The cast of “I, Caveman,” a two-episode series of the Discovery Channel’s “Curiosity” show, pose on the final day of the “Survivor”-like experiment that took place on Routt County’s Motherwell Ranch in June. The episode premiered last Sunday. The cast is, from left, Gene Jarvis, Courtney Rice, Manu Toigo, Morgan Spurlock, Janeshia Adams-Ginyard, Lora Jakobsen, Billy Berger and Robb Wolf.

Erika Kramer/Discovery Channel/Courtesy

The cast of “I, Caveman,” a two-episode series of the Discovery Channel’s “Curiosity” show, pose on the final day of the “Survivor”-like experiment that took place on Routt County’s Motherwell Ranch in June. The episode premiered last Sunday. The cast is, from left, Gene Jarvis, Courtney Rice, Manu Toigo, Morgan Spurlock, Janeshia Adams-Ginyard, Lora Jakobsen, Billy Berger and Robb Wolf.

Routt County ranch sees film, TV production benefit community

Discovery Channel’s 'I, Caveman' experiment filmed in Routt County

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When to watch

“I, Caveman,” a two-episode series of Discovery Channel’s “Curiosity” shot in the Yampa Valley, premiered Oct. 2. The episodes will be syndicated on the Discovery Channel at 9 and 10 a.m. Sunday.

— For 10 days in June, a tribe of cavemen took over the aspen groves on the Motherwell Ranch on Routt County Road 29.

They fished for trout by hand, tried to find ways to purify water, hunted for game and argued among one another as their hunger and the pressure to survive mounted.

Well, they weren’t exactly cavemen. But the group did live like prehistoric people for the duration of the “I, Caveman” experiment, part of Discovery Channel’s “Curiosity” television show.

The two-episode series explores the evolution of human intelligence by placing 10 people in the Routt County aspen groves “Survivor”-style and with no food, tools or direction. Morgan Spurlock, of “Super Size Me,” was the host.

With cooperation from the Office Film, Television & Media (formerly the Colorado Film Commission), the Yampa Valley Film Board and the ranch, the “I, Caveman” crew was able to find everything they needed to re-create the Stone Age in Routt County throughout the month of June.

Kevin Greene, the series’ executive producer, said he scouted locations in Texas, Kentucky and the Southwest, but the 12,000-acre ranch was ideal.

“We found the overall experience in Colorado to be amazing,” said Greene, who was a co-executive producer of “Survivor” for four years. “I would recommend to anybody to go back there and shoot. I had a great experience.”

Motherwell Ranch executive director Brian Gardner said film production is part of the Motherwell Ranch’s services: They offered lodging, catering and equipment to the crew of about 45 people for the month. But the benefit of the production, he said, has a wider reach.

“Not only was it good for our ranch in particular, we believe it was good for the community as a whole,” he said.

Spotlight on Yampa Valley

Gardner isn’t alone in his efforts to bring more exposure and economic benefits to the area through media productions.

The Yampa Valley Film Board is a two-decade old organization that works on securing shows like “Curiosity” to come and film in the valley.

And the group has seen some successes in recent years.

In 2010, Eddie Bauer did a catalog photo shoot on Lincoln Avenue, and Denver Broncos cheerleaders came to town the year before to shoot a calendar.

Gardner said there are many attractive qualities of filming in Routt County.

“The airport is a huge plus and makes the area very accessible,” he said. “And resources are vast. As an example, the production team made daily runs to town for everything from laundry services to Walmart. They had everything that they needed within 30 minutes of the ranch while still filming in a remote and beautiful location as they had so desired.”

That example brings up another obvious community benefit to bringing film and media productions to the area: There’s an immediate economic impact as a direct result, and Gardner saw it with his own eyes.

“The production company rented cars, made purchases at hardware stores, copy centers, etc.,” he said. “Production crews spent their free nights in Steamboat supporting local pubs and eateries. Film production can drive both immediate and residual revenues to a community.”

Exposure on a world stage

In addition to “Curiosity,” Gardner and the Film Board also courted hit ABC comedy “Modern Family,” which was looking for a ranch on which to film its season premiere.

Producers instead chose the iconic background of the Tetons, filming the episode in Jackson Hole.

Gardner said although Steamboat was one of the network’s top choices, producers were swayed by financial and service incentives from Jackson Hole, the state of Wyoming and local businesses.

Greene, who spent almost six months scouting for “I, Caveman,” said when it comes to choosing a location, money talks.

“It comes down to cooperation and cash,” he said.

Gardner, who is working on landing a horror-themed reality show, said with a little bit of planning and collaboration among local entities, the Yampa Valley could easily compete with locations like Jackson Hole.

“As a local community, as a conglomerate of businesses, if we get together and say that the exposure is big enough, and if we put together a package for them … that’s where they’ll choose to go,” he said about enticing potential projects with incentives. “Attention to the area benefits everyone.”

To reach Nicole Inglis, call 970-871-4204 or email ninglis@SteambotToday.com

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