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‘Tracker’ showcasing B.C.’s Interior in big-budget small screen TV series

‘Tracker’ debuted after Super Bowl broadcast, with opening minutes filmed in Southern Interior

A second big-budget TV series that was partially filmed in the Southern Interior of B.C. has made its small screen debut, providing yet another showcase for the Thompson-Nicola area.

Tracker, starring Justin Hartley, premiered on CBS on Feb. 11, airing immediately after the broadcast of Super Bowl LVIII. More than 123 million people watched this year’s Super Bowl, making it the most-watched program in US TV history, eclipsing the 1969 moon landing, and the Thompson-Nicola Film Commission’s Terri Hadwin suspects that many of those viewers watched at least the opening minutes of Tracker, which were filmed west of Kamloops between Cache Creek and Walhachin.

“To have a premiere immediately following the Super Bowl is generally viewed as a pinnacle for releasing a new series on television,” says Hadwin. “It’s the most lucrative prime time you can have on TV, so I’m hoping that Tracker got some spillover, particularly as we were in the first five minutes.”

The filmmakers were in the area in 2022, with filming taking place in the same area as, and almost back-to-back with, Monarch: Legacy of Monsters starring Kurt Russell, which debuted on Apple+ in November 2023.

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“The Tracker crew was in our area for about two weeks, with prep, filming, and wrap, and we made it into about five minutes’-worth of the show,” says Hadwin. That might not sound like a lot for a multi-episode TV series, but the film commissioner is buoyant.

“The desert landscapes of the Thompson-Nicola Regional District are generally a huge draw for film productions of all sizes, and what’s exciting is that productions tend to use it in key moments. We get high action or really exciting scenes, or the opening scene like in Tracker or Jurassic World to really excite the audience.

“We may not have a lot of screen time, but we have quality time.”

Tracker — based on the book The Never Game by Jeffery Deaver — centres on the story of lone-wolf survivalist Colter Shaw, who has extensive tracking skills. He travels the country in his Airstream trailer as a “rewardist” who helps police and private citizens solve crimes and find missing people in exchange for reward money. Shaw is played by Justin Hartley, who previously had prominent roles in Smallville, This Is Us, and The Young and the Restless.

Hadwin says she understands the appeal of the dramatic landscapes near the McAbee Fossil Beds east of Cache Creek.

“I think it’s the very drastic desert and commanding presence. You can be in places where there are wide open fields of nothing, or a backdrop of hoodoos in some places. There are acres and acres of land where you can have different appearances.

“The close proximity to Ashcroft and Cache Creek for quick amenities doesn’t hurt, and you’re close to Kamloops for hotels for the talent.”

While Hadwin can’t say much about what projects might be coming to the region, she is optimistic about the outlook for the rest of the year.

“I think 2024 is shaping up to be one of our better years, just with how busy it was in 2023 with scouting and trying to assist productions in finding their locations. Last year wasn’t a good year because of the writers’ and actors’ strikes during our prime time for filming, so [filmmakers] weren’t able to move forward, because productions were on pause for so long. Now they’re really itching to get out there and get creating, so I think 2024 is going to be monumental.”

She adds that a good year for filming in the area translates into a real economic boost, with filmmakers spending about $18 million in direct spends in the Thompson-Nicola region in 2022. “It was about $2 million last year, but we’re probably looking at closer to 2022 numbers this year.”

Hadwin notes that the local landscape features in the main poster materials for Tracker, and says she’s thrilled that residents can tune in and see an area that’s familiar.

“It’s so great when people can recognize that work is being done here and celebrate it. That doesn’t happen everywhere. It can really drive tourism, especially if the show develops a cult following. There’s the spin-off of ‘Wow, I didn’t realize I could have that type of a landscape when I visit this area.’

“And it will definitely impact filmmaking, because when people want to film in desert-like locations they’ll say to someone ‘Hey, I know you worked on Tracker, where did you film?’ They talk to each other, and that’s where you get bang for your buck.

“Jason Hartley with his Airstream in our area is very much free advertising that I’m thrilled to see. You can’t purchase that.”

Barbara Roden

About the Author: Barbara Roden

I joined Black Press in 2012 working the Circulation desk of the Ashcroft-Cache Creek Journal and edited the paper during the summers until February 2016.
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