Hidden Hustle: What’s going on behind the doors at Utah Film Studios?

written by: Tony Gill

An intermittent breeze blows a handful of decaying leaves and a discarded newspaper page across the empty parking lot. Looking up, I see dull-brown roof peaks silhouetted against a drab gray sky. Only my heartbeat pounding in my ears breaks the eerie stillness. Nobody knows what goes on behind those doors, but the sinister rumors send a chill down my spine. The “old abandoned film studio” at Quinn’s Junction is shrouded in mystery. If discretion is the better part of valor, I should turn and run. But journalistic duty compels me to venture beyond the doors, and what I find is shocking.

A fully functioning, even thriving, film studio. A growing list of acclaimed projects. Plans for expansion. Then why haven’t the persistent rumors of doom on Main Street been debunked? Because nobody has ever lived to tell the story. Just kidding. But the thought crossed my mind when I saw a headless corpse—a prop for an upcoming horror film called Hereditary.

Despite a common belief that the studio, which opened in 2014, had gone belly up, recently renamed Utah Film Studios (formerly Park City Film Studios) is a hive of activity, seemingly delivering on its promoters’ promise. UFS isn’t in fact a cob-webbed house of horrors but a state-of-the-art facility with three 15,000-square-foot sound stages, production facilities for multiple projects and 10,000 square feet of workshop space for set production.

Immediately noticeable in the first sound stage that Assistant Stage Manager Lee Steadman showed me was the absence of ambient noise of any type. Typically, a 15,000-square-foot space with 40-foot ceilings and a maze of catwalks above would be a cacophony of reverberated sound and droning HVAC units, but the sound stages are designed with sound-insulating material to NC-25, which is to say pretty damn quiet. The next stage, where Hereditary was filming, was a starkly different scene. Inside, a complete two-story home was split into several pieces, and I’m moderately ashamed to admit it featured much finer craftsmanship than my own home, which is allegedly a permanent structure. The entire set, which was built in the adjacent mill, was filled with people who suddenly fell silent against the glow of 100 smartphone screens when someone shouted, “Rolling!”

UFS opened in 2014 with the ABC series Blood and Oil, and they’ve had a continuous stream of clients coming through since then. “We’ve had films, commercials, music videos and even corporate events from time to time, but we’re always trying to keep space open for longer-term projects like television series,” explains Marketing VP Marshall Moore. “Some big name projects are coming out soon that were filmed here, like Wind River with Jeremy Renner and Damsel with Robert Pattinson.”

There’s still a legal dispute over ownership dragging on, and, despite the nearby Sundance Film Festival, Quinn Junction doesn’t have the resonance of Hollywood just yet. But that doesn’t mean growth isn’t on the horizon for UFS. “Everyone who films here loves it,” says Steadman. “This is a phenomenal facility, and with Utah’s landscape you can film scenes of the entire country within 50 miles of here.” With another new project, Yellowstone, in production at UFS, it’s not looking so abandoned anymore.

435-649-7237, parkcityfilmstudios.com

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Tony Gill
Tony Gillhttps://www.saltlakemagazine.com/
Tony Gill is the outdoor and Park City editor for Salt Lake Magazine and previously toiled as editor-in-chief of Telemark Skier Magazine. Most of his time ignoring emails is spent aboard an under-geared single-speed on the trails above his home.

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