Scottsbluff and surrounding communities have recently been host to a major film and television production for the past several weeks, as Joel and Ethan Coen work on their mini-series “The Ballad of Buster Scruggs.”
Scottsbluff Economic Director Starr Lehl says film production on location can be a very beneficial financial and cultural boon for the region. Western Nebraska’s beautiful terrain, historic landmarks and trails offer an attractive option for filming on location.
Lehl says many businesses in the region have benefited financially by the influx of about 250 cast and crew members, who have been here prepping for several weeks filming.
Nebraska Film Officer, Laurie Richards recommended to location scouts that they take a look at western Nebraska when scenes called for “rolling hills” with no sign of civilization. Also needed was a community with accommodations that could handle a large crew and all the moving parts necessary for such a large event and the conclusion was that Scottsbluff and the surrounding area could be everything they needed.
When the scouts came out to take a look at many of the sites that could work for the filming, taking hundreds of pictures along the way and talking with land owners about the possibility of using their land for the film, the wheels were put into motion when the Coen Brothers came to western Nebraska to take a look for themselves – and loved what they saw.
The majority of the filming took place in Sioux County just north of Scottsbluff with a few scenes being shot along the North Platte River west of town.
Pan Shot Productions (PSP) headquartered out of New Mexico brought the production equipment and many of the crew members with them.
The project began in New Mexico, filmed for a period in Colorado and then finished in Nebraska along our historic trails relevant to the theme of the story set in in the 19th century. A period production, the props included a wagon train, horses, oxen, mules and a variety of animals moving across the prairie. The Nebraska landscape has a starring role in this production.
Lehl says the producers were so pleased with what we offered and were overwhelmed with everything we did for them. The extras that showed up on time everyday were some of the best they have found and several ranchers helped by boarding the horses and other animals. The community of Mitchell and the Fairgrounds became one of the base camps for equipment and staging. The FX Ranch was the focal point of action and scenes also took place at the Hughson ranch near there. All the motels in Scottsbluff were booked solid for 3 weeks – restaurants and the retail community saw a huge swell in trade during the physical production.
“Filming on location can be very beneficial to that chosen area and the economic impact can be huge. We are all looking forward to the sales receipts, not to mention the amounts spent on locations, housing, rentals, meals, and other tangibles that go into physical production outside the studio system,” said Richards. “A film and television production by the Coen Brothers, set anywhere in Nebraska is an enormous blessing. It doesn’t get much better than this. It could be a wonderful marketing tool for Scottsbluff and the entire state,” Richards said.
Location managers and producers look for places that offer all amenities in close proximity to the actual film location. The more time the camera has to roll, the more they like that area. They also look for local crew and support labor to complement their team. There were several local people hired to assist on set and there were many cast as extras, which we will see in the production.
“It’s an exciting opportunity to host feature films and television projects. We are looking forward to exploring how we can continue to grow this industry for western Nebraska and the state. We may be able to include a municipal incentive that would at least give the producers the confidence that we are camera ready here in Scottsbluff. We heard over and over again from the producers that if we had some kind of encouragement to film in this beautiful part of the country, we would see a lot more action,” said Starr Lehl.