Sunday, August 07, 2016

Location shooting... free donuts!

One of the perks/problems with living in LA is that you encounter location shooting. Same story in New York, Vancouver, Toronto, and Saugus.

The cool part: Who needs Universal tours when Hollywood comes right to you? The top of your tree is seen in a major motion picture. Hollywood technicians have employment. You can usually steal a donut off the craft-services table. Big stars hang out on your front porch.

A few years ago I took a walk after dinner and encountered a shoot for CONFESSIONS OF A DANGEROUS MIND. They were in the long process of setting up a shot and everybody was just milling around. I saw the director just sitting off by himself, casually watching the activity. I walked up and said hello. We knew a lot of mutual people in television so breaking the ice was easy. Long story short, I spent the next half hour chatting with George Clooney. (Happy to report he’s as nice, unassuming, handsome, and charming as you’d hope he’d be in person – the bastard.)

The uncool part: Location filming, especially if it’s on your block, is a major hassle and inconvenience to the entire neighborhood. The homeowner of the house they’re using gets paid handsomely. The neighbors just can’t park, there are strangers sitting on your lawns eating, you can't get out of your driveway, incessant walkie-talkies, and there’s just a general level of intrusion. They will generally allow you to watch them film, but there’s that old line in Hollywood:

The first day on a movie set is the most exciting day of your life. The second is the most boring.

It’s a very slow process. That’s just the way it is. And what they’re shooting is not always that glamorous. Recently, a Ford commercial was filmed two doors down from me. (The photos today are from that shoot.)  I wandered over (to steal some donuts) and when I expressed my disappointment to some crew guy that there were no stars he said: “Are you kidding? You get to see the new Ford.” Yeah, well... that's fine if it's Harrison. 

All in all, location shooting is a good thing. I’ll trade the inconvenience for the stimulation in the local economy and the nostalgia of watching old movies filmed in LA and seeing landmarks that no longer exist. It’s a time machine experience not many cities are afforded.

No one’s ever used our house for filming. We came close once. A location manager was interested in our backyard for the pilot of DOLLHOUSE. I was crushed when it didn’t happen. Imagine being paid a lot of money to have Eliza Dushku swimming in your pool.

Neighbors a couple of blocks away let their house be used for the pilot of ONCE AND AGAIN (starring Sela Ward). Inside and out they shot at their home. Then the show got picked up. At this point the production company had to completely replicate their living room and kitchen on a soundstage. How weird to watch a show with people in your kitchen every week? Assuming they didn’t watch something else.
Earl Pomerantz  created a series about a writer like himself and he too had his living room reproduced on the stage. What a benefit that has to be if you’re selling your home. How many sellers get 20,000,000 visitors to attend their Open House?

My parents had friends who were extremely wealthy and lived in the San Fernando Valley. They had a big house at the end of a cul de sac, which provided plenty of privacy. They would routinely rent out their house to porno studios. My parents were afraid to sit on any of the couches.

But that’s the beauty of L.A. Everywhere you go, any house, any street. Cary Grant may have uttered famous lines from movies right where you’re standing. Or Nina Hartley might’ve been sodomized. They don’t call this place the Dream Factory for nothing!


Terrence Moss said...

a co-worker's house in santa clarita is often used for location shoots.

she sent me a photo from the last one and they had toilet papered the entire front yard for a scene.

i feel sorry for the PA that had to clean THAT up.

BA said...

"That's the beauty of LA." Wasn't there a time (80s-90s?) where the LAPD vice squad watched porn videos to identify parts of LA they recognized so they could bust a production for filming in the city?

Glenn said...

Dave Mirkin of the Simpsons (did you work with him, Ken?) said it best on a commentary track..."Renting out your house for movie shoots is a great way to make money, but the production will destroy your home."

Jim 7 said...

So, how's the new Ford?

Joseph Scarbrough said...

They've actually been doing some location shooting in my hometown here recently: apparently, Chevy Chase, Burt Reynolds, and Ariel Winter are filming a movie here - I drove by a film crew a while back, complete with a police barricade (something you rarely see down here, except for special downtown events and such), just a little ways from my neighborhood.

Come to think of it, Hollywood infrequently comes to my town to film movies, which makes me wish they'd leave some of their equipment and facilities behind: we have a rather large community of independent filmmakers and producers (myself included), so it's like supply and demand - we have a demand, we just need it to be supplied. Certainly a stumbling block for me, because we really don't the proper kind of a studio facilities to accommodate the projects I'd like to get off the ground. If NYC is the northeast chapter and LA is the southwest chapter of the film and television industry, why can't Knoxville be the southeast chapter?

