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On June 15, the makeover series reboot and social media sensation Queer Eye dropped season two of their Emmy-award nominated Netflix show. Not even a month later, a tweet from the official Queer Eye Twitter account rocked the fandom: Karamo, Antoni, Jonathan, Tan and Bobby were coming to Kansas City for season three.
Most fans had no inkling of the show’s renewal at the time or where the next season would take place before late April, at which point the Kansas City Star published an article on its open casting call. That is, no one knew except for one person: Kansas City film commissioner Stephane Scupham.
“They weren’t even saying who they were,” Scupham, who first got in contact with the Queer Eye production company ITV Studios America in late March via an anonymous call. “It was just someone inquiring about our local incentive, which happens all the time.”
Fast forward a week later and Scupham, along with recently hired film coordinator Rachel Kephart and the Kansas City tourism organization VisitKC, got hit with the big news during a conference call. The aforementioned interested party was Queer Eye, represented by executive producers and showrunner Jennifer Lane.
Quickly they started rolling out a pitch package. According to Scupham, the package included a one-sheet of their local incentive in the Kansas City zone, information on filming locations, where to find local crew and perhaps most importantly, a letter from openly gay Missouri representative Greg Razer and a video pitch from Kansas City’s own Mayor Sly James.
“The best thing about it is, when you come here to film your show and do your thing, you’re going to find people who love you and want you to be here,” James said in the pitch video while dawning a rainbow-colored bow tie.
With that package, ITV was sold on Kansas City, according to Scupham. Days later they were told they landed the series. With everything in place, Queer Eye season three started filming July 16 and will go into the fall, similar to the four-month shoot for seasons one and two in Atlanta.
Scupham says Kansas City was not always the clear frontrunner to land the Fab Five. During the first initial weeks of communication, Scupham and the KC film office found out through their research that a city in Ohio was also in consideration. Cleveland 19 News reported in April that the state of Ohio was looking to increase its annual tax incentive from $40 million to $100 million as a push to lure more Hollywood projects. The House bill that introduced the increased tax incentive has yet to be passed, however.
Kansas City’s tax incentive was a standard 10 percent rebate on the qualified spend, Scupham said. Expenditures that fall under qualified spend include crew hired that live in the Kansas City area, housing chosen inside the area and production materials produced inside the area as well.
It didn’t hurt that one of the scouts that came on behalf of Queer Eye to look for shooting locations had worked in Kansas City before. That scout was executive producer and Scout Production co-founder Michael Williams. Williams won an Emmy for executive producing the initial Queer Eye for the Straight Guy more than 10 years ago. Remembering his time working on the 1995 HBO feature film Truman in the Kansas City area, Williams was able to walk down memory lane.
“He was here 20 years before and loved Kansas City then. When he came back to help scout, it was really nice for him to walk down memory lane and see how much this city has changed,” Scupham said.
The moment it was announced that Kansas City was the named location the city was quick to embrace the idea. “It has been an outpouring of love and support from citizens of Kansas City, from people to businesses and organizations in Kansas City,” Scupham said.
And the Fab Five have been quick to embrace the city back, too. Their Emmy nominations reveal party even took place at Two Light, a luxury apartment in Kansas City. Brown, who is a strong supporter of the deaf community, said in a recent Instagram live stream that he’s been looking to take sign language classes while he’s in the area as well.
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