TELLURIDE – The Hallmark Channel’s new original primetime series When Calls the Heart will be filmed in Ilium Valley, near Telluride, Gov. John Hickenlooper announced at the state capitol Tuesday, June 18.
The show, based on Janette Oke’s bestselling Canadian West book series of the same name and described as a sort of Little House on the Prairie set in a 1910-era coal mining town, will be produced by Brian Bird and Michael Landon, Jr., of the Christian film production company Believe Pictures and Motion Picture Corporation of America and Brad Krevoy through their joint venture, Frontier Productions.
Flanked by Krevoy, Hallmark Channel President and CEO Bill Abbot, Colorado Film Commissioner Donald Zuckerman, actors Daniel Lissing and Erin Krakow (two stars in the show) and other dignitaries, Hickenlooper touted the positive economic impact the TV show will bring to the state, as well as the tremendous national and international exposure it will bring to Telluride and all of Colorado.
The state’s newly boosted film incentives have made Colorado a more appealing location for film and television producers, Hickenlooper said.
Telluride Town Manager Greg Clifton attended the press conference with Telluride Tourism Board CEO Michael Martelon. “It was a very good vibe,” Clifton said. “All eyes are on Telluride with this project right now. Everybody’s had a hand in it – the local government, the state film commission, the governor and state legislature.”
Among those cited by the governor their roles in bringing the show to Telluride were all three San Miguel County Commissioners, Telluride Mayor Stu Fraser, Martelon and Telluride Film Commission co-founder and location scout Tim Territo.
Martelon had the honor of introducing the Governor prior to his remarks. “The energy was pretty amazing,” he said.
The decision to locate the show in Telluride was finalized two weeks ago, and Twitter was already buzzing with the news several days before Hickenlooper’s official announcement, with Tweets like this one from Lissing Sunday: “Start shooting a brand new series with @ErinKrakowthis July in Colorado! Couldn't be happier.” And this from art department coordinator Sarah Stimpson: “Getting ready to take off for my newest adventure. Shooting a TV series in Telluride, CO for the summer. #Whencallstheheart #telluride.”
Production on the show gets underway in Telluride in late July, although construction design and core art department personnel are already on their way here and will hit the ground running. Writers will arrive next week, and will set up shop at The Peaks in Mountain Village, which has offered generous local incentives to the show’s producers and will function as production headquarters.
Telluride locals “won’t notice a lot right a way,” Bird said. “There will be a fairly small crew at first, and we will want to hire as many locals as we can.” The state’s film incentives require producers to keep as many jobs as possible in Colorado.
By late July, the “talent” will arrive, and Bird anticipated, “There will be plenty of folks hanging out at the Steaming Bean, chatting up the local citizens.”
It will be the first time a TV series has ever been shot in Telluride, and the first narrative TV series shot in Colorado since 1991, when the “Father Dowling Mysteries” series was filmed here.
The exact location where the set will be built has not yet been officially disclosed, as it is still under negotiation. The matter was discussed at a San Miguel County Commissioner meeting on Wednesday.
About a month ago, the show’s producers were eyeing a Superfund mining reclamation site owned by the Idarado Mining Company and controlled by San Miguel County as a potential site on which to build a 1900s-era film-set recreation of the Town of Telluride for their show.
That idea was scrapped, however, when Idarado stipulated that the production company must obtain consent waivers from 37 homeowners in the Idarado Legacy subdivision.
Due to the show’s very tight production schedule, it simply wasn’t practical to pursue this route even though the setting there was spectacularly dramatic and Idarado had “bent over backwards” to make it work, said Bird.
Bird and his fellow producers started looking for other options, including taking the show to Canada, where a pilot episode had already been filmed.
“There was tremendous danger Colorado might lose the deal,” Zuckerman said. “They were talking to people in Alberta and Vancouver and could have gone to either of them and gotten terrific incentives to go there.”
A key group of local and state players got to work trying to convince the show’s producers that Telluride was still the best place to film the series. Colorado’s own new film incentives, enacted by legislation in 2012, certainly sweetened the deal, as did the state’s talented workforce and extraordinary scenery, said Zuckerman.
The Colorado Office of Film and Television negotiated the deal.
Telluride’s economy stands to accrue substantial revenue from the production. Frontier Productions has estimated it will spend at least $8 million in Telluride this summer and fall alone filming six to 13 episodes, with locals hired to do much of the set construction and even some of the acting. If the series catches on and survives past its first season, the impact will be much greater.
“We estimate that the show will provide upwards of a thousand jobs to Colorado and spend as much as $75 million in the local economy in the next five years,” Bird said.
“I think there will be a lot of opportunities and a lot of jobs in Telluride,” Clifton added. “That may be the single biggest benefit. Exposure is great but a real notable here is the boost it will bring to Telluride’s economy.”
