The state has blessed a $5 million incentive package to help bring production of writer-director Quentin Tarantino's eighth feature film to southwestern Colorado in December.
The state Economic Development Commission approved the package Friday morning, allowing the state to beat out rival locales Utah and Wyoming for filming.
Minutes after approval, state film commissioner Donald Zuckerman signed the necessary contracts so production spending could move forward in the state.
Budgeted at $44 million, Tarantino's "The Hateful Eight" would be the most significant production undertaken in the state since the 1969 classic "True Grit" was shot here.
"The whole movie's going to be shot here, exteriors and interiors," Zuckerman said. "They're going to build it on a ranch."
The film's Colorado budget includes $15.7 million for payroll, including a Colorado crew of 168, and $9.35 million in other in-state spending, including lodging. The state rebate of $5 million represents 20 percent of that spending.
Prep work should begin early next month with shooting expected to start on Dec. 8 at the Schmid Ranch, on Wilson Mesa 10 miles west of Telluride. The crew would be housed in Telluride and take a break over the Christmas holiday.
The nearly 900-acre, high-mesa ranch, homesteaded in 1882, is under a conservation easement, which will require that the land be returned to its original state after filming is completed.
That easement allows for social, scenic and sport uses and commercial have been filmed on the property, said Mike Rozycki, planning director for San Miguel County.
The county's planning commission plans to take up a special-use permit to construct a temporary set at a special meeting on Oct. 16. It has contacted agencies that will need to be involved and posted a public notice so neighbors of the ranch can offer comment.
That meeting will be followed later that day with a vote by county commissioners on the permit.
"This is pretty large-scale relative to what we have seen in the past," Rozycki said. "We want to make sure it is well reviewed and we reach an agreement."
Zuckerman said producer G. Mac Brown ("The Departed") called the state Office of Film, Television and Media a few weeks ago for a rundown on Colorado's incentive program.
"He told me that they pre-scouted Telluride but Quentin had not been there, " he says. "Surprise to me, Quentin had never been to Telluride."
The director came. He saw. "He fell in love with it," Zuckerman said.
A number of Tarantino vets are rumored to be attached to the buzzed about post-Civil War film — slated for a fall 2015 release — including Kurt Russell, Samuel L. Jackson, Michael Madsen, Amber Tamblyn and Bruce Dern.
The film, set in the early 1870s, tells what happens when a collection of bounty hunters, Civil War vets and scoundrels descend on a small Wyoming town.
The cast is small, meaning locals aren't expected to be needed as extras, Zuckerman said, but a snowy landscape is expected to play an important role in the film.
The need for snow could be one reason why New Mexico, where many Westerns have shot in recent years, wasn't in the running.
The Oscar-winning Tarantino is no stranger to the Western. Recent revenge dramas "Django Unchained" and "Inglourious Basterds" took inspiration from the genre, in particular the blood-splattered pulpy spaghetti Western.
Zuckerman says $3.3 million remains in the program's current incentive budget, which goes through June 30. All of which will be earmarked for "The Hateful Eight." The rest will come out of the 2015-2016 budget — depending on the legislature, he said.
"Everybody will know about this," said Zuckerman, who expects the entertainment press to be all over Telluride when filming starts, which should boost tourism.
A successful shoot will also prove to other producers that Colorado has enough crew talent to pull off a larger film, he added.
Since his arrival in 2011, Zuckerman has pushed to create and fund a tax-incentive program that would entice filmmakers to Colorado but also be attractive to a pragmatic, if film-loving, governor and a budget-conscious legislature.
In May 2012, the legislature approved a film-incentives bill, and the state currently offers a 20 percent cash rebate for production costs incurred here. The program was allocated $800,000 to give out in 2013-14.
In April, the legislature approved the office's 2014-15 budget of $5 million for incentives and $500,000 for operating expenses.
In June 2013, the indie film "Dear Eleanor," featuring Jessica Alba, was shot in Longmont and Denver. That film was approved for up to $500,000 in incentives.
The action flick "Fast & Furious 7" set up shop near Salida last fall and shot action sequences on Monarch Pass as well as Pikes Peak. According to the Office of Film, Television and Media, the production spent nearly $12.9 million in the state. The production got $700,000 in incentives, far short of the $2.8 million it was eligible for because of limited state funding.
The latest sequel in a behemoth franchise, the film was slated for a summer 2014 release when star Paul Walker was killed in a car accident. Universal plans to open the sequel in April.
"Even though there have been some big movies shot here over the years, this is the biggest thing since 'True Grit,' because it's all Colorado," Zuckerman said. "Because it's a Western. And because it's Tarantino."
The John Wayne gem was filmed in Ouray, Gunnison and Montrose among other Western Slope locations.
"For younger generations," Zuckerman said, "they could be talking about this 30 years from now."
Lisa Kennedy: 303-954-1567, firstname.lastname@example.org or twitter.com/bylisakennedy