Wildcats, Unite! We’re (Still) All In This Together

By Elizabeth Latenser
Photo courtesy of Billboard Magazine: The stars of Disney Channel’s “High School Musical” – (L – R) Corbin Bleu, Monique Coleman, Vanessa Hudgens, Lucas Grabeel and Ashley Tisdale.

The first High School Musical film premiered on the Disney Channel more than 10 years ago but for many, Troy, Gabriella and the gang are still rocking out at East High. No one could have predicted years ago that the story would be a mainstay in our culture for high schoolers and beyond.  In fact, High School Musical is still so popular that the Utah Office of Tourism created an itinerary guiding fans who want to visit  areas in which each of the movies was shot, as well as the favorite haunts of the cast and crew.

Filmed all over Utah but mostly concentrated at East High School, the film follows  star athlete Troy Bolton (Zac Efron) as he falls for nerdy Gabriella Montez (Vanessa Hudgens). Troy and Gabriella audition for the upcoming school musical. Meanwhile, the jealous Sharpay Evans (Ashley Tisdale) conspires to squelch their chances. The two must struggle to make it to auditions while also meeting their existing obligations to the basketball team and the academic decathlon. It is full of funny, heartwarming moments and valuable friendship lessons.

The original film was nominated for more than 18 awards and won 10 including an Emmy for Best Choreography and a Teen Choice Award for Best Comedy/Musical Show.  Salt Lake actor KayCee Stroh who plays the quirky, hip hop loving brainiac Martha Cox said after reading the initial script, “I felt like this could be the next generation’s version of Grease, but with a family friendly tone. Looks like I nailed it! I knew it had the potential to be great but never would have predicted its worldwide success.”

Supporting actor and Utah native Ryan Templeman, said he remembers being at a table reading at Little America and thinking, “it was easy to envision the appeal of the final product.” Utah was the perfect place to cast and film many of the supporting roles in High School Musical because, “Utah is teeming with young talented dancers and singers.”

Templeman’s most memorable (and challenging) days on set were trying to learn skills that were maybe a little outside his regular repertoire. He said, “As a non-singing, non-dancing actor, I was totally a fish out of water. I struggled mightily, but many of the other dancers were so patient and supportive; many willing to work with me through breaks and lunches to help me to get it right. To my mind, the true collaborative nature of filmmaking was on display. When that happens, it’s always special.”

Stroh remembers in the casting process feeling a little self conscious that maybe she didn’t fit the Hollywood mold.  Thankfully she auditioned anyway because director Kenny Ortega saw her work and said, “I love you, you’re different!”

Stroh has so many warm memories from filming and commented that filming was, “like a real life summer camp for a lot of us. The main cast all had connecting casitas which made for great pranks, making each other dinners and even teaching some how to do their own laundry!”

After filming the cast would hang out and explore Utah together.  According to Stroh a few of their favorite spots were: “the Alpine Slide in Park City, late night Denny’s visits (you can imagine peoples faces when we all walked in), camp fires up Millcreek canyon, Classic Skating in Orem and Red rock hikes in St. George.”

Being from Utah, Stroh was the go-to for the out-of-town cast. She said, “I will never forget the day that some of the cast asked me if Utah was always this clean?! I remember laughing about it but later that night I had an epiphany and felt really lucky to have been raised in a place that takes such pride in the little things.”  Stroh credits High School Musical for putting her career on the map.  After the show’s release her agent’s phone began ringing off the hook.  She is now married, the mother of two girls and splits here time between Los Angeles and Holladay, Utah.

While we would love to see a  High School Musical 4, Utah is  thrilled to welcome, Andi Mack, a new Disney Channel production to the Beehive state, and we hope this one is just as big of a success story as High School Musical!

Contributing writer Elizabeth Latenser is a film fan, mountain momma, dog lover and tree hugger.

