boulder. They had an opening sequence that was shot (here) and when Robin Williams died apparently people left flowers at that house.”

TV Shows set in Colorado:
Mork and Mindy
The Bill Engvall Show
Dr. Quinn Medicine Woman
Good Luck Charlie
South Park
Stargate SG-1
Those Who Can't (filmed in Denver)

Filming – whether it’s for movies, television or even video games – can bring in big money for the state. In fiscal year 2015, $78 million worth of production was in Colorado, Zuckerman said.

Colorado has been the setting for a number of projects – including television shows like Dynasty and Community and the 1984 original film Red Dawn – that weren’t actually shot here. Estes Park’s famed Stanley Hotel finally built its own hedge maze after decades of fans of The Shining arriving at the film’s inspiration and wondering where the iconic maze was. Hint: not in Colorado.

Sometimes it works the other way, though.

From late 2014 through early 2015, Quentin Tarantino filmed his latest movie, The Hateful Eight, almost exclusively in Telluride, even though the film's story took place in Wyoming.

Filmmakers received a $5 million incentive from the Colorado Economic Development Commission. It’s estimated that the 46-day shoot gave the state a $60 million boost, not only from the shoot itself but from the exposure.

The town and the film were referenced in travel pieces for The New York Times, Forbes and Vogue, Zuckerman said. The film also garnered interest from producers of an upcoming Steven Soderbergh movie who were looking at possibly shooting in Breckenridge. Ultimately talks fell through as the state couldn’t offer enough in tax incentives, he said. Ultimately, the project was shot in Park City, Utah.

Credit Andrew Cooper / SMPSP
'The Hateful Eight' writer/director Quentin Tarantino on the set in Telluride, Colorado.

While Colorado’s film industry won’t likely benefit from Buds, the state’s tourism industry (marijuana related or otherwise) just might.

“It probably helps tourism,” Zuckerman said. “Anytime when people are thinking, ‘Well, where am I gonna take my next vacation?’ They read an article about a place or they hear something, they say, ‘you know, I ought to put that on my list, maybe I should consider going there.’”

Right now, the Colorado Film Commission is working with Warner Bros. to bring a scripted television show to Colorado. Details are still under wraps, giving Zuckerman the opportunity to drop a classic TV reference.

“Stay tuned – we’ll let you know.”

Stacy was KUNC's arts and culture reporter from 2015 to 2021.
Related Content