There’s good news…and there’s great news!
First, the GREAT news. After a fairly lengthy process of discussion with stakeholders in the South Coast and Santa Ynez Valley, I am proud to announce that we have officially launched the Santa Barbara County Media Production Incentive Program!
Intended to promote and increase production in Santa Barbara County, the Incentive Program has already been covered by Variety and The Hollywood Reporter. Click here to read an interview in The Hollywood Reporter with the Santa Barbara County Film Commissioner regarding the program.
The Incentive Program brings together Visit Santa Barbara, representing a group of South Coast hotel properties and Visit the Santa Ynez Valley, which represents a group of SYV based hotel properties in order to create a pot of $50,000 in committed funds for the year in cash rebates to qualified productions, including still photography, commercials, unscripted television, and feature films. This is the only program in the state to provide an incentive to still photography, commercial and unscripted production. The program will provide cash rebates for targeted permit fees and police/CHP costs to productions booking minimum required numbers of room nights in the South Coast and Santa Ynez Valley.
While the amount of money available is not a vast sum, we believe that this will signal to the production community the fact that Santa Barbara County understands your business, and Santa Barbara County wants your business.
Click here for more information on the program, to find out if your production qualifies, and to obtain an application.
Now, the good news. The numbers for the period of July through the end of September were up fairly substantially over the previous year, in all categories. There were 32 individual shoots during this time accounting for 98 days, almost double the number of days over the previous year. This jump is primarily due to a Canadian reality show about Alan Thicke, a Canadian transplant now living locally. This is a great one for tourism as Thicke is a popular figure in his home country, and the show is intended for Canadian broadcast, thereby disseminating great images of our beautiful South Coast to a powerful tourism feeder market.
As well, we saw the return of Abercrombie and Fitch, which showed up with approximately 100 crew and cast, and shot in our area for six days. Bruce Weber, who shoots these campaigns loves Santa Barbara, and also loves to spend Abercrobmie’s money at our resorts, restaurants, and through local production services. The hotel spend alone is estimated at approximately $300,000, pumping about $30,000 into our County tax coffers!
First, if you love cooking shows, you’ll want to set aside some time to watch “Chef Wanted,” the Ann Burrell hosted Food Network show in which top restaurants search for a new executive chef. The season premiere airs Thursday, August 1st at 10:00 PM on The Food Network with a Santa Barbara storyline. The world famous Bacara Resort & Spa recently underwent a remodel and is reopening one of their on property restaurants, “Bistro.” “Chef Wanted” made the trip to Santa Barbara in order to assist in the piece de resistance; chronicling the search for a new culinary magician to head up the re-conceived Bistro.
It was an unusually strong start to the Summer, much of which can be credited to the new Ryan Seacrest produced reality show currently titled “Montecito.” It’s worth mentioning that the show is the first major television production to shoot multiple episodes (six plus the pilot) here in Santa Barbara in many years. The reality show, about a group of aspiring ballroom dancers who live in the South Coast region, shot throughout Montecito and Santa Barbara following the cast in both their dance training and social lives. The Film Commission worked with the City of Santa Barbara to create the first “blanket” permit to be issued for a television show and which was necessary to provide a flexible and lean approach to the production crew. With the show having wrapped with zero complaints or issues, the blanket approach appears to have been a resounding success. The show booked approximately one thousand local room nights in area hotels, generating substantial business as well as revenue for the City of Santa Barbara. In addition to the immediate financial benefit, we also expect to see lots of beautiful Santa Barbara scenery on screen thereby generating substantial positive PR value.
Having just wrapped up statistics tracking for the past year (we run on a June to July fiscal calendar), we can report that the total direct production spend for the year came in at a healthy $10.6 million. As well, this is the first year in which the Film Commission has tracked room night bookings generated by media production, and I am happy to report a total of 7,124 rooms booked by production over the last twelve months.
If I were to try and imagine a perfect feature film opportunity for Santa Barbara County in 2013, it might look a little like this: two guys dealing with major life transitions decide to go on a road trip to Santa Ynez Valley where they enjoy local wines, meet a couple of beauties, battle each other, and drink more local wines. But, that wouldn’t work, because someone already made “Sideways”, and as we all fondly remember, the movie fueled explosive growth in tourism and purchasing of local Santa Barbara County wines.
How about the next best thing? Picture this: a guy and two girls, huge fans of the movie “Sideways”, travel from Korea to Santa Barbara to retrace the journey depicted in their favorite movie, and along the way two of them fall deeply in love against the incredibly romantic backdrop of our beautiful County. Factor in that Asia is predicted to become one of the fastest growing markets for California Travel in coming years, and a romantic comedy that portrays our County as a beautiful place to fall in love definitely qualifies as a great opportunity. Did I mention that it’s even titled “Santa Barbara”?
“Santa Barbara” recently wrapped eight days shooting in five jurisdictions throughout the County. From the Cities of Santa Barbara, Goleta, Buelton, Santa Maria, and the County of Santa Barbara, they covered a lot of ground and got a great variety of beauty shots of our area. The film, which stars two of Korea’s hottest actors, Yoon Jin-Seo (who starred in Oldboy), and Lee Sang-Yoon, was based at the Goleta Holiday Inn, where they booked 164 local room nights, and even shot on property. Visit California, our state tourism organization will be partnering with the Production Company in order to cross promote the film when it is released into the Asian Film market later this year and we expect the project to create great buzz for Santa Barbara!
Beyond that, we had a great May, with the start of Production on a new, Ryan Seacrest dance show, currently entitled “Montecito.” This is big news for Santa Barbara, as it is the first television series to shoot an entire season in our area. “Montecito” will shoot through the end of June, and is predicted to book over a thousand room nights during the course of production! Total direct production spending in May was $1,459,500 with an economic impact of $3.6 million.
First things first; if you’re into unscripted television, if you’re a lover and not a fighter, and most importantly if you are obsessed with all things Santa Barbara, then it’s time to tune in to “Ready For Love”!
This Eva Longoria produced, NBC, romance driven unscripted show features three awesome dudes who are looking for the one. One of the bachelors, Tim Lopez, is from Santa Barbara and the show brought him back here to shoot portions of his story as three matchmakers work to find him the woman he will want to spend the rest of his life with.
Ready For Love shot at Shoreline Park, the Waterfront, The Douglas Preserve, and Downtown and got Santa Barbara on one of the prettiest days last year. We expect that the premier will garner a viewership of somewhere between seven and nine million viewers, all of whom will be seeing Santa Barbara at its best!
So, tune in to watch the series premier, Tuesday, March 26 9/8c on NBC.
In other news, February was a great month for production in Santa Barbara County with four unscripted television series shooting locally, including Auction Hunters and Celebrity Wife Swap and a huge still shoot with Abercrombie and Fitch featuring a crew and cast of a hundred shooting at multiple locations for seven days. Not only did media production spending come to a more than healthy $1,525,000, but media production was responsible for booking 1,089 room nights!
Once again, Santa Barbara County was a preferred destination for reality television production. I’ve said this before, and I’ll say it again; regardless of ones feelings on the “unscripted” phenomenon of reality television, it is good for Santa Barbara County, simply because productions don’t come here trying to find a post-apocalyptic wasteland, or inner city blight, they come for beautiful views and an aspirational lifestyle. November saw production from “The Doctors”, a CBS daytime talk show, which featured Santa Barbara in a story on America’s healthiest cities. The Film Commission worked with the show to develop a great beauty shot list for the story, and I think that it turned out well. You can watch the segment here. In addition to “The Doctors”, we also saw some re-shoots from the Ryan Seacrest produced “Montecito Ballroom”, and the TLC series “Say Yes to the Dress”, which shot at the Santa Barbara Mission.
Currently, we are working with a scout to try and land what would be a significant production from another unscripted show. Fingers crossed that we will be able to share good news soon!