Living it Up in Utah with ‘Andi Mack’

By Elizabeth Latenser
Photo courtesy of Just Jared Junior: The four stars of Andi Mack (L-R) Sofia Wylie, Joshua Rush, Peyton Elizabeth Lee, and Asher Angel

There is no doubt the cast members of Andi Mack are enjoying the lead up to the show’s big premiere on the Disney Channel App this Friday March 10.  Need proof? Just check out their bright smiling faces as they took over Just Jared Junior’s instagram story. This premiere date couldn’t come soon enough because according to Bustle online many people are looking for Andi Mack to fill the Girl Meets World shaped hole in our hearts and give us Lizzie McGuire throwback feels.

Andi Mack is Disney’s newest series which follows main title character Andi Mack (played by Peyton Elizabeth Lee) who is trying to find her way in the world with the love, humor and support of her friends and family.  According to ET Online, viewers are in for a ride when Andi’s “life goes from routine to rollercoaster overnight.”

The series includes 13 comical and heartwarming episodes all filmed in locations throughout Utah like Liberty Park, Sugarhouse, the Avenues, Wasatch Junior High and Magna’s Main Street. According to the Salt Lake Tribune, “the production team has spruced up Magna, adding awnings and signs and turning an empty storefront into a cool restaurant.” Plus, the production brought in an estimated $9 million to the state.

Three quarters of the crew who worked on the show are local.  But for those who did travel to Utah – perhaps for the first time – they all left impressed. Michelle Manning, Paramount’s former president of production told the Salt Lake Tribune, “I’ve shot around the world. The one place I had never shot in my entire career is here. It’s amazing here. Probably the most film-friendly place I’ve ever been.”

And lead actor Peyton Elizabeth Lee who had only been to Utah once before said, “it is so beautiful. Every day when I wake up everything is so pretty.”

Though the filming schedule was jam packed for these actors filled with five day a week sessions followed by school work, they did manage to break away to explore. From a local’s perspective it never gets old seeing a visitor’s reaction to Utah’s unique weather and landscape. Check out the cast’s fun-filled day complete with a snowball fight at the Olympic Park filmed by KUTV.

Disney star Sabrina Carpenter lent her voice for the Andi Mack opening sequence titled “Tomorrow Starts Today.”  She said, “I’m very proud to contribute even a small part to a show that has such a valuable message and what feels to me to be something really new. The message of ‘taking whatever comes your way with a positive attitude, and sticking by the ones you love’ is something I really connect with.”

On Friday March 10, check your favorite Disney Channel streaming app for the new show that is sure to be nostalgic for some and fun for all. While you’re watching, keep an eye out for special glimpses of the Utah’s Wasatch mountains in the background (especially the scenes when Andi is in school.) The series will make its television broadcast debut April 7 at 8:30 ET on the Disney Channel.

Contributing writer Elizabeth Latenser is a film fan, mountain momma, dog lover and tree hugger.

 

WELCOME TO WESTWORLD

By Elizabeth Latenser

This is part of an ongoing series featuring iconic projects filmed in Utah.  Projects and artists mentioned in the series filmed here for inspiration, a strong sense of place or to recreate otherworldly experiences.

According to HBO, Westworld isn’t your typical amusement park. Intended for rich vacationers, the futuristic park — which is looked after by robotic “hosts” — allows its visitors to live out their fantasies through artificial consciousness. No matter how illicit the fantasy may be, there are no consequences for the park’s guests, allowing for any wish to be indulged. “Westworld” — which is based on the 1973 Michael Crichton movie of the same name — features an all-star cast that includes Oscar winner Anthony Hopkins, Jeffrey Wright, Ed Harris, Evan Rachel Wood, James Marsden, Thandie Newton and more.

The show tackles some classic sci-fi themes like consciousness, artificial intelligence, the danger of technology and the nature of free will.  Those deep topics, coupled with rave reviews from critics and immense passion from fans, have led to a spring of podcasts, fansites, an outpouring of fan art and numerous award nominations for the show.  It is being hailed as HBO’s new Game of Thrones though fans will say it now sets its own benchmark for storytelling.  The intriguing opening sequence alone captures audiences by bringing together the contrast of traditional western terrain with the creation of futuristic robotic hosts in the park.

