A writer, playwright, screenwriter, or filmmaker conducts exhaustive research before establishing a setting. As writers, you do the same, taking into account the buildings, styles, season, atmosphere to provide a strong framework for your plot. Indeed, setting has been described as an additional character (“Chinatown” starring Jack Nicholson comes to mind).
Over the last 5-10 years, Boise or Idaho has served as a setting for several films. Idaho has even established the Idaho Film office, a division of the Dept. of Commerce, to lure production companies to Idaho. A few of the latest films are “All Night” (2011), “Three of a Kind” (2011), and “Person of Interest” (2010). Arguably, the film that got Boise on the map was Clint Eastwood’s “Bronco Billy” back in the 80’s.
There are many reasons for choosing Boise as a location—expense, topography, accessibility—so I wouldn’t presume to share why these producers chose to film here. I’m not blogging about a setting wherein filming is done in Boise.
I’m more interested in Boise or “a small town in Idaho” chosen as a reference without actually filming on location.
Criminal Minds is a procedural series on KBOI about the Behavioral Analysis Unit (BAU), which takes on the most horrific serial killers/psychos and brings them to justice. It seems as if Boise is a favorite “go-to” as a setting for skeevy killers.
In May 2010, the episode “The Internet is Forever” aired about a serial killer who uses the Internet to find his victims on social media sites in Boise. Two weeks ago, on October 12, the episode “Painless” was about a Boise high school that suffered a Columbine-style massacre ten years ago and a new killer is targeting survivors gathered for a memorial reunion.
Did the writers want to find a place they felt was believable to the U.S.A. as capable of creating these criminals? I think not. I believe TPTB gambled that the rest of the country didn’t know the area well enough to say, “That does not look like Boise.” “What neighborhood is that?” “The sheriff and deputies don’t wear those uniforms.” “And those patrol cars are way off.”
Then, there’s the small town in Idaho ploy. In 2011, a series called Chase about US Marshal Annie Frost lasted one season. Annie came from a sketchy background where her father was a con man. She aided him in his cons until one day when he left her at a restaurant “in a small town in Idaho.” Then, she was put into the foster care system, etc. Again, find somewhere off the beaten path or maybe unique. “Hey, let’s use Idaho!”
On October 18th, Castle featured a murder victim whose mother “lived in Idaho.” The show takes place in New York. There are 50 states, one federal jurisdiction (D.C.), and 14 territories (but we won’t go there). The writers chose Idaho.
There are more instances, but you’ll just have to trust me. Criminal Minds might have even used it earlier than 2010. It seems to me they have, although I don’t have those episodes in my research. After the October showing, I thought “Again?”
Reading over what I’ve written, it may seem as if I’m angry about our recognition. I’m not. It is said there is no such thing as bad publicity, but it can be annoying if it doesn’t look like your hometown.
I wonder why Idaho is being referenced more than in the past. Is it because of our Boise State football success? Is it because at least 3/4 of the country doesn’t know much about Idaho, so license can be taken? It makes me curious. Do you have any television series or movies to share that used Boise or Idaho in an episode and it was evident the setting wasn’t filmed on location? Please let me know.