ABOUT THE SERIES
The Hallmark Channel plans to debut “When Calls the Heart” as an Original Primetime Series in January 2014, while a special extended pilot (already filmed in Canada) premiering Oct. 5. Erin Krakow (“Army Wives” “Castle”) and Daniel Lissing (“Last Resort”) star in the series. Three-time Emmy winner Jean Smart (“Designing Women” “Samantha Who?”) and Lori Loughlin (“Full House” “90210”), who starred in the pilot, may reprise their roles when the series goes into production.
According to promotional materials released by Hallmark, “When Calls the Heart” is the story of Elizabeth Thatcher (Krakow), a young teacher accustomed to her high society life, who receives her first classroom post in a small coal mining town in the Western Frontier led by two strong widows, Abigail Stanton (Loughlin) and Frances Tunnecliffe (Smart). Elizabeth must deal with her restless students as well as the new Constable in town, Jack Thornton (Lissing). Set against the wild canvas of a 19th century coal town, Elizabeth will have to learn the ways of the frontier if she wishes to thrive in the rural West.
According to Zuckerman, the program is licensed to air in 42 countries, and could run “for years.”
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PUBLISHED JUNE 18 AT10:27 P.M.
Hallmark Channel Original Series Starts Production July 22 Near Telluride
DENVER - When Hallmark Channel’s second original primetime series When Calls the Heart begins filming this summer, it will mark the first time a TV series has been shot in Telluride. “We are delighted with Hallmark Channel’s choice of Colorado for its latest series,” said Gov. John Hickenlooper. “With Hallmark Channel’s brand behind it, the show will have a positive economic impact for our state and provide tremendous national exposure for Telluride and all of Colorado.”
Hallmark Channel’s When Calls the Heart will start filming in Telluride on July 22. According to Bill Abbott, President and CEO, Hallmark Channel and Hallmark Movie Channel, “Hallmark Channel is coming to the gorgeous state of Colorado.
“The state provides the perfect backdrop for our Western inspired series, When Calls the Heart, and we are incredibly proud to infuse the state's economy with new jobs and resources as a result of filming our family targeted program here,” he said.
The Colorado Office of Film and Television negotiated the deal with the Motion Picture Corporation of America and Believe Pictures, with executive producers of the Hallmark Channel Original Primetime Series. According to Brad Krevoy, CEO of MPCA, “We are excited to immerse When Calls the Heart against the rich backdrop of the Colorado Rocky Mountains, providing unrivaled production value to a story that takes place in the North American west one-hundred years ago. Governor Hickenlooper, Donald Zuckerman, John Cullen, Mayor [Stu] Fraser and Tim Territo have changed our expectations of shooting in Colorado, which will allow us to bring substantial economic vitality to the state in the first season alone.”
Gov. Hickenlooper, Colorado Film Commissioner Donald Zuckerman, Telluride Mayor Stu Fraser, Colorado Tourism Office Director Al White and Telluride Film Commission Co-Founder Territo played key roles in bringing the Hallmark Channel Original Primetime Series to Telluride, whose economy stands to accrue substantial revenue from the production.
Three-time Emmy winner Jean Smart star in the Hallmark Channel Original Primetime Series, with the special extended pilot premieres scheduled for October 5 at 9p.m. ET/PT, 8C. Erin Krakow and Daniel Lissing star in the Original Primetime Series set to premiere January 2014, with the chance to reprise their roles when the series returns in January.
Based on Janette Oke’s bestselling Canadian West book series, When Calls the Heart tells the story of Elizabeth Thatcher (Krakow), a young teacher accustomed to her high society life, who receives her first classroom post in a small prairie town on the western frontier led by coalminer widows Abigail Stanton (Loughlin) and Frances Tunnecliffe (Smart). Elizabeth must deal with her restless students, as well as the new constable in town, Jack Thornton (Lissing). When Calls the Heart is a Believe Pictures and Brad Krevoy Television production; Krevoy, Brian Bird, Michael Landon, Jr., Roman Viaris, Francisco Gonzalez, and Jimmy Townsend are executive producers. Eric Jarboe is co-executive producer.
Hallmark Channel, owned and operated by Crown Media Holdings, Inc., is a 24-hour basic cable network that provides a diverse slate of high-quality entertainment programming available in high definition and standard definition to a national audience of 87 million subscribers. Hallmark Channel, a destination for quality family programming with a slate of original TV movies and specials, as well as some of television sitcoms and series including The Golden Girls, The Waltons, Little House on the Prairie, and Frasier, is home to a range of lifestyle programming, anchored by Home & Family, a daily two-hour live show shot in a fully functional house located on the Universal Studios lot. Hallmark Channel's sibling network, Hallmark Movie Channel, available in HD and SD, focuses on family-friendly movies with a mix of original films, classic theatrical releases, and presentations from the Hallmark Hall of Fame library.