UTAH SETS THE SCENE:

The stellar casts draws in fans but according Craig Fehrman, of Outside Magazine, “What holds Westworld together, though, is something more surprising: its landscape. In fact, many of the show’s stunning exterior shots were filmed near Moab, Utah—which means the terrain you may love from your own adventures stands as the unsung hero of this show.”

When writer and director Jonathan Nolan was considering his filming options southern Utah was top of his list.  He traveled frequently in his younger years and told Scott Pierce of the Salt Lake Tribune: “the place that I always was drawn back to was southern Utah. It has these landscapes that don’t look like anywhere else on the face of the planet. That geography is exquisitely, exclusively American.”  By filming in the region he felt he was hearkening back to the famous days of John Ford in Monument Valley though much of Westworld was filmed in Castle Valley, Moab.

Actors take a break while on set of “Westworld” in Southern Utah. Photo courtesy of Westworld Daily.

Virginia Pearce, Utah Film Commissioner worked with the Westworld team before they began shooting.  She believed Utah was the perfect place to film this unique story that brings together historic wild west themes that collide with futuristic concepts.  She said, “Utah has a long history of being the backdrop of the ‘iconic west,’ and there is a reason it still calls to tourists and filmmakers alike. Those sweeping landscapes give a look and feel you can’t get anywhere else.”

The sense of place not only transports viewers to a rugged and wild place, it also gives the actors a chance to ditch the green screen and truly live the experience. Actor James Marsden who stars in Westworld told the Salt Lake Tribune, “Shooting there, it honestly felt a little bit like I was actually getting to be a guest at Westworld. I got to full-on don the suit and the hat and practice with the gun and ride the horses, and it was all very real.”

HELICOPTERS AND HIKES:

Anyone who has visited southern Utah knows, in between the brilliant vistas and breathtaking buttes there are lonely expanses of desert that extend past the horizon.  So as you can imagine the crew had to use just about every tool in their arsenal to truly capture the majestic scenery.  Helicopters were used to engross the viewer in expansive valley shots.  And for closer details, cameramen floated the Colorado River and hiked through many of the more desolate or delicate red rock formations.

Paul Cameron, the director of photography said the remote nature of many of their shoots proved to be challenging. “Practically every area was a walk-in area,” Cameron told Outside Magazine.  So the crew did plenty of hiking. With ALL of their gear.

Cameron let fans in on some scoop about the scene where James Marsden is riding in on a train looking out at his dusty kingdom.  The train car was reconstructed and built to sit on a semi flatbed.  Then the crew drove State Route 128 in southern Utah to see the scenery cross his field of vision. So the red rock dust, Russian thistle and rugged terrain in that sequence are real.

DISCOVER WESTWORLD:

Condé Nast Traveler packaged a few beautiful shots of remote but iconic Westworld locations for those travelers looking to visit the enchanting places in person. Bring a camera because the route is one of the most beautiful drives in the world.  Stops include State Route 128 outside Arches National Park in Utah to Castle Valley, Utah which has served as backdrop to many great films like Indiana Jones and the Last Crusade and Stagecoach.

For those who are fine to stay at home and wait patiently for a second season (in 2018!) you can always visit the interactive Discover Westworld site.  Visitors will appreciate chatting with travel agents who can prepare you for your stay at the park.  I was both welcomed and warned about the park by a travel agent named AEDEN:

The train will deposit you in the bustling town of Sweetwater upon arrival. Here, you will meet people from all walks of life, engaged in all matters of trade. But keep your eyes peeled…

…this vibrant center has been known to attract the attention of the occasional bandit or ne’er-do-well.

Contributing writer Elizabeth Latenser is a film fan, mountain momma, dog lover and tree hugger.

 

Utah: A State Full of Film Scouts

By Elizabeth Latenser

Find Inspiration All Around You With #UtahIsRad

2017 has been a skier’s dream! It has been snowing on and off for the better part of the New Year in Utah which is amazing for tourism and recreation but for the seasonally affected, you may be looking for reminders of blue skies and warm temps.  

