Kevin Costner plans to shoot film, Horizon, in San Juan County
by David Boyle
On June 9 the Utah Film Commission announced the Governor’s Office of Economic Opportunity (Go Utah) Board approval of 13 new productions for state film incentives, generating an estimated economic impact of $142.5 million with approximately 90 percent to occur in rural Utah.
Two productions that received the incentive are slated to film in San Juan County, including a project from Kevin Costner.
A Hollywood actor, producer, and director, Costner has starred in many incredibly successful Western films including Dances With Wolves and the television series Yellowstone.
Costner was an advocate of a Utah legislative bill that expanded tax incentives for film companies that spend money in rural Utah.
Among the approved productions by the Utah Film Commission is Costner’s Western, Horizon: An American Saga. According to the film commission the Costner project is slated to spend $53 million in the Utah counties it films in, which include San Juan, Grand, Kane, Emery, and Washington counties.
The millions of dollars in economic impact for San Juan County is the fulfillment of a promise Costner made to San Juan County Commissioner Bruce Adams.
In an interview with Redrock 92.7 FM Adams shared that he met with Costner in January of 2022 to discuss how to bring the movies back to San Juan County.
Adams noted the history San Juan County has had as a backdrop for movies, dating back to John Wayne westerns.
“This is not anything new to San Juan County but nothing has happened to this magnitude lately. Mr. Costner came to visit with me and (County Administrator) Mack McDonald at the San Juan County courthouse and indicated that the state legislature would be taking up a bill, Senate Bill 49 sponsored by Ron Winterton.
“He simply said to me, Commissioner if we can get this bill passed in the legislature I promise you we will film movies, and especially my new movie called Horizons, in San Juan County.”
The State of Utah, like other states, has previously offered incentives to film production companies to shoot their movies in the state.
The incentive is in the form of a tax rebate from the state. Meaning a company shoots a movie in Utah and then submits receipts for reimbursement of some of the taxes paid.
As part of the 2022 legislative session, Adams advocated for SB 49 which added a larger pot of money but more importantly specified that money had to be spent in rural Utah to be eligible for incentives.
Adams explained the process, “You have to present your budget and your idea to the state and then if they approve the concept then you could shoot the movie, such as the one going to be shot in San Juan County, only the money spent in San Juan County would be eligible for a rebate from the state of Utah.”
Adams says any purchase with a receipt in San Juan County would be eligible.
“If they’re building a set, they’d purchase material, lumber so forth. They’d hire people within the county, they would rent motels, eat in restaurants, buy fuel at the gas station, goodies at the convenience store, shop in the local markets.”
Adams reports the production could take several months according to Costner. Once the receipts are turned in an audit will be performed by the state to ensure the funds were spent in rural counties.
Costner’s film Horizon is estimated to spend $53 million in the Utah counties it films in, which include San Juan, Grand, Kane, Emery, and Washington counties.
Also receiving an incentive from the state this year is the project Dark Highway. That film is estimated to spend $4 million in San Juan, Emery, and Juab counties.
Adams worked on the expansion of the tax rebate for rural film productions testifying before the state legislature this past session whenever the bill had a hearing.
“They would invite me to testify because I live in such a large county with great unemployment and poverty in the county, they wanted to hear from a commissioner who had this kind of background and hear what the impact would be.”
The bill passed on the last day of the session and the announcement of the recipients of the incentive by the film commission was announced on June 9.
During his visit in January, Costner heard a presentation from Adams on the demographics of the county, as well as its history. Adams said Costner was especially interested in the story of the Hole in the Rock pioneers.
While in Bluff Costner and his crew watched an NFL playoff game at Desert Rose Inn and had food catered from the Twin Rocks Cafe.
Adams reports he was impressed with Costner’s interaction with the Native American youth dressed in traditional clothing who served their meals.
“Mr. Costner got up out of his chair went up and introduced himself to every one of those kids individually. Asked them their name and wanted to know about their family and their circumstances.
“They all wanted pictures with him which he was gracious enough to do. They took a nice group picture. He was just such a kind caring gentleman.
“He was in his work boots and his levis and his work shirt. He wasn’t trying to say here am I, a famous Hollywood guy. He just wanted to know about San Juan County and wanted to know about the people here.”
Adams says Costner also expressed an interest in casting Native Americans as extras in his movies to be filmed in San Juan County.
While Horizons is set to be filmed in late summer of this year, Costner reportedly has plans to film additional movies in San Juan County.
“He has purchased all the rights to the John Wayne movies,” said Adams. “He told me he would like to remake most of those John Wayne movies in more of a modern-day setting and a lot of those movies were shot right here in San Juan County and Monument Valley.
“I think the connection we have with Kevin Costner in San Juan County is just we’ll see the benefits of that for years and years.”