Summer Production Round-Up:
The summer months of June through August, while traditionally a slower time of the year were surprisingly lively. Summer 2012 saw a total direct spend of $1,877,500, a significant increase over the same period last year which came in at $1,560,000! There were twenty-nine productions ranging from our bread and butter still shoots and car commercials to a couple of high profile reality shows; the Eva Longoria produced “Ready for Love” from NBC and the Ryan Seacrest produced “Montecito Ballroom” and an independent action film entitled “Mucho Dinero” starring Casper Van Dien and Danny Trejo. The FC was able to work with both of the reality productions in helping to plan their shot lists in a fashion which will show off the beauty of Santa Barbara County to literally millions of viewers around the country, and we are currently in discussions with the respective production companies to try and generate cross promotional and marketing opportunities.
If you’d like to take a look at the presentation package which helped to land Santa Barbara local Tim Lopez and Santa Barbara itself a spot on this show, please watch the YouTube clip for beauty shots of the Harbor, Cold Springs Tavern, and The Douglas Preserve!
These twenty-nine productions accounted for sixty-four production days and generated 1,276 room nights at County hotels!
In further production related news, Governor Jerry Brown has signed a two year extension of the current California State Film Incentive! This is fantastic news for our film industry and it means that filmmakers can budget for California in hopes of winning the incentives lottery. The Film Commission has already started reaching out to set meetings with high level studio production personnel in order to pitch Santa Barbara County as a great feature production destination!
After a slightly sluggish May, June came in strong with direct production spending of $882,500. This unseasonal bump was primarily due to a couple of deep pocket commercial projects including a three-day, seventy five crew shoot from C-Spire for a cell phone campaign which shot on Figueroa Mountain Road, Foxen Canyon Road, and at the stunning Rancho San Fernando Del Rey out on Paradise Road. As well, I was thrilled to deliver the necessary locations to bring in an Arby’s commercial which shot at a couple of my favorite locations; Demetria Winery and Sunstone Winery, which both were used to stand in for the Italian countryside. We also saw some very solid catalog shoots from Mitsubishi, Vogue, and a couple of reality shows, “Married to the Game” and “Hollywood Exes” dropped in to shoot in our area.
Also on the reality side, I’m jumping ahead into July a bit, but we have a new reality shooting in Santa Barbara which I am extremely excited about! NBC’s new romance show, “Ready for Love”, which is being produced by Eva Longoria, recently wrapped the first segment of a local shoot. The show features three bachelors, and one of them, Tim Lopez, a musician known for his work with the band “Plain White Ts”, is a Santa Barbara local. The Film Commission worked hand in hand with the production to design a shot list which maximizes the use of iconic Santa Barbara imagery and promotes the Santa Barbara brand. Locations included Shoreline Park, the beach, the Harbor, Fess Parker’s DoubleTree Resort, and b-roll shot from the Courthouse tower and the Rose Garden. This is a show which will generate massive PR for Santa Barbara, equal to well over a million dollars in paid ad equivalency as it airs stunning imagery of Santa Barbara as a world class, romantic, travel destination. I look forward to providing updates as the project moves ahead. Check out the great video on Tim Lopez posted on the “Ready for Love” website, and look for the Santa Barbara locations, including Cold Springs Tavern, the Harbor, La Arcada, and Douglas Preserve!
Before we get into the roll call of productions that shot in our area last month, you should know that Santa Barbara recently had another romance based reality show shooting locally. Produced by Eva Longoria for NBC, “Ready for Love”, is a reality show in which three guys and a bunch of women attempt to fall in love. The Film Commission assisted the production company with locations and permitting, and we were glad to see that local rising rock star, Tim Lopez, of the band “Plain White T’s” made the cut. The presentation package on Tim shot some great footage in Santa Barbara, including the waterfront, the beach, Douglas Preserve, and Cold Springs Tavern. Take a look at the Presentation Package on YouTube.
In terms of recent production, it’s a pretty complete list; a teaser for a show about an alien attack, an epic car commercial featuring a hot air balloon and an independent feature film about a boy and his dog. April was a good month for production, with a healthy variety of shoots represented and a total direct spend of $805,000. Noah Wylie, the star of “Falling Skies”, a TNT series about our world being devastated by an alien invasion, and humanity’s attempts to fight back, spent the day shooting at Studio 240. The crew from TNT rapidly used the magic of set dressing to transform the chic photo studio into an industrial, bunker like setting in order to shoot Wylie’s piece, take a look at the accompanying picture!
In addition to the “Falling Skies” teaser, April saw four days of feature production from a small family film entitled “Perfect Present” out of a total of fourteen days shooting in Carpinteria, which wrapped in mid-May. As well, a crew of seventy five from commercial production heavyweight, Anonymous Content, shot multiple locations in the Santa Ynez Valley for Subaru, spending a total of 246 room nights in the area! The Film Commission attended the recent California Film Commission breakfast in Los Angeles in order to network with studio based and independent producers, and subsequently exhibit at the “California Only Locations” tradeshow. Producers got the latest information on efforts to extend and expand the State Tax Incentive from California Film Commissioner Amy Lemisch, and we Film Commissioners had the opportunity to market our jurisdictions to a quality group of executives.
Any time that Santa Barbara County breaks a million dollars in production spending in a month is a good month; so I’m happy to report that March qualifies! With a direct spend of $1,092,500 coming from a diverse variety of productions, we continue to have a healthy spring with more on the horizon. From a major Subaru commercial shoot with extensive helicopter work making the most of our nicely greening, stunning vistas and even the use of a hot air balloon during the production, this crew covered all the bases and spent a total of 150 room nights in Santa Barbara County doing it!
The new reality show, “A Little Bit Country,” starring Jennie Garth, wrapped up shooting its entire season’s schedule in the Santa Ynez Valley, with the project generating over three hundred room nights during the course of the shoot! Garth, a ten season veteran of mega-series “Beverly Hills 90210” moved to Santa Barbara County full time in order to pursue the life of a “rancher” and the cameras weren’t far behind. The series looks to be a down home, light hearted portrayal of a single mom managing a complex balance of ranch and family. The crew primarily shot at Garth’s ranch in Los Olivos, but also filmed family outings, including to beautiful Lake Cachuma. You can check out an advance clip here.
“A Little Bit Country” premiers on Country Music Television on Friday, April 20th, at
9 pm, y’all.
It has been a busy start to the year; let’s hope that we keep up the momentum! First, I’m excited to report that the Film Commission has begun a new data collection effort. We have begun collecting information on local room nights booked by media production, as well as spend on these nights. This helps us to demonstrate to our community and local officials that media production is a meaningful economic and tax revenue generator for our area, and typically when we need it most; midweek and off season! Although numbers aren’t in for February yet, January reported a whopping 978 room nights booked for media production. This is actually pretty close to what I had expected, but it’s great to have it substantiated.
On the production side, I’m pleased to report that the premier episode of the 20th year season of the worldwide hit reality series, “The Amazing Race”, shot their show opening in beautiful Santa Barbara. The season opener launched in Santa Ynez Valley, with cast and host featured riding bikes on picturesque valley roads, aerial shots of gorgeous rolling hills, and vineyards with golden colors. The Film Commission assisted in multiple facets of the production, working closely with the team to insure a smooth process. WRP Productions shot three days over Thanksgiving weekend with 65 crew members and the weather was absolutely stunning; the best of fall season in Santa Barbara County. The show featured about seven minutes of footage shot at Bridlewood winery and in the Santa Ynez Valley and was watched by 9.2 million viewers across the country. With Adweek reporting the average cost of a thirty-second spot on CBS at $113,842, this one production netted a total media impact worth approximately $796,894. This production brought immense and immediate benefit to our region, which we would never be able to pay for. Click here to check out the great footage in the episode.In addition to the great production news, the Film Commission also presented our first “Production Seminar”. The event, held in partnership with the City of Santa Barbara, and sponsored by Fess Parker’s Doubletree Resort, brought together local government personnel, business people, hoteliers, crew, and other local stakeholders to hear presentations by speakers including the California State Film Commissioner Amy Lemisch, 1ST AD Tom Fauntleroy, Producer Kiki Foote, and CHP film liaison, Miguel Luevano. The speakers addressed topics including current statewide trends in production, local trends, permitting, collaborative approaches between jurisdictions and personnel, and obstacles and incentives for production. To cap off the event, Performance Filmworks, one of the top camera car companies in the country brought up a state of the art camera car in order to help educate local personnel on the use of the equipment. Take a look at the fantastic rig that Performance Filmworks brought up to help spread the word and keep filming in California! We got great feedback from attendees and we’d like to extend our heartfelt thanks to everyone who worked hard to make it happen.
