A few weeks ago my wife and I were in Pacific Palisades having dinner. What caught our eye (and my camera) were what at first glance looked like city workers making some street sign improvements.
We quickly realized that this was a crew from a Hollywood studio getting the street ready for a movie shoot.
A city block in Pacific Palisades (which is a community here in Los Angeles) was being transformed to look like the city of Santa Barbara, located 100 miles from LA.
Big trucks from Universal were everywhere.
Sunset Blvd. was transformed into "De La Vina St." - with Santa Barbara's distinctive street signs font and color.
Lights, wiring and equipment on the sidewalk. I found out from a security guard that filming would start "sometime after dark."
Part of the crew from Universal covering over all the signs at street level and replacing them with wording that would look more "Santa Barbara."
The U.S. Post Office was transformed to "Montecito" (an area in Santa Barbara). Many other stores got similar treatment.
What was just as amazing was the huge number of trucks along Temescal Canyon and in the Temescal Canyon parking lot just a couple of blocks from where the filming would occur.
I talked to someone working there -- he guessed about 150-200 people were working on this one scene, that was going to filmed later that night. I kept asking myself: "How much does something like this cost?"
I found out later the film is titled "It's Complicated" - directed by Nancy Myers.
Back in the business district, my wife and I noticed that even the "walk button" signs were replaced to look like those in Santa Barbara.
OK, who is going to see "Santa Barbara Municipal Code 10.06.01" on film? The attention to detail was incredible.
More detail work. No mission, museum, or botanic gardens in the Palisades (too bad). This is actually Sunset Blvd. looking south.
Below is my wife Molly next to a faux "Mason Street" street sign. Two weeks after this, I was up at UC Santa Barbara and drove through the downtown Santa Barbara. Guess what I found?
The real Mason Street! Compare the two signs. They even have the same address number (900).
Hey, here's the real Yanonali Street, too! Again, the same block number (900) as the prop used in the Palisades. The real De La Vina Street is below.
According to a friend from my church who works at Sony, there is a 30 mile filming radius from the intersection of 3rd & La Brea (in Los Angeles - right next to Famer's Market and The Grove). There are union contracts that making filming anything outside of that 30 mile radius significantly more expensive. So that's why studios film so many of their "on location" sites in Los Angeles.
Apparently it was much cheaper for Universal to turn a block of Sunset Blvd. into a Santa Barbara look alike. Fascinating, really.
I continue to be impressed at the skill, creativity, and craftsmanship that those working for the six big Hollywood Studios put into their work. In that sense, it's really an incredible and unique industry.
As a Christian, it's a challenge to me when I'm tempted to be "sloppy" in my own work. As I've commented before I hope I would put much greater energy towards things that have a lasting and eternal value.
The Los Angeles Film Permit Office use to provide a daily list of every movie, TV show, commercial being filmed on the streets of L.A. that day. According to this link: http://www.seeing-stars.com/Tapings/PermitOffice.shtml there are upwards of one hundred different "on locations" productions going all over the city in a single day. Of course, most are not as elaborate as what we saw in Pacific Palisades.
Apparently, this list is no longer available to the general public, but you CAN still find a pretty stellar list at this website: On Location Vacations. And, unlike the old L.A. Film Permit Office, On Location Vacations actually has filming locations a week or more in advance.