When it comes to film locations, Utah has it all: mountains, deserts, even an island—not a tropical island, but it still counts. It’s no wonder so many production companies choose to film in Utah, with projects ranging from the Christmas classic How The Grinch Stole Christmas to the sci-fi action of Star Trek to the psychological cult thriller Hereditary.
The Utah Film Commission is a department of the Governor’s Office of Economic Development, and their role is to market Utah to film, television and commercial production companies in an effort to bring in revenue and jobs to the state. One of the main reasons production studios keep coming back to Utah again and again is, of course, the diverse scenery and proximity to Los Angeles, but also the hospitality of the locals. Whereas in other parts of the country residents dislike the inconvenience of filming in their area, Utahns are welcoming and accommodating to crews – making the filming process smoother and more enjoyable for everyone.
As a Utah transplant, I had no idea that so many movies I grew up with had been filmed in locations around Utah. Obviously I knew the High School Musical franchise, aka my entire childhood, had been filmed in Salt Lake City (yes, I had HSM pajamas when I was six, and you’re lying if you didn’t). But I never would have known the Bonneville Salt Flats doubled as Davy Jones’ Locker in Pirates of the Caribbean: At World’s End without moving here and understanding the beauty and uniqueness of Utah’s diverse geography.
It amazes me daily how diverse the landscape is here in Utah, and film companies sure know how to utilize it. The Utah Film Commission recently announced eight new productions to be filmed across Utah, which are collectively estimated to bring in $8.8 million and approximately 475 jobs to the state and local businesses..
Here are some of the productions coming to the Beehive. P.S., the second season of (I’ll say it) the surprisingly good High School Musical: The Musical: The Series, which is actually set in Utah at East High this time around, premieres on May 14.
Christmas At The Madison: Part 1 & 2
The two Hallmark Channel productions, set to be released this December, will film this month, and feature real-life sisters Kimberly Williams Paisley and Ashley Williams. Producer David Wulf has filmed many of his projects in Utah for over 15 years.
Directed and co-produced by James Ponsoldt, known for The Spectacular Now starring Shailene Woodley and Miles Teller, Summering will draw on Utah’s singular settings.
Season 2 of Line Upon Line
This animated series, created by local production company Living Scriptures, utilizes the creative talent of Utah artists, animators and illustrators. “It’s a dream come true for Living Scriptures to again be animating, especially using local artists, here from Utah,” said Matt Brown, Living Scriptures CEO.
Another holiday film, another group of star siblings. Featuring Utah’s charming small town vibes against stunning mountain scenes, Mistletoe Mixup will star brothers Joey, Matthew and Anthony Lawrence with a screenplay written by Park City local Kaylin Richardson.
The Thing With Feathers
Directed by Amy Redford— yes, daughter of acclaimed actor, director and activist Robert Redford—”The Thing with Feathers” will film in Summit, Davis and Salt Lake Counties. “Putting my deep history with the state aside, what I have come to know about the film ecosystem in Utah made this the perfect place to shoot a contained thriller that evokes everywhere USA,” she says.
Season 2 of Freelancers
The second rendition of this comedy web show centered around five millennials trying to establish their own production company without any resources or experience returns to Utah for filming. “Coming from California, Utah is such a liberating place to film,” said producer Phillip Goodwin.
A new series directed and co-produced by Mitch Davis, who noted, “My home and my heart are in Utah. So are the unparalleled scenery and talented filmmakers.”