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Silverton wins bid for Hunter S. Thompson movie

‘Freak Power’ to start filming this fall

The town of Silverton will be the primary location for filming a new movie about the true story of Hunter S. Thompson’s curious, bizarre and entertaining run to be sheriff of Pitkin County in the 1970s.

Stephani Burditt, office manager for Region 9 Economic Development of Southwest Colorado, confirmed that “Freak Power” would start filming in Silverton this fall.

In December, it was announced that director Bobby Kennedy III received a $300,000 rebate from Colorado’s Economic Development Commission to shoot his new feature on Thompson.

The Denver Post reported the budget for “Freak Power” would be $1.85 million, bringing a cast of 100 and a crew of 73. It’s Kennedy’s intention to distribute the film in a digital format, such as Netflix.

But at the time, it was reported that “Freak Power” would be shot mostly around Aspen, the Pitkin County seat. A few locations, however, would have to be filmed elsewhere, because the town has changed so much since the 1970s.

Donald Zuckerman, commissioner for the Colorado Office of Film, Television and Media, said producers were looking at nearly 24 Colorado towns to use as stand-ins.

Most prominent was a location needed for Hotel Jerome, which was a dive bar in the 1970s but no longer resembles its former self after undergoing several renovations over the years.

Burditt said she suggested five locations in Southwest Colorado: the Diamond Belle Saloon, the General Palmer Hotel and the Strater Hotel in Durango; the Grand Imperial Hotel in Silverton; and the New Sheridan Hotel in Telluride.

But it turns out that the filmmakers decided to film primarily in Silverton. A few other scenes may require travel outside the small mountain town about an hour drive north of Durango.

A representative with “Freak Power” was not available for comment Wednesday.

San Juan County Sheriff Bruce Conrad, who serves as Silverton’s film liaison, said the movie is set for four to six weeks of advanced prep and then three six-day weeks of filming this fall.

“They’re coming to town next week to look at locations,” Conrad said Tuesday. “The majority of the scenes and locations will be in and around town. It’s a pretty extensive location list.”

The cast for “Freak Power” has not yet been released, and speculation surrounds who will portray the charismatic Thompson. But Conrad said he recently heard the film “just stepped up the level of stardom.”

“One of the leads could be much bigger than they anticipated,” Conrad said.

In previous films, Johnny Depp and Bill Murray have played Thompson.

The plot for “Freak Power” is said to follow Thompson’s run for sheriff of Pitkin County, an effort that resulted in a narrow loss. One of his platforms, for instance, was to “savagely ... harass all those engaged in any form of land-rape.”

Regardless, Conrad said the filming this fall is a welcome boost to the community of Silverton, which will likely jolt the economy in the months after the end of the summer tourist season.

“In recent years, we’ve had just car commercials and extreme sports on a regular basis,” he said. “We’d like to see bigger productions here.”

In March, “The Great Race” – a true story of a dog sled team that raced to an isolated Alaska town with medicine to prevent an outbreak of diphtheria in 1925 – was filmed in Silverton.

The film employed and involved many locals, Conrad said.

Burditt was unsure how many jobs “Freak Power” may bring to the region, but she sent a list of job openings the film is already looking for, including an assistant director, locations manager and director of photography.

The full list can be viewed on Four Corner’s Film Office’s website, www.4cornersfilmoffice.org.


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