“Urban Conversion,” a television show that’s grown from a three-episode Colorado-channel run to an international audience, is going to expand even further next year, in part because of an investment from the state of Colorado.
Colorado Economic Development Commission members voted unanimously Thursday to offer film-incentive rebates of as much as $98,000 to the show, which is set to begin filming its third and longest season soon. All 17 members of the cast and crew are Colorado-based, and the city of Arvada will take a new starring role next year.
The show centers on conservative businessman Rodman Schley and his free-spirited wife, Gina Schley, trying to combine their passions and live a sustainable existence in an urban setting. Over the first two eight-episode seasons, the couple learned skills such as beekeeping and backyard farming and then put them work at their household.
For the planned third season, they purchased a 2.7-acre lavender and cut-flower farm in Arvada and plan to convert the mid-century modern house into a sustainable home. And they plan to increase the number of episodes from eight to 13, which will account in part for the $490,000 budget that they have for the season.
From three episodes, it expanded to eight in the first season, and roughly 225 public-television stations picked it up from there. Create Channels, an arm of PBS that is shown both nationally and internationally, also has broadcast seasons one and two, and the show was picked up by affiliates as far away as Greece and Portugal, Rodman said.
“We can’t believe we’re getting all this amazing coverage,” Gina said. “And we feel like we have momentum.”
For Colorado Film Commissioner Donald Zuckerman, taking advantage of that momentum means continuing to build a film industry locally. The 15 crew members on the show will be working on a production schedule that runs from January through November of next year, providing employment nearly year-round and demonstrating to film and television producers who see the show that they do not have to import their workforce if they are considering shooting in Colorado, he said.
“That’s what we’ve been looking at for the past six years (since conceiving the idea of the 20 percent film-incentive spending rebate to qualified productions): Build a crew base,” Zuckerman said.
Both the Schleys and Zuckerman also believe the expanded show could bring economic benefits to the region through its promotion of Arvada and of the sustainable businesses and homes that the couple features in each episode. Over the first two seasons, that has meant companies ranging from green consultants to tiny-home builders getting significant air time.