Look no further than Instagram and type in #UtahIsRad.  Here you will find all the ways real locals celebrate the breathtaking beauty of Utah and all the things that make this state so special.  The hashtag gives you an idea of just how vast and diverse the landscape and entertainment is here.  Plus, you can revisit some of the most gorgeous summer weather scenes to warm your soul.

When scrolling through those photos I can’t help but marvel at the talent Utah residents have for capturing and sharing Utah’s beauty.  At the risk of sounding really old, I can’t believe most of these photos are taken with a cell phone!

So film scouts, take a look! Utah has just about every scene you can imagine and the locals have done the legwork to get you tons of beautiful shots.  Oh and if by chance an actual film scout is reading here is a Film Directory of Utah locations. 

Thank you to all the instagrammers for letting us repost your images:

Spots to relax? Of course!

Contributing writer Elizabeth Latenser is a film fan, mountain momma, dog lover and tree hugger.

 

Talking About a Little Place Called Utah

By Elizabeth Latenser

This is part of an ongoing series featuring iconic projects filmed in Utah.  Projects and artists mentioned in the series filmed here for inspiration, a strong sense of place or to recreate otherworldly experiences.

If they each had half a brain, together they would still only have half a brain.

Dumb and Dumber is just as quotable today as it was when it was filmed in Utah 22 years ago. The film follows Lloyd Christmas (Jim Carrey) and Harry Dunne (Jeff Daniels) as they set out to return a briefcase full of money to its rightful owner.  Along the way these two friends find themselves in some hilarious and precarious situations.

From the movie, we will forever have gems like “so you’re telling me there’s a chance” and “welp, big gulps huh.”  While the film did give us serious #squadgoals we are still a little hazy on some life rules.  Can we triple stamp a double stamp? When is it OK to quitsie a startsy? We may never know.

Much of the film was shot in Salt Lake City, Sandy, Heber and Park City, Utah but disguised as other places in the United States.  According to City Weekly, when Director Bobby Farrelly was asked about his time in Utah he said:

“We had written the story where the two guys go from Providence to Aspen, and being in Los Angeles when we wrote it, we were trying to think where could we go to shoot this that’s not Aspen. We didn’t think they would let us into Aspen. And so, one of our producers said, ‘You know, a great place to shoot this would be Utah because it has so much to offer. It has flatlands. It has mountains. It has snow.’ We went and took a look and, low and behold, he was right, so we shot it all there and we had a fantastic time. I dunno, I always had a soft spot in my heart for Salt Lake City after that.”

Aww, well the feeling is mutual! Utah residents certainly love spotting their local hangouts in Dumb and Dumber.

Utah residents, hop on your vespa and follow along as we revisit some of the most memorable Utah landmarks (disguised as other places) seen in Dumb and Dumber:

Salt Lake City International Airport as the Providence Airport:
Your first stop on the tour is the notorious spot that puts Lloyd in the whole briefcase mess.  The Salt City International Airport is the right where Lloyd drops Mary Swanson off and she apparently steals a piece of his heart.  “Goodbye my loooooove…”

Harry and Lloyd’s apartment on the East Coast but really in downtown Salt Lake City:
Harry and Lloyd share an apartment that has carpet stains and wall art you may commonly find in a young bachelor’s place.  Their quaint homestead apartment is located in the heart of downtown Salt Lake City. Farrelly told City Weekly, “Believe it or not, we had to re-create that [For Dumb & Dumber To] because the guys haven’t grown up at all, and they’re still living in the same place, and so we actually had to rebuild it in Atlanta. It might have made more sense for us to just fly out and do it there.

Mary Swanson’s East Coast Mansion is really in Sandy, Utah:
Mary Swanson’s East Coast Mansion is actually a cleverly decorated restaurant building called La Caille in Sandy near Little Cottonwood Canyon. Another La Caille building was used as Mary’s parents house in a fantasy cooked up by Lloyd.  

Aspen Snow Owl Benefit exit via the Devereaux Mansion:
The horse drawn carriage Harry and Lloyd use to leave the esteemed Aspen Snow Owl Benefit is actually parked outside the Devereaux Mansion. (Too bad they didn’t use the Mutt Cutts van)  The mansion has all kinds of fun history and it’s a favorite for local SLC ghost hunters.

