Hope soared that Telluride would be scenic setting for a proposed Hallmark Channel drama series titled When Calls the Heart, but the excitement was dashed by the producers’ decision to film the series in Canada.
The story broke In May, when the producers of the series – described as a sort of Little House on the Prairie set in a historic mining town – proposed building a film-set recreation of Telluride as it appeared in the early 1900s on a Superfund mining reclamation site owned by the Idarado Mining Company and controlled by San Miguel County.
The show’s producers –Brian Bird, Michael Landon, Jr. (son of the star and producer of the Little House on the Prairie series), and Brad Krevoy (the producer of Dumb and Dumber, which was filmed in Colorado) – said they would spend about $8 million in Telluride over the summer, filming six episodes and hiring locals for much of the set construction and some of the parts.
If, after season one, it was extended for an additional seven episodes, Bird estimated were that approximately $17 million would be spent in San Miguel County and Telluride over the year, providing up to a thousand new jobs and injecting $75 million into the local economy over the next five years.
State and local officials including Gov. John Hickenlooper, State Film Commissioner Donald Zuckerman, Telluride Mayor Stu Fraser and Telluride Film Commission co-founder Tim Territo worked hard to make the dream a reality.
The state’s newly boosted film incentives had made Colorado a more appealing location for film and television producers, Hickenlooper said in June.
“All eyes are on Telluride with this project right now,” Telluride Town Manager Greg Clifton said that same month.
But Idarado officials said, at a May meeting with the San Miguel County Commissioners, that for the project to move forward, the production company would have to obtain consent waivers from 37 homeowners in the Idarado Legacy subdivision. That proved a deal breaker, and sent Frontier Productions exploring for other possible sites in the area for the show. In July, the commissioners offered up a site in Ilium; the picturesque ghost town of Alta, just south of Telluride, was also considered.
In August, Hallmark Channel pulled the plug. Production company officers suggested that mounting costs for filming in San Miguel County were a problem, and opted to film the series in Vancouver, British Columbia, instead.
“While this project did not end up here, we have been shown to the state and members of the film industry to be willing to go to the extremes, to support virtually any of the requests put forth,” said Fraser. Working with Hallmark generated new collaborations between the Town of Telluride, the U.S. Forest Service, private businesses and homeowners, the Colorado Film and Tourism Commission and the Governor’s office, said Fraser.
Keeping his eye on the future, Fraser added, “Not being part of this series is not the end of our film exposure.”