Lots of Hollywood movies and TV shows take place in Vermont. Why are so few filmed here?
The smash hit Netflix series Wednesday takes place in Jericho … and was filmed in Romania. Megan Matthers of Sutton wants to know — why?
Brave Little State is Vermont Public’s listener-driven journalism show. You, the audience, ask us questions about Vermont and we try to find the answers. Recently, a listener named Megan Matthers asked this:
“Why was Netflix's Wednesday set in Vermont but not filmed in Vermont?”
Note: Our show is made for the ear! We recommend pressing play on the audio posted here. We also provide a written version of the episode below. Please check the corresponding audio before quoting in print.
Mae Nagusky: You may have heard of this show called Wednesday. It came out in 2022 and quickly became one of the most-watched Netflix series of all time, and it inspired dances and hashtags and lots of memes. Everyone I knew was watching it.
But the show caught one of our listener's attention because of where it (supposedly) takes place: Jericho, Vermont.
Megan Matthers: Well, I first thought, like, this is not Vermont.
Mae Nagusky: Megan Matthers, of Sutton, in the Northeast Kingdom.
Megan Matthers: Jericho doesn't look like that. It's much smaller. There's like one convenient store.
Mae Nagusky: Megan was onto something. None of the series was actually filmed anywhere in Vermont. It was actually filmed in Romania.
Luis Guzmán: We were in Romania, and they, you know, they showed us around the sets…
Mae Nagusky: This is Luis Guzmán. He’s an actor you might know from films such as Punch-Drunk Love and Carlito’s Way. Or, more recently, the TV show Megan is wondering about: Wednesday. He didn’t know the show was set in Vermont until he was actually on set in Romania to film it.
Luis Guzmán: And I noticed that all the car plates said “Vermont.” I look at one of the producers and say, “Oh, you mean this s*** takes place in Vermont?”
Mae Nagusky: This was especially jarring for Luis — a Vermont resident.
Luis Guzmán: We came all the way to Romania to shoot something that takes place in Vermont. Are you kidding me?
Mae Nagusky: Hollywood uses Vermont as a setting all the time without actually filming here. Think of TV shows such as HBO’s The Sex Life of College Girls or movies such as White Christmas, the Robin Williams classic Dead Poets Society — also Super Troopers and lots of others.
Why does this keep happening? And that answer is about money.
Film tax credits
Mae Nagusky: It has to do with this thing called “film tax credits.” These are state incentives available for production companies to help offset production costs. 35 states have some version of this right now, according to the National Conference of State Legislatures. Vermont is one of the other states without any.
And if you’re wondering how much these tax incentives really matter, all you have to do is talk to people in the industry, like Joe Guest. He’s a film and TV producer in New York City.
Joe Guest: As kind of a responsible producer, I wouldn't be able to consider Vermont right now because there's no tax incentives.
Mae Nagusky: Sometimes it’s even hard to justify shooting in Vermont for filmmakers who already live here, like Chad Ervin.
Chad Ervin: Someone can always just go across on the other side of Lake Champlain and you get, like, 40% off.
Mae Nagusky: Then there’s Vermont filmmaker Jay Craven. He’s been committed to making films in Vermont since 1980. But even he looks elsewhere when his budget gets extra tight.
Jay Craven: When we need that support, given that it's not available here, we will go and, you know, shoot some part of our film or even all of the film in Massachusetts.
Mae Nagusky: For a state that prides itself on local — local farms, local community, local governance — it is notable that when it comes to film and TV, it’s very hard for those productions to be local as well.
The 'golden age'
It wasn’t always like this. There was a time between the late ’80s and early 2000s when it was actually fairly common to see major films shoot here. Think of Beetlejuice, Cider House Rules, Me Myself and Irene, and What Lies Beneath. Producer Joe Guest worked on the set of What Lies Beneath back in 1999.
Joe Guest: In those days, like, if a movie was scripted as taking place in Vermont, you were like, “OK, well, I guess we're gonna go to Vermont for the location work.”
Mae Nagusky: This was a time before film tax credits were well-established around the country — and where they did exist, they were pretty minor. So states were on more of an even playing field.
Chad Ervin: What happened is there was like this golden age of a lot of productions in Vermont…
Mae Nagusky: Chad Ervin again.
Chad Ervin: …there was a lot of great activity going on. And then the enthusiasm for that disappeared, and the films stopped coming. And all of the interconnectivity, all of the community that existed, just sort of went away with it.
Mae Nagusky: Vermont did have two small film incentives on the books from 1998 to 2012, but both of those have since been repealed.
Vermont's Film & Media Task Force
Vermont lawmakers just recently looked at this issue again. In 2022, they founded the “Vermont Film & Media Task Force.” And re-implementing tax credits for film shoots was one of the measures they considered.
Stephanie Jerome: To me, early on, I was, “Oh, maybe, I don’t — I’m not really sure we need this in Vermont.” And then afterwards, I was like, “Yeah, this sounds like a really good idea for both economic and workforce development for our state.”
Mae Nagusky: Rep. Stephanie Jerome was one of the lawmakers on this task force.
Stephanie Jerome: Tax incentives are controversial because it's very hard to gauge your return on investment. Vermont is great for maybe these smaller, these smaller films, and not these giant blockbusters where you need to bring in, you know, huge soundstages.
Mae Nagusky: This is one of the main roadblocks to more, and bigger, film shoots in Vermont: quite literally, roadblocks. Production often requires access to soundstages, expensive camera gear, lots of extras, painters, caterers, security people and housing. Much of this is hard to find in any quantity in Vermont, let alone one on a large scale.
Here’s producer Joe Guest again:
Joe Guest: It can be a more challenging place to film logistically, just because you're talking dirt roads. And, as we say, you can't always get there from here.
And here’s filmmaker Chad Ervin:
Chad Ervin: New York City, there are, like, 100 other ways you can get around as a film crew. You block a block of downtown in a Vermont town and, you know, people are having to loop around the entire city all day long.
Mae Nagusky: But some of the people I spoke to think that any issues Vermont might face from having more movies and TV shows shot here would be far outweighed by the benefits — like providing new opportunities for Vermonters to work and new opportunities for Vermonters to be discovered.
Luis Guzmán again:
Luis Guzmán: We could discover the next incredible writer, the next incredible director, the next incredible cinematographer, the next incredible actor, you know, that's our goal. It's not just about making film.
Mae Nagusky: As far as passing legislation that might lead to more films being shot here, don’t hold your breath. Because before the state will implement new tax credits, they’ll likely have to first establish a state film commission.
We used to have one, but now Vermont is one of only four states that doesn’t: Alaska, Delaware, Wisconsin and Vermont. That’s according to a 2023 report published by the Vermont Film and Media Industry Task Force.
These days, it takes a unique set of circumstances for Hollywood to show up and film here. But it does happen every once in a while. Earlier this year, Tim Burton, Michael Keaton and Winona Ryder reunited to shoot the sequel to their 1988 classic, Beetlejuice. While a lot of it is filmed in England, they still returned to the original filming location in East Corinth, Vermont.
Thanks to Megan Matthers for the great question. And to all the Redditors who responded to Megan’s original post asking about this.
This episode was reported and produced by Mae Nagusky. Editing and additional production from Josh Crane, Sabine Poux, Angela Evancie and Myra Flynn. Ty Gibbons composed our theme music. Other music by Blue Dot Sessions. Our executive producer is Angela Evancie.
Special thanks to Eric Ford, Tim Kavanaugh, Cemi Guzmán, Sarah Witters, Myles Jewell and Hyon Joo Yoo.
Brave Little State is a production of Vermont Public and a proud member of the NPR Network.