I'm happy to report that we ended 2011 with a very encouraging burst of production activity, surpassing the same period last year by 30%. Production spending for the months of November and December equaled a very impressive $2.7 million, with a whopping 135 days of shooting! The catalog companies came back in full force, with campaigns shooting up to two weeks for such companies as Crate & Barrel, Ralph Lauren, Frontgate and others. A very successful reality show also made its way up to Santa Barbara to shoot a portion of their season opener, but we have been sworn to silence, you can expect more news on this one after the air date.
We also had a nice run of commercial production, with NBC shooting an Olympics spot at East Beach, Volkswagen shooting a three-day project in the City of Santa Barbara and in the Santa Ynez Valley, Pict Sweet shooting at a farm in the North County, and Mazda shooting a commercial near beautiful Figueroa Mountain. The Mazda commercial was particularly gratifying as the company needed to fly a helicopter, which typically requires a lengthier permit process, and county personnel were able to cut their turnaround time in half. The scout on the job had this to say about their experience here with our pulling out all the stops to get them what they needed in record time, "We were running out of time, they were ready to pull the plug and head for Canada, if it weren't for your efforts! Thank You for HELPING to keep filming in California!"
That's why we're here!
Production continues to be strong in Santa Barbara County! Although we have gotten off to a slow build this fall, October rallied nicely delivering a total spend of over $1.1 million. The good news in October was the very strong showing from catalog shoots which, at approximately seventy percent of our total media production in any given year, is the bread and butter business that helps keep our hotels filled and our service providers employed. Companies such as Sundance, Toyota, Appleseeds, Magellan, and others brought thirty-two days of stills production to the area and we always welcome their business. Signs for a solid November are good, with multiple crews shooting in town at the moment and more to come.
First, the good news; after compiling the numbers for production activity in Santa Barbara County, I am pleased to be able to report that our fiscal year for 2010-2011 saw a major increase in production spending in Santa Barbara County. The total production spending for this period was $12.8 million, a more than thirty percent increase over the $9.6 million that production companies spent during the same period of last year. In fact, this was our strongest year since 2007.
The Film Commission spent the year servicing incoming productions and actively marketing the area as a production destination. We again partnered with the California Film Commission in a booth for the newly re-conceived AFCI Locations Trade Show, now the “Produced By” conference. Produced By was a mixed success, with a decidedly more valuable group of attendees, but an organizational execution that did not seem to work terribly well for the various Film Commissions that were in attendance. The scheduling of events and subsequent foot traffic flow served the high profile speakers at the sessions admirably, but didn’t do the same for commissions, which needed a little more face time with attendees than the schedule allowed. Hopefully, the AFCI staff has listened to this feedback and will address it next year.
On the Production side, you may have heard that a couple of folks got married in Montecito recently. Yes, the current first family of reality television chose our fair county in which to tie the knot for the Bunim-Murray production “Keeping Up With The Kardashians” and, although they left behind some hard feelings because of some noise and traffic, they also left behind a lot of cash. We are currently reaching out to local businesses to determine how much money was spent in our community for this event, but with an estimate of a thousand room nights at area hotels, we are looking at somewhere in the neighborhood of $2 million, with $240,000 in TOT going directly to City and County government. This doesn’t include money spent in local restaurants and on local services. Beyond this, the wedding will air globally, and the production definitely got Santa Barbara and Montecito “Beauty Shots” which will broadcast fantastic images of our community around the world, in a free PR bump which we could never afford to pay for.
Before we get in to S.B. County’s May performance, I wanted to draw your attention to a newly released report from the LAEDC measuring the performance of the California State Tax Credit. The news is positive, so it’s important that all of us in the industry spread the good tidings on the job creation and economic development which this program has brought to our state. For information on the program’s performance, please click on one of the links to stories in the L.A. Times, Variety, and off the A.P. Wire, below.
Santa Barbara County May Performance
I feel that any month in which Santa Barbara cracks $1 million in production spending is a good month. By that measure, May was a very good month. With direct spend coming in just under $1.3 million, doubling our performance over the same period of last year, Santa Barbara County continues to draw a fantastic array of productions. With some big commercials, a visit from a reality show, some great still projects and a small independent film shooting its entire schedule in Santa Ynez Valley, we continue to grow this business.
Considering how much ground they covered during shooting at multiple County and Santa Barbara City locations, I would not be surprised to hear that you saw the Prius team in action during their recent mixed commercial and still photography Santa Barbara County blitz. The Film Commission assisted the production with local casting efforts in order to find a real family to star in the campaign, and also helped with permits, locations and lodgings on a production which booked 250 room nights. The Prius campaign shot in Santa Ynez Valley, Montecito and Santa Barbara City (pictured here at East beach) and reported a fantastic experience. We also saw a commercial from Celebrex which the Commission assisted by coordinating with the roads department to be certain that key road sides in the valley were not mowed between scouting and shooting. It would not be a good situation to have a scout bring a commercial based on pictures of beautiful tall grass and then have them show up to find the grass gone! Fortunately, the County was responsive and sensitive to the issue and agreed to schedule around the shoot; Celebrex got their stunning backgrounds, and we got $300,000 in production spending. The popular automotive reality show “Top Gear” chose to make a stop in Santa Barbara at the harbor, and, as they have scouted our area a number of times in the past, we hope this may mean a return trip sooner rather than later!
Finally, a small independent film, “A Christmas Tail” starring Santa Ynez resident and Beverly Hills 90210 alum Jenny Garth shot its entire schedule in the Santa Ynez Valley, utilizing locations in Los Olivos, Buellton, Bridlewood Winery, and other unincorporated areas of Santa Barbara County. Although the production was forced to start two weeks earlier than anticipated, the permitting jurisdictions and the FC rallied to be certain they had what they needed with extremely short notice and they were able to complete filming with minimal logistical problems. Until next time, we look forward to helping you with all your production needs!
It may be due to the rebound that economists have been telling us was imminent; it may be due to the extended rains creating a lengthier "green" season for Santa Barbara County; it may be due to our marketing efforts; but whatever the reasons may be, it's always a pleasure to be the bearer of glad tidings! With the numbers in for the first nine months of our fiscal year, running from July 1 to March 31, we have already exceeded the production spending for our entire previous fiscal year. At this point, we have seen a total of $10.2 million in direct spend, in contrast to last year's $9.6 million spend, and we have three months yet to go in our fiscal year. If production activity continues at its current pace, we are looking at outperforming last year by a minimum of 20%!
With everything from a Jeff Bridges Esquire cover shoot at the beloved Wildcat in downtown Santa Barbara to the reintroduction of the Fiat 500 car being shot on Stearns Wharf, and still work from Ralph Lauren, Nissan, Subaru and others, it's shaping up to be a "green" spring in every sense of the word.
The last few months have been solid performers for Santa Barbara County, though not stellar. The second quarter of 2010 saw a slight drop in shoot days over the same period of the previous year. However, the overall direct spend for the period from October through December did rise by 4% for a total direct spend of just over $3.5 million. January has gotten off to a reasonable start, with just over $1.1 million in production.
The good news is that we are seeing an increase in activity in certain key areas, with car commercials increasing by 40% from Q1 to Q2 and web-based scouting up by approximately 10%. As well, the elements have given us a solid level of rainfall, with the water being spread out over a sufficient period of time to keep us green through March and possibly into April. Seasonal fans of Santa Barbara returned in force in December and through January, with crews from Pottery Barn, Target, Frontgate, Magellan and Self Magazine returning for lengthy shoots. In some cases, these still shoots are going over 20 days and are pumping substantial amounts of revenue into our local economy and tax base.
