Movie Tucson: Lack of movie incentives in Arizona causes ‘Duster’ to make out-of-town tracks


Pierre Catalanotte

Special for

Peter Catalanotte is the director of Film Tucson, a division of Visit Tucson.

In March 2021, Film Tucson was contacted by producer Georgia Kacandes (“Casino”, “The Hateful Eight”, “The Wolf of Wall Street”) regarding an HBO television series created by JJ Abrams (“Lost”, “Star Trek ,””Star Wars: Episode VII – The Force Awakens”) which wanted to use Tucson as the main filming location.

We finally landed the pilot episode of “Duster” thanks to our ability to connect producers with affordable hotels, movie venues, and our hard-working local crew base. Additionally, the City of Tucson and Pima County have worked tirelessly to provide the show with the necessary infrastructure to make everything happen quickly and efficiently.

For this unique episode, a conservative estimate of $10 million was brought to Tucson, giving our region a colossal economic impact.

Due to our lack of state film incentives, we don’t know if the rest of the series will come to Tucson. (I previously reported, via email on Wednesday, that HBO chose New Mexico over Arizona, but turns out that was totally incorrect on my part – I’m told a new location has not yet been chosen.)

A modest incentive program has been put in place by various local and state agencies, but nothing has been paid out so far because it’s just not enough to attract a TV series of this size.

Even if the current Arizona movie incentive bill (SB 1708) passes the House, the program wouldn’t take effect soon enough for “Duster’s” supposed start date later this summer.

But make no mistake: the impressive positives of this driver coming to Tucson are hard to beat.

Over three months, eight film industry location professionals scouted a wide variety of looks across Tucson; they will remember these various locations in the future when they have a project that requires the visual assets of southern Arizona.

Nearly 300 cast and crew members were brought in from outside Tucson, all spending thousands each week at local restaurants, shops, and tourist attractions.

Nearly 9,800 hotel room nights were generated by this show, giving several Tucson lodging establishments a chance to recover and thrive after the economic downturn caused by the COVID-19 crisis.

Hundreds of well-paying jobs were brought to our region thanks to the total hiring of 185 local crews and nearly 500 local actors during more than four months of production.

Several thousand dollars have been spent at dozens of small businesses all over Tucson, including restaurants and bars, grocery stores, dry cleaners, hair salons, paint and lumber stores, gas stations , stationery stores and vintage clothing shops, to name a few.

Film students at the University of Arizona and Pima Community College have gained hands-on experience working in top-notch professional production, giving their film careers an impressive head start.

The icing on the cake: having HBO in Tucson gave a clear signal to other Hollywood studios that we are open for business. If SB 1708 passes, Film Tucson will have the best chance of attracting lucrative, big-budget film and television projects to the Old Pueblo for years to come.

If there was ever a time to voice your support for state film incentives to your representatives, this is it. Don’t miss this opportunity.

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