Dirk said...

Never eat the donuts at a porn shoot.

Unknown said...

As always Ken, Thank you for making the start of my day a little more enjoyable. JL

SharoneRosen said...

Growing up in Culver City, it was just a matter of fact that we were MGM's back lot. I remember being 5 or 6 and all us neighborhood kids were sitting quietly on a lawn watching two men fist fight for the camera. After every take, the costume person would run over, loosely sew the same ripped sleeve back on one guy's shirt and off they'd go again, throwing fake punches for the camera. We were entranced.

Wendy M. Grossman said...

Here in London there's a fair bit of filming, too. I'm not sure what TV show or movie it was that blocked off a few streets near my house a few years ago, but they were there for several days. About 12 years ago, one of my neighbors got their flat onto one of those BBC makeover shows. The film crew parked outside my house for about a month, yammering on their cellphones and smoking right below my office window.

I think, though, that the winner of "so weird to see my house on TV" has to be Mia Farrow, who allowed Woody Allen to shoot the interior scenes of HANNAH AND HER SISTERS in her Manhattan apartment. Probably not something she enjoys revisiting.


Earl Boebert said...

Here in Albuquerque they had trouble with fans throwing pizzas on the roof of the house that was used for the location shots of Walter White's place:

Andy Rose said...

A TV show filmed a few episodes just across from my house a couple of years ago. It was set in 1983, so they told everybody along the street (who were not getting paid for this experience) to please get any post-1983 cars in their driveways and move them somewhere else. Of course, we could have said no since there was nothing in it for us, but I guess nobody wanted to be That Guy.

Speaking of which, there's a story Vince Gilligan tells about filming in someone's fenced backyard for Breaking Bad. The next-door neighbor wanted to be compensated even though his house wasn't blocked or even seen. Every time they would say "Action," the neighbor would start up his lawn mower and ruin the sound. The moment they said "Cut," he would stop, just to emphasize the point. There was some consideration given to paying him off (which would have been cheaper than getting all the actors to come back in later and loop all the dialogue), but someone came up with the idea of quietly informing everyone that they were switching the roll. When they wanted Action, the AD would say "Cut," and vice versa. It worked, and they didn't have to pay him.

D. McEwan said...

"Wendy M. Grossman said...
I think, though, that the winner of 'so weird to see my house on TV' has to be Mia Farrow, who allowed Woody Allen to shoot the interior scenes of HANNAH AND HER SISTERS in her Manhattan apartment. Probably not something she enjoys revisiting."

What do you think are the odds that Mia EVER watches any of Woody's old (Or new, for that matter) movies?

The castle that Vincent Price lives in in The Pit & The Pendulum is a matte painting over the upper bluffs of Lunada Bay in Palos Verdes. Were the painting not there, you'd see Lunada Bay Elementary School, where I was a student at the time the movie was being made. Apparently my Fifth Grade classroom really was a torture chamber.

My maternal grandparents's former house (They are long dead) was seen in the closing credits of every episode of Knot's Landing for years, as was Malaga Cove School, where I attended Sixth Grade. So I guess they lived and I went to school in Knot's Landing.

In the 1932 WC Fields movie Million Dollar Legs, there is an aerial establishing shot in which can be seen the house where my Dad, my paternal grandparents, and several aunts and uncles were living when that movie was being shot.

Goldie Hawn and Kurt Russell lived for a while (May still for all I know) in James Whale's last house, so much of the great movie Gods and Monsters takes place in their house, though it was not shot there.

The supermarket where they shot the sitcom 10 Items or Less is a block from my home. (They didn't close during the shoots, so you had REAL shoppers really shopping in the background.) It was very weird to see actors playing a scene in the cat food aisle and know that some of that cat food behind them was currently in my cupboard.

Mike Barer said...

I was visiting LA with my family years ago and encountered a shooting. Susan St. James was there and she was one of my favorite female actors. Also, I worked downtown when Fraser did it's one episode shot on location in Seattle. I got David Hyde Pierces autograph. It was at Westlake Center where Fraser hailed a taxi.

Wendy M. Grossman said...

D. McEwan: well, quite.

My friend's parents lived for many decades until just recently in a building on Fifth Avenue (NYC) that earned back a substantial portion of its upkeep by allowing its exterior and I think the lobby sometimes to be used in TV shows and movies. It was the building where Blair Waldorf and her mother lived in GOSSIP GIRL, for example. So odd to see it pop up suddenly. (My friend and his parents were much, much nicer than the Waldorfs!)