For example, Abercrombie and Fitch recently wrapped a six-day shoot here with famed photographer Bruce Weber behind the camera. The production booked 80 rooms at a local hotel, pumping approximately $125,000 into local lodgings alone, and generating close to $15,000 in tax revenue to the County. We at VSB and Film Commission were pleased to have given them the lead that would turn out to be their anchor location for the shoot, Dos Pueblos Ranch. Here's hoping that we see a "green" Spring!
2010 First Quarter Production Update
I'm very happy to be able to report a positive surge in production not only for the month of October, but for the entire previous quarter. The months of July through September, our first quarter for 2010, saw a large jump in direct spending over the previous year, with a direct spend of just over $2.9 million,double the amount spent during the same period of 2009. October's direct spend was a bit under $1.4 million, for a total of $4.3 million over a four-month period, putting us on track, if the trend should hold, to outperform 2009 by a margin of approximately 40 percent.
The first quarter of the year saw an eight percent increase in shoots and a ten percent increase in days. We had a great variety of production represented this quarter including a major, scripted, network television show, which is both rare and coveted for the impressive spend that it brings to a host community; a music video and reality show featuring a top pop star; an independent feature film which is shooting its entire 25-day schedule here in Santa Barbara County; and a wide assortment of television commercials and still photography campaigns. The heavyweight productions over the last four months certainly include the Warner Brothers television show "Undercovers," produced by J.J. Abrams which shot in Montecito at a Tuscan-style mansion for five days. "Undercovers" employed over 100 locals including extras and crew and utilized a variety of local service providers including catering, equipment rentals and a party rentals company. The production booked almost 400 local room nights mid-week, and we were thrilled to have them here.
In addition to this, we had an independent feature film entitled "Rites of Passage," starring Christian Slater, Stephen Dorf and Wes Bentley, shoot its entire 25-day schedule here in Santa Barbara County! The writer-director of the film, Peter Iliff, is a well-known screenwriter making his directorial debut. Peter is also a UCSB alumnus! Iliff, the writer of such films as "Point Break" and "Varsity Blues," told me that he had always dreamed of returning to Santa Barbara to make a movie. Estimates are that the film employed approximately 30 local crew and spent upwards of $2 million locally. It's rare for Santa Barbara County to get a feature in its entirety, so we are thrilled that Mr. Iliff's dream came true!
Finally, international pop star Katy Perry proved that you can go home again after all! In order to support the release of her new album, the chart-topping "Teenage Dream," Katy came back to Santa Barbara for a hat trick. She shot a new music video for the title track "Teenage Dream" utilizing a variety of fantastic locations around Santa Barbara County, including Highway 1, Goleta Beach and downtown Santa Barbara including the newly renovated Carrillo Street Recreation Center. The music video has been viewed a jaw dropping 33 million times on YouTube. In addition to this, Katy shot a television special for MTV UK called "Hoods" in which celebrities return to their hometowns, and she ultimately wrapped up with a live performance at her old high school, Dos Pueblos, to a very appreciative crowd of students!
Greetings from Santa Barbara County! Now that the summer is officially over, I'm pleased to be able to report that, while the weather may not have been much of an improvement over last year, the level of production activity most certainly was!
The months of July-August saw a whopping 130 percent increase in direct production spending over the previous year! The direct spend for the two months was $2.2 million dollars, for an overall economic impact topping $5 million dollars. We saw a rich variety of production including the normally expected still photography campaigns, but also a major music video and, unusual for Santa Barbara, a high-budget scripted series from a network.
Local rising pop star, Katy Perry, returned home for a media hat trick, including shooting a music video, a UK MTV special, and also performing a live concert at her alma mater, Dos Pueblos High School. The Music Video was shot at a variety of locations around Santa Barbara County including Goleta Beach, Highway One near Lompoc, and also at the newly renovated Carrillo Street Rec Center in the City of Santa Barbara (see attached picture!).
The heavyweight production of the summer was the JJ Abrams-produced television series "Undercovers" from Warner Brothers. The production shot five days in Montecito at a local estate which they were using for Tuscany. During the course of the production, the company paid for over 350 room nights and utilized multiple local vendors for catering, building a stage on set, rentals, and more. They hired numerous locals including local locations services providers, crew, paid out locations fees to a number of landowners, and hired close to a hundred extras! Warner Brothers stated that, as each episode of the show is set in a different foreign location, they are already considering returning to Santa Barbara, and we would certainly love to seem them back!
March 2010Who likes chocolate?
Who likes chocolate covered cake?!
Who likes chocolate covered spinach!!!
If this sounds familiar, then you were probably one of the hundreds of people who showed up at the zoo on Friday to watch the taping of the new Learning Channel/Discovery Network show "Chocolate Wars". The cooking show, along the lines of TLC’s "Cake Off" is the newest offering in a line of successful televised culinary adventures. While there was no chocolate covered spinach served, an audience turned out in strong numbers to take advantage of TLC’s offer of free admission to the zoo and a front row seat for the event.
As TLC describes it, "each week, three top chocolate artists from across the country will compete against each other to create the perfect design for a client’s event ranging from a grand opening to an over-the-top wedding or super-sweet sixteen! These sculptural masterpieces will capture the essence of each event by replicating existing structures, icons and/or objects that reflect precisely what the client is looking for. Chocolate Wars" is currently in production and set to air in early 2010."
Under sunny skies and a tight schedule (producers estimated that the chocolate statue would begin to soften within thirty minutes of being unveiled), the show host and zoo personnel entertained audience members with information about some of the Santa Barbara Zoo’s denizens. After a brief chat about the Zoo’s conservation activities, the celebrity chef and host went to work whipping up the crowd in order to get some great reaction shots for the unveiling of the custom created chocolate statue. The crowd was game, the statue, an elaborate scene with giraffes and other animals, all created with approximately four hundred pounds of chocolate, was unveiled, and a good time, and chocolate, were enjoyed by all.
The Producers from TLC/Discovery were extremely pleased with the shoot. After making the decision to pull up stakes and leave Los Angeles because of the inability of the L.A. Zoo to professionally handle their needs, they said that working with the SB Zoo and the City of Santa Barbara was a dream. How sweet it is!
First a quick bulletin to let everyone know that Hallmark's new original movie, UNCORKED, which was shot in the Santa Ynez Valley at the Foley/Lincourt Winery and stars Julie Benz, premieres Saturday, March 6 (9p.m. ET/PT, 8C)!
I am happy to be able to announce that, after approximately five weeks of shooting in Santa Barbara County and City, the independent film "Son of an Afghan Farmer" has wrapped production. The New York based production was drawn to shoot in Santa Barbara County after remotely reviewing locations photos on our website. It was this scouting tool which convinced the producers of the film that they would be able to get everything they needed here in Santa Barbara County; from a desert like environment which could double for Afghanistan to a middle class community, a "university", restaurant and office exteriors, and everything in between, and they got what they needed.
The Line Producer of the project reported that they had an extremely good shoot, despite the rather heavy rains forcing them to shift their locations schedule on a number of occasions. Locations included Cuyama, the Santa Barbara City College, interiors built in a warehouse in downtown Santa Barbara, the Chapala One Building and an exterior architectural office off of Upper State Street.
The production estimates that it left behind approximately seven hundred thousand dollars in expenditures locally including money spent on housing, catering, rentals, locations fees, and perhaps most importantly on employing local crew. From the first point of contact, approximately five months before the start of principal photography, the Film Commission worked with the producers to find as many local crew positions as possible. Crewing up positions locally benefits both the production and local personnel as it decreased the production’s bottom line by freeing them up from paying lodging and per diem on these positions, and of course it benefits locals by putting them to work! The production reports that it employed over twenty local crew members, who will now have an additional and very helpful feature credit for their resumes.
The newly elected Mayor of Santa Barbara, the honorable Helene Schneider stopped by the downtown location on one of the filming days where she watched a few takes and got the chance to chat with some of our local crew who expressed their hopes that the Mayor would continue to support local filming. We wish the Afghan Farmer team the best of luck on posting their movie and taking it out into the world!
