City officials hope to know in August if a film company will shoot an independent movie in North Platte.The movie is reportedly about a substitute teacher who is reunited with an old boyfriend, according to officials who have met with the filmmaker.
If things fall together, many scenes would be filmed in North Platte, including scenes at the hospital, the jail and perhaps the schools.
Chamber of Commerce and Development Director Gary Person said one of the main characters is hospitalized with cancer. There is also prison scene, he said.
The school board is considering the situation.
According to discussions at the July 10 board meeting, school officials are concerned that the plotline is so sensitive it might jeopardize their strategic goals, which include high expectations for learning as well as shared values and beliefs about teaching and learning.
Person said the Nebraska Film Office referred the unidentified filmmaker to North Platte.
Person said the film company came to North Platte in June, scouting the suitability of scenes and backgrounds.
He said the man behind the film is from Texas.
“He wants a different take (than in Texas) – he wants a rural community that would embrace the project,” Person said. “And, his mother grew up in Nebraska.”
Person characterized the movie as a modest indie film.
Laurie Richards of the Nebraska Film Office said the filmmaker is shopping for locations and no one knows yet where he will land, but North Platte is in the running.
“North Platte has a lot of interesting aspects – an historical flavor, plus lakes, a river and the nearby sand hills,” Richards told the Bulletin July 11 from Los Angeles, where she was on a business trip.
She said her office promotes locations in the entire state.
“We show visuals of all corners,” she said. “Sometimes a producer is looking for sites and for a ‘feel’ too.”
The Nebraska Film Office is a division of the Nebraska Department of Economic Development.
Person said the filmmaker will be back in August.
Typically, after a location is selected, a filmmaker will buy local services, lodging for the crew and extra actors, and use the location intensely for a short period of time, Richards said.
She said a major motion picture that will be released in December – Downsizing – was shot in part in Omaha. The film stars Matt Damon, Alec Baldwin, Neil Patrick Harris and other major actors.
Richards said scenes for that movie were shot in Omaha for just a few days, “but they spent several weeks prepping, and that left several thousand dollars in Omaha.”
Of course, movies are sometimes planned that don’t take shape.
A movie based on Annie Cook’s notorious life was planned for North Platte in 2013. The script was finished, the locations were scouted and apparently selected, but nothing materialized at the time because the financial pieces did not fall into place.
However, the Annie Cook film continues to be a possibility, according to a report in the May issue of Variety magazine.
If the Cook film materializes, it would be directed by Robert Manciero, who visited North Platte four years ago, but there is no mention now of using original North Platte locations in the Variety article.
Variety did report that Kelly McGillis would play the part of Annie.
McGillis rose to stardom in 1986 in the movie Top Gun, opposite Tom Cruise.
Manciero presented his plans for the film at the Cannes Film Market (a part of the overall Cannes festival), where filmmakers typically show and shop projects for investors and other needs. It remains unclear if the Annie Cook movie will be made.
If a film is shot in Nebraska, “We strive to make it a good experience, so they come back -- to stay, or to make another film,” Richards said.
She said most states offer an economic incentive to filmmakers, but Nebraska has few incentives.
“We don’t charge sales tax or lodging tax after 30 days for anyone who stays that long in our motels,” she said, “but that’s standard. Most every state has it.”
Richards said cities with their own economic development fund, such as North Platte’s quality growth fund, can offer incentives to help seal the deal.
(This report was first published in the Bulletin's July 12 print edition. It has been updated.)