The Second Best Motel in Heber City:
You may recall Harry and Lloyd sharing a bath along their journey at the Second Best Motel.  The exterior of the hotel was redecorated slightly but the building is the modern day Heber Inn in Heber City, Utah.  City Weekly caught up with the location scout Lee Steadman who mentioned the heart shaped tub itself was actually filmed at The Osmond studios in Orem, which is now the Cirque Lodge rehab clinic.

Meet the parents in the Deer Valley Resort Area / Park City, Utah:
Mary’s parents enjoy the finer things in life and their East Coast mansion is actually a cozy but large cabin in Deer Valley. Which one?  We are not totally sure.

Harry and Lloyd enjoy 7-Eleven:
This is a hotly contested 7-Eleven location where Lloyd very famously declared “big gulps huh?” Side note, apparently that line was ad libbed by Jim Carrey.  According to City Weekly,  this is a big gulp shop in Heber City though some residents firmly believe it was a 7-Eleven in Ogden.

“I’m talking about a little place called Aspen”
Portions of the famous scene where Lloyd and Harry ride into Aspen on a mighty vespa with ice crystals hanging from their noses were filmed in Park City.

We know there are more glimpses but those are just a few from the famous 1994 flick. If you’re really adventurous check out Ski Curbed for the route that begins on the East Coast before finally arriving in the Beehive state.

Contributing writer Elizabeth Latenser is a film fan, mountain momma, dog lover and tree hugger.

Come Check Us Out!

By Elizabeth Latenser

Photo: Utah Film Commission on Main/ Courtesy of the Utah Film Commission

And While You are Here, Ask Me Anything!

In a new twist, artists were asked to join Robert Redford on stage during the Sundance Film Festival’s opening day press conference to discuss the impact Sundance Institute’s labs have had on their career.  One of those artists was Sydney Freeland who is back in Utah with her film Deidra & Laney Rob a Train which was filmed in Heber City.  We had the pleasure of working with her and supporting the project though our film incentives program so naturally it was exciting to see her film get into Sundance.

Earlier this month, Freeland told the Deseret News about filming in Utah:
“We looked all over the country and even in Canada, but ultimately Utah was the one place that had all the elements we were looking for.”

We agree that Utah is a great place to film and we are focusing our efforts during the Festival to sharing our story. Today through January 26, we will be hosting a series of discussions on timely industry topics and resources we offer artists.  Everything is on the table for discussion: finances, locations, casting, digital creators, equipment and more. Plus it’s a chance to connect directly with the Film Commissioner Virginia Pearce.   For those who are in Park City, stop by our space at 625 Main Street to have “Coffee with the Commish” or start your own conversations with other artists or attendees in our venue.  For a full schedule of events, visit our activation page: http://film.utah.gov/2017sff/.

Utah Film Commission on Main will transport you to far corners of the state and conjure up nostalgic feelings for Utah’s rich cinematic history. The wall graphics were designed by Shaylee Read, Creative and Design Lead for the Utah Office of Tourism who researched museum displays for inspiration.  Playing off the Film Commission’s tagline “The Story is Utah” she created a meandering timeline of some of the most iconic movies filmed in the Beehive State from 1920’s Westerns to the films screening at the Sundance Film Festival today. The black ink helps the colorful film stills pop and the retro typography helps start the walk down memory lane.  

When asked how the design looked when built to scale Shaylee said, “I was excited to see the final design and surprised to see how large it is in real life.  The whole space is very striking but when people enter the room you can see their eyes immediately go to the wall.”  She also elaborated on why she loved this project, “Leading up to Sundance I was surprised to learn just how many films were made in Utah.  It makes me proud of where I live.  I love helping promote Utah through my work and overall love promoting unique experiences through tourism.”

For those of you who are not at Sundance but want to follow the action, check out the Utah Film Commission’s Facebook page, Instagram and Snapchat. Or if you are curious about how we might be able to help your next project, review our incentives page here: https://film.utah.gov/incentives-information/

Contributing writer Elizabeth Latenser is a film fan, mountain momma, dog lover and tree hugger.