Generally, in the Production Spotlight section of the newsletter, I take a look at recent production and production trends. This time, in addition to a brief update on recent trends, I want to let everyone out there know about a great opportunity to celebrate Santa Barbara County's history as a vibrant and multifaceted production destination; that's right, 2010 is Santa Barbara County's One Hundred Year Anniversary of Film Making! First, the numbers, then you can read more about our amazing centennial.
I'm glad to be able to report that the end of 2009 saw a positive, upward trend in production. For the last quarter of the year, October through December saw an almost 40% increase in activity over the same period in 2008, with direct spend of $3,480,000 as opposed to 2008's $2,460,000. As well, we have seen an increase in scouting from major motion pictures, with movies from Fox and Universal looking at our area on big budget pictures. With an independent movie currently shooting in both the City and the County, and both catalog and commercial work active, the start to 2010 also is looking positive and hopefully that trend will continue.
As mentioned above, this is a special year for Santa Barbara County. A century ago, the Essanay Film Company, based in Chicago but looking for fair weather and western locations, came to Santa Barbara and began producing short films. This company, on the vanguard of film making in California, paved the way for Charlie Chaplin's famed "Flying A Studios" built here in 1912, and for the thousands of short films, hundreds of features and a myriad of additional media production which followed. In order to honor and celebrate our rich heritage as one of the very first production destinations in California, the Santa Barbara County Film Commission has partnered with the Santa Barbara International Film Festival, the Santa Barbara County Arts Commission and the Santa Barbara County Parks Foundation in a variety of events scheduled through 2010 which will continue to highlight Santa Barbara's heritage and value as a production destination.
For the first event, with the help of UCSB film instructor Dana Driskel, the Commission has managed to unearth three silent films which the Essanay Company produced here in Santa Barbara one hundred years ago. These films constitute our first credits and are wonderful cultural and historical artifacts which have not been seen by the public for a century. The three films will be screened during the SBIFF's shorts program and we are thrilled to be able to show them on the big screen. Beyond this kick off, 2010 will see a variety of events along these lines, including a full screening of all three short films with a lecture, an arts installation of the films in the city of Santa Barbara, and a final event to cap the year which will be announced here. I hope that you will continue to watch this newsletter for specifics on the great events that are coming up in 2010, and have a great year!
After what has been a relatively lackluster first fiscal quarter for 2009, production activities in Santa Barbara County have seen a positive and dramatic upswing. In fact, the total direct spend for October was just under 1.5 million dollars, with an economic impact of 3.6 million dollars. This one month has been equal in dollars spent to the entire last quarter and may well be the harbinger of good things to come. We had the second unit from "It’s Complicated" back in town picking up final beauty shots, reportedly for the opening credits of the film. On an "It’s Complicated" side note, VSB is working with Universal to cross promote the film and is participating with a sweepstakes for which the Grand Prize is a trip to Santa Barbara with high quality accommodations and culinary and activities elements. For updated information on this film and partnership, please visit santabarbaraca.com/experience-santa-barbara/film-tourism/its-complicated/
October also saw a variety of productions hitting various areas around the County including a television show, "Maverick and Charlie" shooting at Sanford Winery and at various scenic locations off the 101 and 154, a relatively large scale Hyundai commercial from Radical Media shooting on Foxen Canyon Rd., and a Bridgestone Commercial from MJZ shooting on Jalama Rd. It’s good to see signs of life in the auto advertising sector again, and let’s hope that this carries into out "green" time of the year as has traditionally been the case. In addition to the surge in production, we are seeing the start of a very positive trend in feature scouting, which I have absolutely no doubt is directly attributable to the California Production Tax Credit. This includes "Bulldog Dance", a Catherine Hardwicke (Twilight) directed Fox film scouting local areas for a stunt sequence and the currently untitled Bobby Martinez Project from Participant Productions (The Kite Runner, etc.). While it is still early to report on November activity, we are already seeing a continuation of this trend, with two major features scouting in our area, the titles of which are for the moment under wraps, but one is a one hundred million dollar plus budget, and the other is certainly within that range. The FC will disseminate information on these projects as it becomes available.
Universal Pictures is back in town picking up beauty shots for the formerly untitled Nancy Myers Project starring Meryl Streep, Steve Martin and Alec Baldwin. Now titled "It’s Complicated", the production’s second unit has plans to shoot three days in Santa Barbara, Montecito and Goleta. The production is looking to capture images that could be considered quintessentially "Santa Barbara". Working with a smaller crew of about fifty, they are engaged in aerial photography using a helicopter, are shooting views from the Courthouse tower (photograph above) of our distinctive red tiled roofs, and are grabbing views from the Riviera and architectural details from a variety of spots around town.
It is amazing to see how modern telecommunications and digital technology have impacted the production process. The crew was able to shoot footage and immediately upload it to the L.A. production office, where the director would review the footage and make comments and suggestions which the crew would then carry out. The film, slated for a December 25th release is getting solid, early buzz.
The final days of Summer saw one of our greatest thespians working in the Santa Ynez Valley. The Independent film, "Flying Lessons", directed by Derek Magyar and starring Hal Holbrook, Christine Lahti, Cary Elwes, and Maggie Grace, among others, is moving smoothly through their production schedule with a projected wrap in mid September. The Indie drama depicts the journey of a young woman moving home ten years after high school where she must finally confront the tangled relationships she thought she had left behind. The production, scheduled for approximately 21, days will pump well over half a million dollars into the local economy and is making use of local crew, services, locations and actors.
In addition to "Flying Lessons", August has seen a fascinating variety of production occurring throughout Santa Barbara County. Projects include a number of television productions, including two reality shows; "Wild Things" from Showtime, and "Nitro Circus" from MTV, and a number of still productions as well, such as spreads shot by "Runner’s World", "GQ Magazine", and "Territory Ahead" among others.
In a positive note for the future of this very lucrative business, the long awaited California Tax Credit is now fully operational, and the first twenty five productions to qualify have been announced. The list includes both "studio" films, which qualify for the 20% credit, and "Independent" films, defined as movies budgeted under 10 million dollars with no studio involvement, which qualify for 25% tax credits and, in the case o the Independent films, these tax credits can be sold on the open market. For a list of the first twenty five qualifying films, please click here.
Coming in August, we will see an independent film entitled "Flying Lessons" starring Hal Holbrook, Christine Lahti, and Cary Elwes shooting approximately twenty days in the Santa Ynez Valley and possibly a day in downtown Santa Barbara. "Flying Lessons" is a low budget dramedy about a young woman returning to the small town where she was born and making peace with her mother. This film is actively looking to crew up using local crew and talent. Positions which they are looking to fill include Key Hair, Key Makeup, Key Grip, BB Grip, Dolly Grip, Script Supervisor, Company Grip x 2. BB Electric, Company Electric x 2. Art Dept Day Players, several Pas. Rates are what you would expect for an Ultra low budget show, $250 for keys and 200 for all other G & E. $125 for PAs, etc.
Please email a resume to James Currier at: firstname.lastname@example.org
The month of July saw a diverse variety of productions in both the City and County of Santa Barbara focusing on athletes, ghost hunters, transvestites, and more. We had a good mix of production activities, primarily television and still shoots, spending approximately 600,000 in hard dollars in our area. Red Varden Studios was at two locations in North County including the Union Hotel and the Holly Sugar Plant and also here at the Santa Barbara County Courthouse downtown, where they used the 1920s era, now decommissioned Santa Barbara County Jail in order to shoot their ghost hunting reality show, "The Othersiders". As well, we had a visit from a group of Transvestites on a show called "Wild Things". Additional productions in July included still shoots for "Runners World", "Self Magazine", and "The Territory Ahead". The Film Commission is currently in discussions with another low budget feature which is scouting Santa Barbara County for a shoot that could go thirty days or more.
What if I told you there was a secret organization here in Santa Barbara dedicated to training ordinary citizens in the latest technical skills required to succeed in the world of production? What if I told you that they not only had multiple stages, green screen, edit bays and camera and sound recording equipment available for you to borrow? And, what if I told you it wasn't even secret? Would you believe it?
