Total Pageviews

Saturday, April 18, 2009

"Staring Santa Barbara" (as played by Pacific Palisades)

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: 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. 


Sunday, April 12, 2009

Easter at the Hollywood Bowl

Easter Sunday my wife and kids and I joined friends at the huge city-wide Easter Service sponsored by Bel Air Presbyterian Church.

Parking was free, but we decided to park on Cahuenga (pronouced Co-wang-a) a few blocks away to avoid the "stacked parking" in the lots around the Bowl.

Walking towards the Bowl, a large white cross nearby was visible. This cross was erected as part of the original "sunrise service" held at the Hollywood Bowl every year since 1921. I've thought it would be neat to bring my kids out for the sunrise service, but there was no way getting them up and there by 5:30am was going to happen.

Last year Bel Air Presbyterian Church began holding their Easter service at 11am - honestly, a lot more do-able for families with younger kids.

Walking up Highland: this annual event apparently attracts 10,000 people.

The entrance to the Hollywood Bowl with the Easter Cross on the hill above it.

If you've never been to the Hollywood Bowl - this is a great (and free) way to see and experience it. While still a large crowd, it's much more manageable than a concert in the summer.

If you've never been to a church service, or haven't been in years, this is an outstanding place to connect, or re-connect, with what Christianity is all about.

Everyone was given a program with the words to the songs and the order of the service.

Bel Air Presbyterian Church's mission statement is "Making Los Angeles the greatest city for Christ." Wow, really visionary.

The cover to the program.

The Easter Service was very moving, very emotional. The music was outstanding - focusing on the historical reality of the resurrection of Jesus Christ.

The church choir, the live orchestra, and the contemporary band ... all volunteers, yet really helping focus our attention on Jesus Christ and the hope of the resurrection.

Pastor Mark Brewer delivered an outstanding message. Relevant, thoughtful, challenging. I'm looking forward to downloading it off their church's website to listen again.

The service was a real cross section of Los Angeles: singles and suburban families, kids and seniors, those in coat and tie next to those wearing shorts and sandals, aspiring actors from Hollywood next to executives from Century City. Sitting next to us was group of staff and those "in the program" who had come over from the downtown Union Rescue Mission. Very cool.

My wife (Molly) in pink with our kids and friends afterwards, next to an amazing old apartment building on Cahuenga in Hollywood, where we parked.

We're very committed to our church community here on the westside, so I don't know if we'll be making this an annual event. On the other hand, it was an outstanding experience - especially for anyone who is just checking out Christianity. (FYI, if you plan on going, bring some bottled water and a hat or sunblock: it was surprisingly warm in the sun.)

Many thanks to Bel Air Presbyterian Church for hosting "Easter at the Hollywood Bowl" and their work in making Los Angeles the greatest city for Christ.


Friday, April 10, 2009

Good Friday Morning

This caught my eye when I was down at the beach earlier this year: four bricks and a lot of pounding of the sea.

I thought this was an appropriate photo to post on Good Friday.

In A.D. 55 Saint Paul, a leader in the early church, wrote: "For what I received I passed on to you as of first importance: that Christ died for our sins according to the Scriptures, that he was buried, that he was raised on the third day ... that he appeared to Peter, and to the Twelve, after that, he appeared to more than five hundred ... "
I Corinthians 15:3-5

Saturday, April 4, 2009

Topanga State Park

Located entirely within the city limits of Los Angeles is Topanga State Park. It's considered the world's largest wildland within the boundaries of a major city.

Topanga State Park is huge: 11,000 acres, or over 17 square miles. To give an idea of how big that is, it's twice the size of the entire city of Santa Monica.

The "Metropolitan Los Angeles Guide Map" comes from AAA and shows both Topanga State Park (green) and the city of Los Angeles (tan). Of course, the actual map is huge and the city of Los Angeles is much larger than I was able to get in here. I apologize for the crease down the middle of the map; that comes from scanning a map taken from my car. You can click on this for an enlarged view.

Trippet Ranch is the most user friendly and scenic area of Topanga State Park. It's located at the end of Entrada Road in Topanga Canyon. A few days ago my wife and I spent an hour or so here. Parking is $8, although during the week it's possible to park about 1/4 mile from the entrance and walk in.

Spring is a great time to visit: there are beautiful stands of oaks set among green meadows.

Trippet Ranch is also home to a small herd of deer. If you want to see them, I've found the best time is late in the afternoon. They are usually grazing together in the open meadows or oak groves.

They remind me of the words of the Hebrew prophet Habakkuk (circa 600 B.C.):

"The Sovereign LORD is my strength, He makes my feet like the feet of a deer." (3:19)

But what I'm challenged by are the words of Habakkuk immediately before his poetic comparison of feet and deer:

"Though the fig tree does not bud and there are no grapes on the vines, though the olive crop fails and the fields produce no food, though there are no sheep in the pen and no cattle in the stalls, yet I will rejoice in the LORD, I will be joyful in God my Savior. The Sovereign LORD is my strength, He makes my feet like the feet of a deer." " (3:17-19)

As a Christian living in America, I've found it's easy to have a thankful heart when I've got a job, a place to live, food, clothing, and the "stuff" of life. But, as Habakkuk asks, and what Christians in other parts of the world experience, what about when those things are taken away? Do I have an eternal perspective, really trusting in God as Savior, or do I just view Him as some sort of cosmic genie? I'd like to think the former, but I also know myself fairly well.

Some beautiful wildflowers. Another part of the Creator's handiwork . . .

All within the city of Los Angeles. Topanga State Park: definitely worth a visit.