Speaking with Evan Thomason, Economic Development Associate of the Santa Clarita Film Office
Santa Clarita has always been a household name to the citizens of California, but with the recent release of Netflix’s horror-comedy, Santa Clarita Diet, the city is now enjoying a state of worldwide recognition. TLG contacted Evan Thomason of the Santa Clarita Film Office to detail the experience of hosting the Netflix series, and how Santa Clarita fares as a production hub in its own right.
What location types can Santa Clarita offer?
In regards to facilities, Santa Clarita has over 20 sound stages with hundreds of thousands of square feet of space and 10 movie ranches with distinctive looks ranging from the old west, to the Middle East and military bases. In terms of locations, Santa Clarita has just about everything from urban settings, suburban neighbourhoods and old ranch style properties on a lot of land.
Santa Clarita is the third largest City in Los Angeles County so we have all manner of parks and facilities such as an aquatic centre and skate park. There’s an amusement park, business parks, three colleges, hiking and biking trails and very unique neighbourhoods in the 40 square miles of the city. The City of Santa Clarita is also surrounded by three mountain ranges and owns thousands of acres of open space that can be used for desert, wilderness and mountainous looks.
What has Santa Clarita doubled for in the past?
Through the years Santa Clarita has doubled as just about everywhere including ‘Anywhere America’, Nevada, New Mexico, Washington DC, New York and even Italy. The wonderful thing for locally based productions is they can leave their sound stages and in 15 or 20 minutes, arrive for a location shoot that doubles as any one of these locations.
How has Santa Clarita's production industry changed since the Californian incentive fund was increased?
The California Film Incentive Programme (FIP) has been wildly successful so far. The whole state has seen production return in large numbers. In Santa Clarita we’ve had many productions film here that were a result of the programme. Most recently, these include HBO’s Ballers and Oprah Winfrey’s A Wrinkle in Time. The FIP has brought thousands of jobs back into California and poured millions into the economy.
When we attend industry events as a Film Office, you can tell there’s a buzz that was missing when productions were fleeing California in search of incentives. I saw a story that showed the first fiscal year of the 2.0 version of the FIP as having generated USD1.5 billion in in-state spending. Santa Clarita has seen about 25% of qualifying productions either based here, or film something here. We are seeing first-hand that it is bringing jobs and productions back to the state and the overall reaction in the industry here is downright jubilant.
Santa Clarita Diet has provided quite a profile boost for the area. Can you talk about the production, the local services used and what it brought to Santa Clarita?
The production was based at one of our sound stages here, Santa Clarita Studios, and they had several locations, including their ‘hero house’, that were filmed in Santa Clarita as well. This was of great financial benefit, not only to the businesses, homes and studios they utilised, but also to supporting businesses like building suppliers, catering companies and rental companies.
It’s a great example of a locally based production being able to find just about every location they need within minutes of their sound stages, making filming efficient and affordable and in turn benefitting the local economy by bringing outside wealth into the community. It’s a win-win situation and a prime example of why our city leadership is so supportive of filming.
What other major productions have shot in the area recently?
In just the last year we have had NCIS, Ballers, Westworld, Brooklyn Nine-Nine and Veep, amongst others. We’ve also hosted music videos by Katy Perry, Lady Gaga and Metallica, alongside commercials by Audi, Samsung and Toyota.
It’s been a very busy year. We issued over 500 permits for location filming along in 2016 and we’re heading strong into 2017.
How popular is film tourism in Santa Clarita?
It’s pretty popular. The secret is out that we’re a sought after filming destination. There are many areas, especially in our Old Town district, that are recognisable for fans of certain shows like NCIS, Justified and Sons of Anarchy for example. Vasquez Rocks, which is outside our City limits but in the Santa Clarita Valley, draws a lot of tourists as well. It’s a very recognisable backdrop that has been used in everything from The Flintstones to Star Trek.
We even created a smart device app that highlights areas in our Old Town Newhall area that were used in film and television productions. The Newhall Walking Tour app has been popular for visitors exploring the area on foot.
What does the future hold for Santa Clarita's production industry?
We have multiple studios and movie ranches that are working on expansion plans right now to keep up with demand and diversify what they can offer to productions. It’s becoming common to have multiple productions working at the same movie ranches these days which is exciting.
Disney has also gone through the approval process to expand their Golden Oak Ranch with the Disney/ABC Studios at the Ranch project. The 58 acre project will add six sound stages and other production related facilities to the property. This project can bring many jobs into the area, allowing support for a high-profile production. We don’t have a time frame for construction, but when this project is built it will be big for production, not only in Santa Clarita and Los Angeles, but for the State of California as well.
Evan, thank you for your time
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Global Filming Incentive - United States of America (see more…)
- Kansas City Rebate Incentive
- Virginia Motion Picture Tax Credit
- Wyoming: Film Industry Financial Incentive (FIFI) Program
- West Virginia Film Industry Investment Act
- Washington DC: Rebates
- The Washington Motion Picture Competitiveness Programme
- Virginia: The Governor’s Motion Picture Opportunity Fund
- Vermont: no formal incentive in place.
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