I hope so—because this isn't the sort of thing we joke about and access to gear and training in a field as competitive as ours is no laughing matter. If you don't already know about Santa Barbara Channels and their exciting move to a new and impressively outfitted production and post production facility, you should. Santa Barbara Channels, founded in January of 2003, operates Public Access (Channel 17) and Educational Access (Channel 21) channels authorized by the Federal Communications Act. SB Channels' function is "to provide citizens with access to television and other electronic media resources in order to facilitate public dialogue, free speech and participatory democracy; foster local creativity, education and culture; and reflect our diverse community." SB Channels does this by offering classes and training in Camera Operation, Safety, Lighting, and some basic post production skills.
The facility offers two studios. Studio A includes 4 Sony BRZ700 HD PTZ Studio Cameras on Libec Pedestals or Jib, DMX Controlled LED Lighting Grid (requires DMX certification), 16 Channel Balanced Audio with Sony Digital Wireless Lavaliere Microphones, VideoToaster based Switcher, CG and SFX Generator, Optional Camera 5 (requires Field Certified Operator) and Green Room. Studio B is a similarly outfitted facility, though smaller and less extensive. As well, for those who have undergone the necessary training, Santa Barbara Channels offers a variety of field packages including such cameras as the Sony HD 1000, the JVCDV500, and a portable studio. Finally, the SB Channels facility includes an Apple G5 Edit Bay!
In addition to offering classes and equipment to community members, Santa Barbara Channels also rents out its facilities to non member individuals and companies engaged in production and post production. This rental activity includes the studios, equipment, and staff time, if necessary, to aid in prep and production. For more information on booking studios or signing up for classes check out the website at http://www.sbchannels.tv/
When people ask why it is important that they obtain film permits before engaging in filming activity, there are a few compelling reasons that I like to share with them primarily having to do with liability and public safety. It would be a bad day all around if someone were to film on public land controlled by the City and County of Santa Barbara and have an accident. Conceivably, the City or the County could be liable for damages in such a case, so a permit is a way for these jurisdictions to confirm that productions carry appropriate insurance that will protect everyone involved should something go amiss.
Another compelling reason is in the arena of public safety. The classic story that I tell is that of a student film which was being filmed at a convenience store. The plot centered around the robbery of the store, which the filmmakers shot guerrilla style, with prop guns! As a result, the police were called in and responded to what they believed was an armed robbery! Fortunately, everything worked out without anyone getting hurt, but the potential was clearly there and I always point to this as a great example of the importance of being fully permitted with all of the appropriate notifications going out to agencies such as police and fire. Sometime, perhaps I will share the story about the call I got from a student filmmaker looking to procure a live tiger!
There were no tigers in the month of May, though we did have Britney Spears shooting a music video for a new song at a private polo field here in Santa Barbara County. The shoot went well, with Brit in polo wear (as a spectator rather than a polo player) and the County saw a nice bump from the 60 person crew and a fairly impressive production spend of 240,000. We also saw another independent feature film out in the valley. "Leonie", a Japanese project, brought up a crew of 70 for four days in the Santa Ynez Valley. They stayed at the very film friendly Hadston House, where they had a great experience; the folks at Hadsten House were also glad to see a substantial chunk of business come in during a typically slower Monday to Thursday. In addition to these higher profile projects, we also had a feature starring Kenny Loggins picking up shots out on Figueroa Mountain Road, a BBC documentary, and a BMW documentary shot at the Santa Barbara Polo Fields and other locations around Santa Barbara; all in all a solid month!
It's no surprise that crew members often refer to a film production as a "circus" or "the show." Santa Barbara and Montecito residents got a first hand look at the reason why these terms have stuck. With two hundred crew members and cast rolling in to town in mid April, including a convoy of forty production vehicles containing enough equipment to build a small city, and film it, it seemed as if the only thing missing was the elephants.
A Christmas lot in April, a temporary farmers' market built in front of the iconic backdrop architecture of the Santa Barbara County Courthouse, and the brief resurrection of the Wine Cask for an afternoon of filming were all signs that a major movie was in town. Santa Barbara residents put their best foot forward in welcoming to town the Unititled Nancy Myers Project starring Meryl Streep, Steve Martin, and Alec Baldwin. Residents blithely handled the minor detours around one block of De la Guerra street, and one block of Anapamu street and responded with enthusiasm at the presence of a major film project downtown.
One of the business owners most likely to be affected, Michelle Hurst of Elements Restaurant had a ringside view of the action as the crew filmed Meryl Streep literally steps away from her outdoor eating area. The News Press quoted her as expressing her support for more of this sort of activity in Santa Barbara, "Santa Barbara's such a beautiful place, people like to come here and check it out, so why not share?" She went on to note that "It doesn't seem like there were any traffic jams or anything. People seem to like it." In fact, the Santa Barbara Independent ran an online poll to gauge the community reaction to the filming and found that an overwhelming 81% of respondents were in favor of the filming, with over 70% citing the positive economic impact. Only 4% of respondents felt that the filming created a degree of "hassle" for the community.
Plenty of advance planning on the part of the production, with the help of the City of Santa Barbara, the County of Santa Barbara, and the Santa Barbara County Film Commission helped to insure that there would be no major headaches, minimal negative impact on the local community and a smooth shoot for the production. In a final gesture, the production donated a huge quantity of fresh foods which had been purchased to dress the Farmer's Market scene to a local homeless shelter.
With the production now behind us, the Film Commission is entering into a partnership with Universal's marketing and partnership division to help market the film around some of the themes specific to our region, that is the "brand" of Santa Barbara itself; the culinary scene and culinary tourism, and the notion of the romantic getaway. The opening of the still untitled film is slated for December 25th, and we will be working hard to maximize the free media and marketing that we will derive from Universal's efforts to spread the word about the movie.
Spring is in the air, the wildflowers are blooming all over Santa Barbara County, Mt. Figueroa is guarding its yearly treasure of acres of Golden Poppies and Purple Lupine, and the car companies are scurrying out to scout winding roads with backdrops of rolling hills. Interestingly, perhaps depressingly, almost all of the car companies which have most recently scouted or shot in Santa Barbara have been Japanese, perhaps an indicator of the U.S. car companies paring back their advertising campaigns. Still, we welcome their business.
April also sees the run up to the much discussed Universal Pictures project starring Meryl Streep, Steve Martin, and Alec Baldwin. In fact, in addition to the Santa Barbara locals who have been hired on to the project as local crew, Universal held an open casting call for aspiring thespians at the Fess Parker Doubletree Resort. The Film Commission helped to get the word out on this one, and the casting director was thrilled to see close to two hundred people turn out for a brief lecture on the realities of working as an extra on a major motion picture, including low pay, craft services, and a chance to sell broccoli to Meryl Streep. Don't be surprised to see rows of trucks parked on certain streets in the downtown area, but please try and be patient, they will only be shooting here for three days, so we want to try and put our best foot forward.
On the horizon, it still looks as if it will be a while before we pull out of the production slump which has been plaguing Santa Barbara and the state of California as a whole. The California Film Commission expects to start taking applications for the new tax credit in July, so the earliest we could expect to see an increase in production would probably be the following Spring. As well, production on the whole has slowed to a crawl with the deadlock between SAG and AMPAS, resulting in what many are calling a De Facto strike. One wonders how long things can continue in their present state but one thing is certain; the only constant is change. Here's hoping we'll see a change for the better.
After literally years of activism and lobbying by individuals representing the 250,000 entertainment industry workers in California, the California legislature has passed a targeted $500 million tax credit to be applied to in state production over a period of five years. This is a big win for all of us, and should help to boost production in Santa Barbara County once the program is open for business in July of 2009. Here are the relevant details and the announcement from the California Film Commission:
"Early this morning, the California legislature passed a tax credit for film and television productions that film at least 75% of their shooting days in California, as part of the state budget bill. The program is funded for five years at $100 million per year beginning in fiscal year July 2009/10 through the 2013/14 fiscal year. (However, credits may not be utilized until tax years beginning in January 2011.)
