Cripple Creek/Victor Loses Bid For Hallmark Series


by Rick Langenberg:




The bright Hollywood television lights may have to wait a little longer before shining on the Cripple Creek/Victor mining district.

However, local leaders are still not throwing in the towel in their ambitions to land a television or film deal, especially with a setting touted as an “absolute natural” for hosting 19th-century western scenes or mining footage. For years, district leaders have searched for ways to entice movie, commercial and television producers into using their historic buildings, towns and natural landscape for filming opportunities.

They are now making a pitch to an entertainment company for a reality television show, with more of a mining theme.

Colorado was recently given the boot from the Hallmark Channel, at least for filming an $8 million series in the summer of 2013. According to sources, the highly touted series may be eying Vancouver, Canada, mainly due to lower production costs.

“We are disappointed, but at least now we are on the map,” said John Posusta, the director of the Southern Teller County Economic Development Coalition. “We are on the radar.” Several weeks ago, Posusta, Teller County Commissioner Marc Dettenrieder, Donald Zuckerman, who heads the Colorado office of Film, Television and Media and a producer from Hallmark, toured the Cripple Creek/Victor district and met with key leaders. The tour went extremely well, according to Dettenrieder. At the same time, officials learned they face some hefty competition from such locales as Telluride, Silverton and Vancouver, Canada.

But recently, according to Posusta, Zuckerman received word that Hallmark was bypassing Colorado for this particular series in 2013. This series, featuring somewhat of “House on the Prairie” theme, had already profiled a pilot show. The story focuses on the adventures of a wealthy young woman from the East, as she tries to adapt to life as a teacher in a Western frontier town around 1910. It is slated to air in 2014, with at least six episodes, with filming planned for nearly 45 days this summer. It will be directed by Michael Landon, Jr.

According to Posusta, part of the problem stemmed from politics and problems Zuckerman’s office may have confronted in obtaining extra incentive monies. Some lawmakers questioned the need for extra funds for the relatively new office of Film, Television and Media, which is part of the state’s Office of Economic Development and International Trade. Unlike past film and television endeavors, Colorado is getting more ambitious with incentive money, such as cash rebates and a revolving loan program.

However, Zuckerman’s office had already used up its allotted funds for commercials, documentaries and other film projects, according to a previous report in the Denver Post. Citing the success of his new office, he was trying to obtain more money, but encountered some opposition from key lawmakers.

Despite the politics involved,  Posusta is happy the district got as far as it did in nearly landing a hosting spot for a major television series. Moreover, he believes that  Zuckerman is quite enthused with what Cripple Creek and Victor has to offer and will work with the district to secure a future deal. “I really felt that if they decided to film this in anyplace in Colorado, we would have been their number one pick,” said Posusta.

However, he admits that Canada has been wooing more television and film projects in recent years.

According  to Posusta, local leaders are now eying a possible reality television series, which may get filmed at an old mining site. The High Noon Entertainment company has expressed an interest in filming a possible pilot reality series, which could be aired on the Discovery Channel. High Noon has played a publicity role in the effort to bring more film projects to Colorado.

“We plan to keep working on this,” said Posusta, who sees the district as having tremendous potential in hosting a signature film or television project.

Cripple Creek once hosted a film festival for two years in the late 1990s, which tried to emulate the theme of the Telluride gala on a smaller scale. The debut event attracted some key Hollywood names, but the following year the festival completely bombed, according to local reports, and was subsequently cancelled.