In what is expected to be among the first movies to benefit from Arizona’s newly restored film tax incentives, a cast and crew arrived in Prescott last month to shoot scenes on the picturesque downtown streets, in local businesses, and in a downtown church.
“Mysteries of the Heart,” a faith-based movie that depicts a young woman dealing with real-life issues, began filming in Prescott on Feb. 23 and was set to wrap up on March 7.
The movie centers on a woman who returns to her hometown to heal from heartbreak after suffering a miscarriage and going through a divorce. She ends up finding mystery, romance, and restored faith in her hometown.
Dave Hickey, the movie’s producer, said Prescott was the perfect setting for the story. In fact, the movie will not change the town’s name, choosing to retain the Prescott identity throughout the filming.
Vanessa Shapiro, CEO of Nicely Entertainment, said the company was in search of a community that looked like the classic American town.
Although the movie was originally intended to be located on the East Coast, the Scottsdale-based Nicely Entertainment checked out Prescott and found the hometown atmosphere they were looking for.
In a scene that was filming Friday, March 3 at the First Congregational Church on Gurley Street, the main character, Abby Brooks (played by Ansley Gordon), stops by a bake sale being held to benefit a local school. A banner on the bake sale table says, “Support Prescott Elementary.”
Other scenes are being filmed in the Cortez Street restaurant Marino’s Mob Burgers and Ice Cream, on downtown streets, and at The Porch Prescott on Montezuma Street.
Although challenged by Prescott’s recent snowy weather, the movie that was intended to have a spring/fall setting has moved forward, filming largely indoors.
BUILDING AN INDUSTRY
Friday’s filming at the First Congregational Church coincided with a visit to Prescott by Matthew Earl Jones, director of Arizona Film & Digital Media for the Arizona Commerce Authority, who traveled to Prescott for several film-related events.
After Arizona stopped offering financial incentives for filming in the state about 13 years ago, Jones said, much of the movie activity halted. “In 2010, the tax incentives went away, and they shut down the film office,” he said.
When Jones took on the job of State Film Commissioner six years ago, he said, “I was tasked with trying to rebuild the industry.”
He expressed optimism on Friday that the process would get a boost from the film incentives that are being restored in Arizona this year.
Jones said the law for the incentives was approved by the state in 2022 and went into effect on Jan. 1, 2023. A draft of the rules was released later in January, and a required public comment period ended Feb. 23. “We are now reviewing the comments, and the final rules and the application will be put out as soon as possible,” Jones said.
He added that Mysteries of the Heart is expected to be one of the first movies to benefit from the incentives. “They are definitely eligible because they started shooting when it was in effect,” he said. “If somebody is shooting now and they keep a record of their expenses, when the application comes in, they can apply and those expenses would count.”
Jones said the Nicely Entertainment production is a good project for Arizona for a number of reasons. “What we’re excited about – first, it is quality family entertainment, which is always something I like to see,” he said. “And also, they’re here, and they do multiple projects. To me, if we’re trying to rebuild the industry, people who come here and do multiple projects are more valuable than a splashy studio project that comes in once.”
Jones is hopeful that the incentives will accelerate the pace of the rebuilding process. Noting that he has been hearing from numerous movie productions recently, he said, “Hopefully, it should be a quantum shift. These are exciting times.”
LOCAL TALENT AND COMMERCE
The movie executives say that local crew members and extras have been crucial to the filming activity.
During the Friday filming, Helen Stephenson, director of Film and Media Arts at Yavapai College, was on hand to talk with Jones and movie representatives about local programs that are underway to train aspiring movie makers.
“I’m thrilled that it’s here,” Stephenson said of Mysteries of the Heart. Locals are working in areas such as the film’s cinematography, as production coordinator, and as interns.
In addition, Hickey noted that the movie is using local companies as well, such as Goods From the Garden, which is providing the catering for the movie.
Throughout the filming, he said the City of Prescott’s Recreation Services Department and Film Commissioner Sam Rice has helped to facilitate the process. An accounting of the economic benefit to the city is expected soon, he said.
Shapiro said the movie is being created for Pure Flix Entertainment, a Christian programming platform. It should be completed by about mid-May, Shapiro and Hickey said, and a local showing is a possibility.
Shapiro said Mysteries of the Heart is the first of four movies being planned in the series of mystery movies.
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