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HBO’s ‘True Detective’ to Be Filmed, Produced in Northwest Arkansas

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The third season of HBO’s crime anthology “True Detective,” created by Nic Pizzolatto and starring Oscar-winner Mahershala Ali, will be filmed and produced in northwest Arkansas early next year, the Arkansas Economic Development Commission said Friday. 

“We’re thrilled HBO chose to film the series in Arkansas,” Gov. Asa Hutchinson said in a news release. “This is a testament to the dedicated teamwork across state agencies and communities to position the state as a choice place to do business. The beauty of the state, the skilled and quality talent available, along with the support provided by the Arkansas Economic Development Commission, made northwest Arkansas an easy choice.”

AEDC Executive Director Mike Preston said production on the critically acclaimed series would be the “largest and most expensive production we’ve ever had in the state. 

“With an estimated year from start to finish, we know that local businesses and vendors will enjoy a boon from the production,” he said.

Arkansas Film Commissioner Christopher Crane said HBO will need a crew of about 300 people for the project, and expects at least half of those employees to be Arkansans. 

Producers will receive incentives from state and local governments.

Brandi Hinkle, AEDC’s communications director, told Arkansas Business that it doesn’t yet know the value of the incentives it will provide.

“The AEDC programs they qualify for are performance-based, so we won’t know the actual amounts until sometime in the future,” she said. “They will have both state and local assistance.”

According to AEDC, production companies can qualify for a 20 percent rebate on production expenditures. Those expenditures include those incurred in the state in the development, preproduction, production or postproduction; the first $500,000 of wages or salaries paid to residents and nonresidents that are subject to state income taxes; pension, health and welfare contributions; and stipends and living allowances.

An additional 10 percent may be earned on the payroll of “below-the-line” employees who are full-time Arkansas residents, for a total rebate of 30 percent on such wages. Below-the-line does not include directors and producers, but, for purposes of the additional 10 percent, resident actors and writers are defined as “below-the-line,” AEDC said. 

To qualify for the incentives, production companies must meet the minimum spending requirement of at least $50,000 within a six-month period in connection with a post-production project, or $200,000 within a six-month period in connection with the production of one project. They must also apply for the production rebate certificate no later than 180 days after the last production expenses are incurred.

Hinkle added that HBO has budgeted “many, many millions” for this project.

HBO confirmed in July that it had reached a deal with Ali to star in “True Detective”‘s third season, and by September, entertainment news sites reported that the plot took place in the Ozarks.

The series’ first season, starring Matthew McConaughey and Woody Harrelson, debuted in 2014 to rave reviews and big ratings for the subscription cable TV channel. Its second season, which starred Colin Farrell, Vince Vaughn and Rachel McAdams, wasn’t as well received and cast doubt on the future of the franchise. 

Word that the series might shoot in Arkansas has been circulating since the fall. In October, Fayetteville’s city council approved a resolution of intent to spend $500,000 over the next two years as part of an incentive package for producers to film an unnamed TV show there. 

Pizzolatto has Arkansas ties. A New Orleans native, he received his master of fine arts degree at the University of Arkansas.

The official synopsis for the next installment of “True Detective” says the series “tells the story of a macabre crime in the heart of the Ozarks, and a mystery that deepens over decades and plays out in three separate time periods.”

Ali, who won Best Supporting Actor for his role in the 2016 film “Moonlight,” will play the lead role of Wayne Hays, an Arkansas State Police detective. Carmen Ejogo will play Amelia Reardon, a school teacher with a connection to two missing children in 1980. 

Crane said this project will lead to others like it and is the result a relationship forged over many years between HBO and the state, which has competed for several other HBO projects. 

He also said, “There’s not a place in the world that doesn’t want an HBO production, and now we’ve got one. Merry Christmas to us.”

The AEDC’s Arkansas Film Commission will also provide ongoing support to producers in the form of obtaining permits required to film in their locations, temporarily closing roads or sites for the filming and more. 

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