Thelma & Louise

By Elizabeth Latenser

This is part of an ongoing series featuring iconic projects filmed in Utah.  Projects and artists mentioned in the series filmed here for inspiration, a strong sense of place or to recreate otherworldly experiences.

Somebody said get a life…so they did

The story of meek housewife Thelma (Geena Davis) and her independent friend Louise (Susan Sarandon) who embarked on a road trip that turned into a run from the law, took critics and audiences by storm in 1991.  Not only was the story line a little radical for the time, it had two female lead characters who were slightly older than what Hollywood typically featured and a bold ending that many didn’t see coming.  Check out the original trailer for a walk down memory lane.

Thelma and Louise is one of the most iconic films to be shot in Utah.  Along with early Westerns that courted the movie industry for a specific look at the West, this groundbreaking film solidified the Beehive state as a place to create a different type of film with the help of Utah’s scenic versatility and production power.  New York Times critic Janet Maslin wrote in 1991, “‘Thelma and Louise’ is greatly enhanced by a tough, galvanizing country-tinged score, and by Adrian Biddle’s glorious cinematography, which gives a physical dimension to the film’s underlying thought that life can be richer than one may have previously realized. At the story’s end, as Thelma and Louise make their way through Monument Valley and to the Grand Canyon, the film truly lives up to its scenery.”

The scenery and setting of the gorgeous Southwest is a constant presence once the friends hit the road.  Sarandon told Harper’s Bazaar about filming in Utah, “It was a beautiful, beautiful place to be working. I felt like John Wayne. And we didn’t shoot at the Grand Canyon—it was in Utah, in Moab. The joke for a while was that there was only going to be a voice-over of us because of these amazing shots they were getting all the time.”

The film’s poster features Monument Valley and key scenes were filmed in the La Sal Mountain, Arches National Park and Canyonlands.  The final scene which is supposed to take place in the Grand Canyon actually takes place at Dead Horse Point State Park in Utah.  People flock to Southern Utah to take a “Thelma and Louise selfie” and even organize their own version of the infamous road trip with friends.

Critic Roger Ebert reviewed the film, gave it 3 and a half stars and said, “When I saw the movie, about seven weeks ago, I reacted to it strongly. It had the kind of passion and energy I remembered from the rebel movies of the late ’60s and early ’70s.”  Audiences can agree that ‘almost’ getting 4 stars from one of the most well respected critics is high praise and the mark of a great story.

Thelma and Louise was and is a great story and one that was written at odd hours by a tenacious music video line producer. Callie Khouri was 30 at the time and had never written a screenplay.  She was working in Los Angeles and after being the victim of two violent robberies channeled some of her personal experience and personality into the story.  On a drive home one evening she had a stroke of clarity where the story of Thelma and Louise came to life.  

The film’s writer Khouri told Vanity Fair: “Out of nowhere I thought, Two women go on a crime spree. That one sentence! I felt the character arcs—I saw the whole movie, I saw, in a flash, where those women started and where they ended up. Through a series of accidents, they would go from being invisible to being too big for their world to contain, because they’d stopped cooperating with things that were absolutely preposterous, and just became themselves.”

Khouri wrote the screenplay in her off hours and typed it out on her office computer during the day.  All that hard work paid off.  According to the Atlantic: In 1992, screenwriter Callie Khouri became one of a handful of women to win an Academy Award for best original screenplay, and Thelma & Louise earned more than $45 million at the U.S. box office. Sarandon and Davis were each nominated in the Best Actress category, and director Ridley Scott was nominated for Best Director.

Thelma and Louise just celebrated its 25th anniversary in 2016 and Geena Davis and Susan Sarandon reflected on the impact and making of the film. The duo cover female representation in Hollywood, the surprise reactions to the film and some scoop on that infamous ending. For true fans this reunion will feel like having coffee with an old friend. And for people who just can’t believe the film ended the way it did, check out James Corden’s alternate endings to the film.

Contributing writer Elizabeth Latenser is a film fan, mountain momma, dog lover and tree hugger.

