CHEYENNE — The new movie “Did You Hear About the Morgans?” purports to give a view of life in small-town Wyoming, but it was actually filmed in New Mexico.
The feature film, starring Hugh Grant and Sarah Jessica Parker, opened to mixed reviews last week. It was written and directed by Marc Lawrence and chronicles the story of a high-power Manhattan couple who enter a federal protection program and relocate to the fictitious town of Ray, Wyo.
Wyoming’s prominent place in the movie’s story line is a victory, but the state would have seen a bigger economic boost if the move had been filmed in the state, said Michell Howard, manager of the Wyoming Film Office.
“We feel that was a real win for us from the tourism-promotion side of things, because unless you sit through the credits and see that it’s shot in New Mexico, most people will associate this story line with Wyoming,” Howard said. “Hopefully that gives Wyoming more exposure and gives people the idea that they can also vacation out this way.”
The town of Ray is modeled after Meeteetse, Howard said. A few years ago, the Film Office convinced Lawrence to visit the Cody-Meeteetse area — instead of other potential Western locales — to conduct research for his script.
“They liked what we put together, so they decided to come out to that area and do their research trip, and then that’s why they ended up basing the film in Wyoming,” Howard said.
Howard said producers also considered shooting in Wyoming, but were attracted to New Mexico by its film incentive program and the larger pool of skilled crew members.
New Mexico offers a 25 percent tax credit for certain film expenses. Its film credits could reach about $80 million this year.
Wyoming’s film incentive program, with a budget of $900,000, offers 12 to 15 percent reimbursements to film projects for their spending in Wyoming.
Wyoming has endured similar rebuffs in the past. In fact, the Legislature created the incentive program in 2007 after the producers of “Brokeback Mountain” and “An Unfinished Life” — both with Wyoming settings — chose to film elsewhere.
In the case of the Morgans, Howard opts to focus on the positive attention the movie could generate for Wyoming.
“Some of these projects Wyoming can host, and some of them it’s not going to be as logistically possible, or there’s not going to be enough crew base in the particular area that they’re looking,” she said. “The incentive program makes us more competitive, but there are still other factors that go into making those decisions.”