Humboldt County is being eyed as the setting and filming location of an episodic television series about a Los Angeles fashion reporter who marries into a second-generation cannabis farming family during the changing times of legalization.
Amphora Pictures producer Gardner Grout is looking at Humboldt County once again after completing the 2017 movie “An Evening with Beverly Luff Linn,” which was shot in Eureka in early 2017.
Grout told the Times-Standard why he’s looking to possibility return once again for the new television series.
“Humboldt is synonymous with cannabis and it is one of the areas most heavily impacted by legalization,” Gardner wrote in an email to the Times-Standard. “It’s another unfortunate ‘company town’ story that is being overlooked. Humboldt’s beautiful and rich community and environment help cinematically too!
“While legalization is good for those who are profiting and turning this into legitimate income and who don’t have to hide in the shadows anymore, it’s ultimately pushing out the back-to-the-landers and small farmers who have been here for 40 years and now find themselves in an industry they don’t know how to navigate anymore,” Gardner continued. “We will tell the compelling personal stories of families on both sides of the new world of marijuana.”
Gardner said they are finishing up the pilot episode and story development, but said he does not have a timeline for when filming might begin.
If the project comes to fruition, Humboldt-Del Norte Film Commissioner Cassandra Hesseltine said it will be first episodic television series that will be shot in Humboldt County. Hesseltine said that movie shoots and other projects stimulate the local economy in many ways, from more heads in hotel beds to crew members going out for dinner to making the county a film tourism destination.
“When it comes to any project especially something that has some longevity, mainstream audience gets exposed to these places and we could see a pickup in film tourism, especially if they’re filming scenes on our beaches or redwoods and our architecture,” Hesseltine said.
About $965,000 was brought into Humboldt County by 22 film projects in 2016-17, according to the film commission, with Hesseltine saying that the money from these projects circulates several times within the county before leaving. In this way, the revenue brought in has an estimated 3-to-1 multiplier, Hesseltine said.
Being able to host a television series production in Humboldt County will also give the region more credibility within the industry that the county will be able to support similar-sized productions, Hesseltine said.
When the producer for the 2013 sci-fi movie “After Earth” was looking at the county as a potential location, Hesseltine said being able to list other large projects that had shot in the county helped convince them to film in the region.
Hesseltine said she understands an important consideration for documentaries and films about Humboldt County is the community’s reaction. A Netflix documentary crew is currently in the county filming about the local cannabis industry, for example.
In an attempt to avoid the possibility of the new TV series relying on stereotypes — “that we all don’t have dreads and listen to reggae” — Hesseltine said she has connected Grout to several people of different backgrounds to help with research. These individuals include people in the cannabis industry, medical cannabis producers, county Board of Supervisors, business community members, city managers and others, Hesseltine said.
“I’m hopeful that it will be placed here with a little bit more accuracy and integrity than what possibility an outsider would do without knowing what the area is really like,” Hesseltine said.
Grout said Hesseltine has been critical in the project and has appreciated her help.
“She’s shown me that there’s too much relatable material to need to fall back on the classic stereotypes of pot growers,” Grout said. “We want to tell the real story.”
The show is fictional, but is based off of a true story, according to Hesseltine and Grout. Grout said they are not releasing names of the people the show is based off of at this time.
The story follows a woman who gives up the city life to live in Humboldt County after marrying into a cannabis farming family. The story will follow her relationship with the family and the family business, Grout said.
“But it’s also about a lot of families in the area and different accounts of their struggles on both sides of the business,” Grout said.
Another cannabis-themed television show was also announced in 2016, which was set to star actor John Malkovich. Hesseltine said her office did submit information to the production team about the county, but has yet to hear back from them and does not know where the project is in terms of production.
Hesseltine said the commission is constantly marketing the county through trade magazines, attending film festivals, familiarity tours and producing a monthly newsletter that highlights locations among other strategies. Hesseltine was also elected to her third term as the president of the Film Liasons in California Statewide, or FLICS, which she said works closely with the California Film Commission.
Most projects come to Humboldt County to shoot in the redwoods, beaches or capture some of the old Victorian architecture, Hesseltine said.
For Disney’s “A Wrinkle in Time,” Hesseltine said the film crew was in Humboldt County looking for a large lake and were not interested in the redwoods. The crew was then looking for a large rock in the forest, to which Hesseltine directed them to Patrick’s Point State Park. After seeing the location, director Ava DuVernay changed her mind about the redwoods, Hesseltine said.
Will Houston can be reached at 707-441-0504.