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Area Becomes Popular Film Location

Once they find out Santa Clarita is not all that far from Los Angeles, production managers are finding the area to be an ideal filming location, close enough for the actors to easily get in front of a camera and filled with more forgiving neighbors than many Los Angeles neighborhoods. Efforts to lure film production from Los Angeles and its immediate neighbors have paid off. Since opening up a film office in 2003, the City of Santa Clarita has seen a 59 percent increase in film days. Film companies spent $16.1 million in the city during 2005, up from $12.2 million in 2003. Jason Crawford, film administrator for the city, said there are now half a dozen shows with filming operations based in Santa Clarita. One of his biggest challenges is merely convincing film industry people that Santa Clarita is really a close neighbor to Los Angeles. Before the film office opened, permits in the city were issued and managed by the Los Angeles-based Entertainment Industry Development Corp. (now Film LA), which was created in the early ’90s. The City of Santa Clarita decided the EIDC didn’t do enough to attract business to Santa Clarita, and that an office dedicated to the city could work better for production companies and approve applications much faster. “There’s always been some filming in Santa Clarita since the beginning, but the hardest part is getting (new productions) to come up here the first time,” said Crawford. “They always think it’s going to be much farther than it is, but once they come up here, they realize it’s so close, and easier and more flexible to shoot up here.” Paul Wilson, a location manager for CBS Productions who works on “CSI,” said that Santa Clarita has the right geographic look for a television show that is set in Las Vegas, and the residents are less bothered by filming than many Angelenos. “It was just easier in terms of some areas like Los Angeles,” said Wilson. “Some of Pasadena and Santa Monica have been filmed so much that the neighbors are starting to register a lot more complaints. Santa Monica has gone to where they don’t allow filming except between 8 a.m. and 8 in the evening.” The city has made a concerted effort to make it easy for people like Wilson to bring crews north, Crawford says. The city, he said, has some of the lowest film permit rates in the Los Angeles area, and has simplified its permitting process to the point where film crews can be shooting within hours of filing application forms, rather than days. He said he expects this year to be another period of growth for the city, with the help of two new HBO shows that will begin filming in Santa Clarita later this year. On January 25, the city debuted a new film guide, which will be one of the primary marketing tools used to lure more film crews. Santa Clarita Mayor Laurene Weste said last month that the city’s focus on the entertainment industry over the last four years has allowed it to retain its existing business while attracting new filming which supports the growth of businesses that support the entertainment industry. In 2000, Universal City-based Prime Post opened its first Santa Clarita Valley location in Valencia, and the following year it opened up a location at Santa Clarita Studios. It became the first full-service post production business in the area, and decided to stay open 24 hours in order to accommodate clients like Universal Pictures and Miramax Films. “I feel like there are already a lot of editing houses and stuff like that,” said Wilson. “I know that our effects guy lives up here.” Wilson, who lives in Los Angeles, said that since the drive to Santa Clarita in the morning is moving against traffic, it takes about half an hour for him to get there. Although “CSI” is now primarily filmed on the sound stages at Universal Studios, he usually films on location in Santa Clarita at least once a week.

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