The Nebraska Department of Economic Development and the Film Office announced Tuesday that a sizeable part of a major feature film will be shot in western Nebraska.The Ballad of Buster Scruggs is a feature-length omnibus consisting of six separate stories, all westerns, written, directed and produced by Joel and Ethan Coen – the renowned Coen brothers.
The majority of filming takes place in New Mexico and Colorado, but one of the six stories is set in Nebraska, “The Gal Who Got Rattled.”
It follows two trail bosses on the Oregon Trail and a woman on a wagon train who needs the help of one of them and might be a marriage prospect for the other.
The screenplay calls for a setting along the Oregon Trail and the Sandhills of Nebraska.
The directors and producers scouted locations for several months with Film Officer Laurie Richards and Scottsbluff Economic Development Director Starr Lehl.
“We took the location manager to several locations on the southern edge of the Sandhills,” Richards said. “Productions of this size need lots of local resources such as hotel/motel accommodations, food, transportation and local crew and services. We had to stay close to the larger cities of the state with those amenities.”
“The locations department and producers and directors really loved what we sent them, but they wanted to find several looks within one area in order to manage their time and work efficiently. Starr Lehl escorted the location assistant for a day of scouting and he fell in love with a ranch that offers a large variety of vistas and open spaces with no sign of civilization," she said.
“Starr’s involvement has been stellar,” Richards said. “She knows everyone in the area and has been extremely helpful in finding the main locations for the majority of filming.”
The possible cast includes James Franco, Zoe Kazan and Tim Blake Nelson among others, such as Tyne Daly, Ralph Ineson and Stephen Root.
The crew is preparing to shoot in western Nebraska in September. The film is produced by Annapurna Pictures.
“The economic impact of the project will be huge,” said Richards. “The production is filming in several locations throughout the Rocky Mountain range, from New Mexico to Colorado. Nebraska has the authentic look needed for this period film that takes place on the Oregon Trial.”
“We are very excited to host this project with the Coen brothers in Nebraska,” she said. “They are Oscar winning directors/writers/producers with a huge presence in the industry.”
Richards said this is an important film for Nebraska on many levels. The visuals will showcase Nebraska’s beauty, not displayed on the big screen since “Sea of Grass,” in 1947 with Spencer Tracy and Katharine Hepburn, which was filmed in Cherry County.
“The beauty of the Nebraska prairie will certainly be a character in the story,” she said.