New Year, New Look at Utah

By Elizabeth Latenser
Photo Courtesy: Salt Lake Tribune

Happy New Year! No matter what your stance is on making a new year’s resolution, we can all agree that a little adventure is good for the soul. For those of us lucky enough to live in Utah, we are a stone’s throw away from some of the most amazing places on the planet.

So take a look through the Salt Lake Tribune’s bucket list of great places to explore, check out our Utah Film Commission look book, browse the Utah Office of Tourism’s inspiration page or poll your friends to make your own list. Let’s resolve to explore 17 new places in 2017 or go back to a place you have already visited but in a new season.  As we know so many gorgeous places look and feel totally different depending on the temperature.

Cheers to a new year full of adventure!

Contributing writer Elizabeth Latenser is a film fan, mountain momma, dog lover and tree hugger.

Footloose in the Beehive State

By Elizabeth Latenser

This is part of an ongoing series featuring iconic projects filmed in Utah.  Projects and artists mentioned in the series filmed here for inspiration, a strong sense of place or to recreate otherworldly experiences.

“All he wanted to do was dance…”

In March of 2014 Kevin Bacon visited the Tonight Show with Jimmy Fallon and proved he’s still got the moves he flaunted in Footloose filmed 30 years earlier in locations all over Utah.  Though dancing and gymnastics doubles were used for some of the complicated scenes, audiences can all agree the guy’s got moves.  The film tells the story of a teenager who moves to a small town where rock music and dancing has been banned.  But his rebellious spirit shakes up the town and makes him some friends along the way.

That famous mill:
In addition to launching Kevin Bacon into the spotlight, Footloose made a grain mill in Lehi, Utah a tourist hot spot.  Sherm Robinson, the owner of Lehi Roller Mills told the Deseret News he was approached by the film’s executive producer, Daniel Melnick, who often drove by the mill at sunset on his way to his home in Sundance and noticed the glow around the building.

“He said he’d always wanted to film a movie here, so he stopped in and spoke to me directly,” Robinson said. “I said, ‘Sure.’ ”

At the time of filming there was nothing around the mill though now the growth of Lehi has drawn in plenty of neighbors.  And Robinson says tourists come by regularly to stand where Kevin Bacon stood or dance where Ren McCormack danced.  They occasionally sell bags of flour to people who don’t intend to bake but want a memento from the iconic filming location.

You can see shots of the scenic mill while it was still in a relatively rural spot in Kenny Loggins’ very catchy Footloose music video.

School’s out:
To really get into character, Kevin Bacon spent a few days shadowing at Payson Utah High School. Once filming in the school began, many of the students served as extras in the film and got paid a cool $3.50 an hour to do it.

“We would have done it for free, so we thought it was pretty neat that we got paid!” says Stacey Measom, an extra and a member of Payson High School’s 1983 cheerleading squad. “Kevin Bacon and Sarah Jessica Parker were so nice to us. They posed for photos and signed autographs. We thought we were hot stuff!”

A regular in Utah:
Kevin Bacon returned to Utah many times after filming Footloose in 1984 for appearances at the Sundance Film Festival.  Audiences may remember him in early films like Lemon Sky that premiered in 1989 or in films as recent as 2015 when he starred in Cop Car.  He and his wife Kyra Sedgwick regularly share their time and talent with emerging artists that come through the Sundance Institute artist development labs at the Sundance Resort.  Plus he tours with his brother for their band The Bacon Brothers and has played a few gigs in Utah. 

The Song:
You can’t talk about Footloose without giving props to the famous Kenny Loggins hit. “Footloose” created for the film has been so wildly popular even the singer credits the film with sustaining his career.  It spent 3 weeks on the Billboard Top 100 list and is still a party starter today.  Earlier this year Kenny Loggins released a children’s book based on the tune. 

Utah is the story:
Footloose is another shining example of Utah’s contributions to movie history. Filmmaker Herbert Ross set the film in a fictional town called Bomont which is “somewhere in the Midwest” though when you see the gorgeous outdoor shots, Utah’s beauty is hard to miss.