The Production Incentive Program is geared towards feature films with budgets between $1 million and $75 million, TV series that relocate to California, and TV series produced for basic cable. Eligible productions may receive tax credits equal to 20% of qualifying expenditures or 25% for independent films (with budgets under $10 million) and TV series that relocate to California. Only below-the-line expenditures qualify. Enormous thanks goes out to a broad coalition of entertainment industry groups who worked tirelessly on this effort for many years. Those groups include: DGA, IATSE, AFTRA, SAG, Teamsters, MPAA, IFTA, Hollywood Post Alliance, PGA and countless film workers, producers, support businesses, the CFC board, and others too numerous to mention.
Over the next few months, CFC Director Amy Lemisch will be working on drafting program regulations and application procedures."
Good job everyone, and let’s hope this is the start of the production pendulum swinging back our way!
On the local front, I can share some more details on the recent film that shot out in Santa Ynez. The picture, entitled "Uncorked", is a fun little wine story being produced by Larry Levinson Productions. The name of the company may sound familiar to some readers, it should, as this is their third film in Santa Ynez in the last year! The production shot five days exclusively at the very picturesque Lincourt Winery out on Alamo Pintado Road and, according to a representative of the winery, the production company was fantastic to deal with, very professional and respectful of the property and community. Uncorked stars Julie Benz and other as yet unnamed cast. Ms. Benz has appeared in numerous feature films and television productions most recently including the surprise hit reboot of Rambo.
Finally, The FC is in communication with the production office of the upcoming Universal/Nancy Myers Project slated to shoot in SB and Montecito in Mid April and we will be doing everything possible to find local crew and actor hire possibilities, so please be on the lookout for special bulletins on this topic.
Before getting in to the normal production update which we include in this newsletter, it’s worth taking a moment to recap on the phenomenal Film Festival which, yet again, Roger Durling and the rest of the staff have pulled off at an impressive level. The Santa Barbara International Film Festival continues to amaze. With a variety and multitude of films that could satisfy even the most dedicated cinephile, events honoring and celebrating some of the most talented people in the business, and a series of social events that brought together artists and film lovers, the SBIFF has become, in my opinion, one of the top festivals in the U.S., if not the world.
This year was particularly gratifying for the Film Commission as we were able to forge a meaningful partnership with the Festival through which we were both able to provide a measure of support to the festival, and also leverage the festival as a forum in which to pitch Santa Barbara County as a great production destination. Our promotional activities during the festival were far reaching. We finished up our fantastic new promotional DVD featuring a two minute reel of commercials and features filmed in our County, as well as a representative slideshow of locations, and distributed it to over three hundred filmmakers. As well, we hosted multiple events with "A" list personnel where we distributed our promotional materials and had one on one discussions with producers, writers, and actors in order to put Santa Barbara at the top of their list. Those people included the producers and writers of such films as of "Dark Knight," "Slumdog Millionaire," "Rachel Getting Married," Milk" and others. The ability to reach this level of personnel with our message was of vital importance, and we thank Roger and the SBIFF for making this partnership possible.
On the production side, we do have some important activity in the County. However, it is clear that, just as it is in many business sectors in the U.S., Hollywood is going through a trying time. The news from Hollywood is conflicted; we just had a record breaking January Box Office, so one would think the town would be celebrating. However, one of the primary sources of revenue, DVD sales is taking a beating, "Fourth-quarter shipments fell 32 percent in the U.S. and Canada to 453.6 million DVDs, according to Los Angeles-based Digital Entertainment Group. The drop is the biggest since the industry-funded researcher started keeping track in 1997." As well, DVD revenue has been key to funding independent and non "tentpole" studio films. With that revenue decreasing, we can expect to see continued declines in production.
However, not all the news is bad! We have had a surprisingly strong January, doing just under 1.7 million dollars in production, with an economic ripple down of 4.25 million dollars! As we face difficult times in our County, business with this sort of impact becomes that much more important. On the horizon, we have one feature film shooting currently out in Santa Ynez, and will be able to provide a more complete report on that next month. Also we have a significant film coming in April. Universal pictures will be shooting in downtown Santa Barbara in mid-April for a film starring Meryl Streep, Steve Martin, and Alec Baldwin. The movie will be helmed by writer-director, Nancy Myers, who has written and or directed such favorites as "Private Benjamin," "Something’s Gotta Give" and most recently "The Holiday". The story is actually set in Santa Barbara and this should be a major PR bump for the city. The FC has been working hard with Universal over the past three months to provide logistical support and I am happy to report that, as a direct result of our efforts, the film will shoot a major scene featuring the Santa Barbara County Sunken Gardens. Until next time!
Restoration Hardware and Pottery Barn Come to Santa Barbara County!
Generally, when people think about a Film Commission's activities, they think about feature films. This isn't surprising, particularly in a county like Santa Barbara, which can boast of a hundred years of feature film production. Many memorable films have been shot here in Santa Barbara County, even a few classics, yet most people would probably be surprised to find that the bulk of the money spent in Santa Barbara County by production companies is not related to feature films. In fact, the overwhelming majority of production dollars comes our way from companies shooting television and print ads for a wide variety of companies and organizations ranging from Mercedes to Campbell's Soup, even the United States Army.
Also surprising for many folks is the fact that a large television commercial can spend the same amount of money per day as a major feature film, up to two hundred thousand dollars in a twenty four hour period or more. Large scale print ads can easily spend upwards of thirty to forty thousand dollars. Together, filmed commercials and still shoots account for approximately seventy percent of production spending in Santa Barbara in any given year, equaling a multimillion dollar countywide business.
While it may not be quite as buzz worthy as a studio picture with A list actors, this is an element of the business that continues to pump dollars into our local economy. Knowing this, it was exciting to see two major retailers come to town for new still campaigns. November saw both Restoration Hardware and Pottery Barn shooting still campaigns for seven and twenty days, respectively. The combined direct spend in the county for these two companies is approximately four hundred and five thousand dollars and the Economic impact on the County is equal to more than one million dollars!
Momma's Boys Takes First Place!Love it, hate it, or ignore it, the two hour premier of Momma's Boys took first place in its time slot, attracting six million viewers. Though it may not be a great advertisement for dating, or mothers, the show consistently delivers phenomenal, picture postcard imagery of Santa Barbara's beautiful beaches, homes, and culinary and outdoor activities, all while Americans are digging themselves out of the snow and dreaming of vacationing somewhere sunny!
Extreme Makeover: Home Edition
Those who say that dreams can’t come true, at least for a little while, might want to consider the McCully family. The Bigelow, Arkansas family has had their share of difficulties yet they have managed to not only stay strong in the face of adversity but to give back to other who also find themselves in need. Though their son, Job, has faced an almost inconceivable medical condition, leukemia, and had to undergo a double lung transplant, the family serves the community through their church, where Tina McCully has spearheaded support groups for young married couples and addicts. They have been a strong family, yet were in need.
Imagine the McCully’s surprise when they learned they had been chosen to appear on and benefit from the award-winning ABC-TV show "Extreme Makeover: Home Edition." The McCully’s home was dilapidated and in need of far more repair than their means would allow. In addition, the home was found to contain a mold which was extremely dangerous to Job, whose fragile immune system would be hard pressed to contend with any infection. "Extreme Makeover: Home Edition" took on the task of completely rebuilding and redesigning the home and their challenge was to do it in only seven days.
This is where Santa Barbara comes in! With the McCully’s out of the house for a week, the Santa Barbara community, led by Fess Parker’s Doubletree Hotel, hosted the family for a seven day vacation, portions of which were filmed by "EMHE" for broadcast as part of the McCully episode. The family was warmly welcomed by the Doubletree staff and enjoyed activities and meals provided by top local businesses such as "The Endless Summer Bar and Café," and enjoyed a ride on the Santa Barbara Trolley and whale watching in the Santa Barbara Channel. The family then returned home from Santa Barbara where they were stunned by the complete transformation of their home. It’s always great to see the direct production spending associated with filmed production positively impacting our local businesses and economy. In this case, it’s an added bonus to see our community again represented in such a positive and attractive fashion.
