A movie about the 1925 diphtheria epidemic in Nome, Alaska, and the subsequent serum run by a dog sled team was filmed in Silverton last spring.
“The Great Race” is scheduled to be released in October and is one of about five movies shot in the area over the last year.
The recent surge in filmmaking in Silverton is embraced by the community, said DeAnne Gallegos, executive director of the Silverton Chamber of Commerce.
“We are primarily a tourist town, but our goal is to diversify our economy,” she said. “Low-hanging fruit for us is recruiting business like movies.”
Cast and crew on the set of “The Great Race” spent $40,000 on food in Silverton and Durango in six weeks of filming, said costume designer Rebecca Bertot.
Gallegos described Silverton as a “turn-key set” that attracts filmmakers because of its versatility.
“When they need a mountain scene or a Victorian town scene, we really open our arms to it,” she said. “We haven’t had the complete facelift as some of our neighbors. We are still true and raw to that time period; there is no façade.”
The film industry provides an economic boost for Silverton’s economy, especially during the difficult shoulder season, and an opportunity for locals to get in on the action.
“We have locals out there working side by side with these movie crews,” Gallegos said. “We open up our houses and businesses, and create friendships to make this a positive experience.”
Bertot was so enamored of Silverton during her time on the set of “The Great Race” that she moved from Houston to live there.
“I drove in from Texas and thought, ‘Wow, I’m driving into Narnia,’” she said. “We started shooting in town and it was absolutely gorgeous. Everyone was extremely helpful.”
Now, she’s offering workshops to locals who may want to work on the set of film productions in Silverton, and is working with the Chamber of Commerce to establish a Silverton Film Office.
“Over the last year, I’ve been trying to figure out how to bring more film projects here,” Bertot said. “The scenery and architecture is stunning; it is a magical place for filmmaking.”
Bertot said having a trained film crew in Silverton would make the town more appealing to filmmakers because they would not have to hire a crew from Los Angeles or elsewhere.
“They have to fly or drive them (crews) in, put them up in hotels and give them per diems,” she said. “We want to take these really hearty mountain people and offer them an opportunity to learn a new craft.”
Future workshops will cover the expectations of a production assistant, Bertot said.
“I’m hoping to eventually bring in camera operators, directors, costume designers and makeup artists,” she said. “Whatever specialty you are interested in, we want to have a workshop for that. We want to make Silverton a mecca for crew training in this region.”
Winter scenes for “The Bay House,” a movie about a politician losing an election in the wake of scandal, finished filming in Silverton last weekend. Upcoming film projects in Silverton include “Freak Power,” a movie about Hunter S. Thompson’s 1970 campaign for Pitkin County sheriff, and “The Ballad of Buster Scruggs,” a Coen brothers Western Netflix series.
“This is a different source of income for our town,” Gallegos said. “The biggest bonus is that we are trying to be proactive in training locals. Not only can they work here in Silverton, but they can make connections.”