 

Contributing writer Elizabeth Latenser is a film fan, mountain momma, dog lover and tree hugger.

Monument Valley: More Than A Cowboy’s Playground

By Elizabeth Latenser

This is part of an ongoing series featuring iconic projects filmed in Utah.  Projects and artists mentioned in the series filmed here for inspiration, a strong sense of place or to recreate otherworldly experiences.

“Harry, you and I both owe these monuments a lot.”
– Director John Ford to rancher Harry Goulding

Seeing a cowboy ride to the edge of a red rock butte overlooking a vast desert lowland can evoke a sense of nostalgia in every film lover. That rustic scene is one filmed over and over in Monument Valley for many iconic Westerns. Film critic Keith Phipps, described the area as “a stunning pocket of sandstone formations” and “five square miles [that] have defined what decades of moviegoers think of when they imagine the American West.”

An unconventional rancher named Harry Goulding who settled in Monument Valley in 1921 is credited with bringing Hollywood to the area. Goulding was not someone familiar with the glitz and glamour of show business.  He ran a trading post and sheep farm in the remote area.  He and his wife originally lived in a tent on the land and slowly added more permanent structures. But according to Vanity Fair, Goulding “knew beauty and he knew opportunity and he knew there was a way to combine the two in Monument Valley.”

After a rough drought and economic uncertainty, Harry Goulding ventured to Los Angeles to share breathtaking images of the area to Hollywood executives at United Artists.  With a little grit and a steadfast belief in the vision he was selling, Goulding was able to meet the location manager scouting for Stagecoach as well as the director John Ford.  By making that connection, Goulding became “one of the most unlikely contributors to American cinema there ever was.”  After that initial meeting, Ford agreed to film Stagecoach in Monument Valley.  Over the next 25 years Ford filmed seven other films there and brought with him a wide variety of rising stars like John Wayne, Henry Fonda, Gregory Peck and Jimmy Stewart.

According to crew members and other observers, Ford could be tough on set.  Mood swings and outbursts were par for the course when someone questioned his judgement or gave unwanted opinions.  So many believed that part of the reason he loved filming in Monument Valley so much was that “it was hard for film executives to get to.”

Goulding helped Ford navigate the complicated landscape and also helped forge a beneficial relationship with the Navajo living nearby. Often, the local Navajo acted in the films or were paid as extras on set.  One special Navajo medicine man was paid to “give Ford whatever weather he desired for shooting Stagecoach.” Ford and the medicine man would share one drink then Ford would tell him what type of weather he wanted for the following day’s shoot. For the most part it seemed to work because the medicine man stayed on Ford’s payroll for several projects.

Over the years as more business came through Monument Valley, the Gouldings we able to add to their minimal infrastructure. Ford filmed My Darling Clementine, She Wore a Yellow Ribbon The Searchers and How the West Was Won on their land.  The growth happened slowly but eventually, small cabins and a motel were added to accommodate artists, crew members and the increasing number of visitors flocking to the area. 

In 1963, after 45 years of living on their ranch, the Gouldings sold their slice of paradise and moved to Arizona.  It is now owned by the LaFont brothers who run a variety of tourist operations in the area that celebrate its rich cinematic, Native American and environmental history. The Goulding’s Lodge is open for visitors, as is the trading post which has been converted into a museum.

Today artists and creators across all sectors were come to capture footage for their television show, video game, music video or advertisements. And thousands of visitors trek to Monument Valley annually to catch a glimpse of the rugged wild West. Trip Advisor named mile marker 163 Forrest Gump Point right at the spot where the loveable runner ended his epic three year jaunt. Adventurers come to mimic the famous Thelma and Louise movie poster with their best friends.  People marvel at the landscape that hosted Back to the Future III, Mission Impossible II, Doctor Who: The Impossible Astronaut, 2001: A Space Odyssey and The Legend of the Lone Ranger.

Monument Valley will forever be the face of the great American West. And we owe it all to a brave rancher with a vision.

Contributing writer Elizabeth Latenser is a film fan, mountain momma, dog lover and tree hugger.