Angie Dickinson Comes To Santa Ynez
The Santa Ynez Valley is quickly becoming a location of choice for one of the most prolific cable movie suppliers in the business, and we’re always happy to see them return. Larry Levinson Productions, an independent production company responsible for over one hundred Television and Cable Movies, has recently wrapped production on a new film entitled "The View From Here," with key principal photography in and around Santa Ynez.
The Hallmark Channel film, starring Angie Dickinson, is about "an investigative reporter who travels back to her childhood town to take care of her sick mother and, while there, reunites with her high school love and uncovers a local scandal." This film comes very close on the heels of the last Larry Levinson film to be shot in the Santa Ynez Valley, "Generation Gap", which wrapped last April and aired on Hallmark on October 25th.
The Film Commission facilitated the crew’s stay at the Santa Ynez Valley Marriott which, because of their understanding of the particular needs of film crews, has developed a sterling reputation as a film crew friendly hotel. The film’s Production Coordinator, Lina Wong, commented that "The hotel was absolutely fantastic. They went out of their way to make us feel comfortable and to provide for our needs." As well, the hotel was happy to supply the approximately sixty rooms during an off season time of year on a Sunday to Friday schedule when hotels love to see big room blocks booked. Conservative estimates for the six day shoot put the direct spend in the local economy at approximately two hundred thousand dollars. While the film is tentatively slated for a 2009 air date, Hallmark has not yet released any specifics.
In addition to the economic benefit to the local community, local folks took advantage of the production’s call for extras to be filmed at local western bar landmark, "Maverick’s". A good number of people showed up in Western wear to participate as background during one of the scenes and, by all accounts, had a good experience. Larry Levinson Productions has always treated local businesses and residents well and we are happy to welcome them back whenever they need us. In fact, nothing is set in stone yet, but the Film Commission has already begun discussions with LLP to bring them back in 2009 for a new film on their slate which would be a perfect fit for the area. I hope to have good news on this and other upcoming development soon.
October 2008 - Momma's Boys
You may have seen them squiring a group of women around Santa Barbara, cruising the harbor in a shiny new powerboat, cycling from winery to winery in the Santa Ynez Valley, or enjoying themselves on a date at one of our best restaurants. If you did, you probably noticed that their every move was captured by a camera crew and if this seems odd, you should also take into account that they were also under the watchful eyes of their own mothers.
That’s right, while the guys were looking for "the one," their moms were along for the ride to make sure their sons didn’t end up with the wrong girl, which makes those good looking young guys out on the town both the inspiration and the subjects of NBC’s new reality show, "Momma’s Boys".
Currently slated to air Tuesday, December 16th, at 9:00 p.m., on NBC, the upcoming series was Produced by Ryan Seacrest and Glassman Media set at a 30 million dollar Santa Barbara area estate and shot throughout Santa Barbara County over a twenty six day period in a whirlwind of activity. Seacrest doesn’t do anything halfway and this production reflects his "only the best" approach as the production dumped an estimated 1.5 million dollars into the local economy in its quest to, in the words of Producer Andrew Glassman, "Make sure to show Santa Barbara County to be one of the most desirable destinations in the world." He went on to note that he wanted every activity, every location, and every restaurant featured in the show "To be the best of the best."
The contestants dated their way through Santa Barbara County’s premier romantic destinations where area wineries, restaurants, beaches and attractions set the stage for the make-or-break interactions between the bachelorettes, bachelors, and their mothers. From cooking challenges, biking, kayaking, and even some Mixed Martial Arts, the production’s twenty six days in Santa Barbara County went so well that NBC has already begun to cast for a second season.
In addition to a significant amount of direct spending on area locations, services, and local hires, "Momma’s Boys" is expected to perform at the same level as Glassman’s recent hit NBC reality series, "Average Joe," which peaked at twenty two million viewers. This is a promising publicity opportunity for the County which the Film Commission worked hard to maximize, acting energetically from the start to facilitate NBC’s search for unique, high end experiences that would come across well to their television audience and further enhance Santa Barbara County’s reputation as a world class destination for both tourism and filmed entertainment.
For more information, please visit: www.nbc.com/Mommas_Boys
September 2008 - The Brother's Warner
After what could be considered the journey of a lifetime, local resident Cass Warner, the granddaughter of Harry Warner, one of the four brothers who founded the legendary Warner Brothers Studios, has cast a new light on her family's history. Her recently completed documentary, "The Brothers Warner" is an intimate portrait of a band of brothers that built an empire on a dream and revolutionized Hollywood. In Cass' words, "They did this with no education, a lot of chutzpah and the belief that if they were told they couldn't do something, they knew they were on the right track."
The story of the four Warner brothers is a classic immigrant tale. From opening their first storefront theater by hanging a sheet on the wall and borrowing chairs from a local funeral parlor to their willingness to embrace innovation when they became the first movie studio to release a "talkie", they were always ready to take a chance. This willingness to take risks served them well, as in the case of Al Jolson's "The Jazz Singer", the aforementioned talkie which was famously declared a "failed experiment" by Irving Thalberg on opening night and went on to become one of the top grossing films of all time.
Their legendary scrappy rise from nothing, their overcoming of personal tragedies, and their battles are all woven together by Cass' narration as well as family home movies and photos, news footage, and archival footage from the Warner vaults. This close-knit band of brothers proved in their pioneering efforts to be the first to use film to "educate, entertain and enlighten". (The original company motto.) Their films were often produced from stories ripped from news headlines and it was Harry's belief that, "Those who make a nation's entertainment have obligations above and beyond their primary commercial objective, which is the box office."
The development of "The Brothers Warner" has been literally a thirty-year process beginning with Cass' book formerly known as "Hollywood Be Thy Name: The Warner Brothers Story" now titled "The Brothers Warner." It's the completion of a promise made to herself and her grandfather Harry, to tell this inspirational tale. Shortly after Cass completed the documentary, it was acquired for domestic television broadcast to be aired as a one-hour by American Masters—a PBS series. "The Brothers Warner" is scheduled to begin airing on PBS via KCET at 9:00 p.m., on September 29th.
Warner Sisters, Cass' production company is proud to have this as its first presentation. For more information, please visit: http://www.warnersisters.com/
August 2008 - Generation Gap
Residents of Los Olivos woke up one morning recently to find that their town had been transformed into a studio backlot. Fortunately, folks in the Santa Ynez Valley are more than film savvy and easily adjusted to the presence of the film crew from The Hallmark Channel as they completed photography on the Larry Levinson produced MOW, "Generation Gap."
I had the opportunity to check in with Hallmark’s Production Coordinator, Lina Wong, to see how the shoot went. She reported that it was a great experience and that the community itself was one of the best elements of the production. Ms. Wong went on to say that "The town was great! The people were so welcoming, from the neighborhoods to the hotels." She wanted to take special note of one person in particular, Judith Hale, who serves as the Los Olivos Film Liaison. "Judith really helped us out, she was an incredible resource in the community," said Ms. Wong.
While it would have been possible for the company to shoot "Generation Gap" closer to Los Angeles, thereby streamlining the production process, it was worth it for them to travel to the Santa Ynez Valley to film the story of a World War II veteran, played by noted actor, Ed Asner. Ms. Wong explained "We were looking for that small town feeling, yet we loved the fact that it felt so alive. The Ed Asner character is someone who raises the American flag every day for the VFW so, when we saw the flagpole in the middle of the street, that was it, it was almost like that moment in the script had been written for Los Olivos."
This isn’t the first time Larry Levinson Productions has shot in the Santa Ynez Valley. They were on location in Solvang, Buellton, and Los Alamos for the 2006 MOW, "Where There’s a Will". Clearly, when it comes to delivering quality locations, the Santa Ynez Valley and Santa Barbara County in general prove time and time again that it’s worth it for filmmakers to make the trip north.