Film General

Inland Empire Film Commission

By Sheri Davis

The High Desert remains the number one desert location for the film industry in California. Why you ask? It is really a simple answer – terrific light, diversity of locations (from a mountain community to the vast sand dunes at Dumont), experienced crew and service providers, and ease of permitting with the Inland Empire Film Commission serving as the One Stop Permit Agency for the County of San Bernardino, the United States Forest Service, and the Bureau of Land Management.

Special Effects Permitting Update

We are delighted to announce that the San Bernardino County Board of Supervisors approved an ordinance that will streamline the process of issuing film permits by eliminating the requirement to get an explosives permit in addition to a filming permit as long as they have a valid pyrotechnic and special effects license current with the State of California. This was a project the IEFC started in 1996 but it took the team of George Watson, Chief of Staff to Supervisor Neal Derry, San Bernardino County; Michael Delgado, Government Relations Officer, CAO’s office, San Bernardino County; Curtis Markloff, San Bernardino County Fire Department and Todd Cole, Sgt. San Bernardino County Sheriff to complete.

Filming Update Since October 2011 To Present

Seven feature films selected locations from El Mirage Dry Lake to the Dumont Dunes. Two of the more notable feature films was “G.I. Joe: Retaliation” starring Channing Tatum, Dwayne Johnson and Bruce Willis; and “Seven Psychopaths” starring Woody Harrelson, Colin Farrell and Christopher Walken.

Reality television has become the mainstay of television production for the High Desert region with shows such as “Stunt Busters,” “Pawn Stars,” and “The Biggest Loser” to name a few.

When 17 commercials selected locations in the desert, the commercials highlighted a number of the dry lakes in the districts with El Mirage Dry lake being the most used of all of them. Watch for these commercials and enjoy our locations being introduced to the world. A few of the car commercials were BMW, Chevy Volt, Lexus, Kia, Mazda and Subaru. Some of the other commercials that were not car related were Absolut vodka, Graiman, and Trane AC units.

Still photographers still consider the High Desert lighting and diversity to be perfect for their requirements. Fifty two still photography shoots with both National and International products such as Neiman Marcus, Glamour, Calvin Klein, American Eagle, Lefthansa Airlines, Rolling Stone Magazine, Nordstrom, Urban Outfitters and Mercedes Benz were shot in the High Desert region from Barstow to Baker. The town of Joshua Tree enjoyed an increase in production during this period also.

Do you ever wonder about all of the music videos that are watched daily and where they are shot? Out of the 18 music videos that selected the High Desert here are just a few: Michael Saranga (Coyote Dry Lake), James Durbin (Coyote Dry Lake), Megdelena’s “Drown in Me” (Soggy Dry lake), Keith Urban (Silurian Dry Lake), Liz Primo’s“ Wind Me Up” (El Mirage Dry Lake), Marc Lavoine (El Mirage Dry Lake).

Twenty one other productions selected varied locations in the High Desert such as the Town of Joshua Tree; and the City of Twentynine Palms had the documentary TV series “Who the Bleep did I marry?” shoot on various streets throughout the city.

Each year a film crew comes out to record the actions at one of the biggest desert racing events in the Nation called “King of the Hammers.” This 5-day event always selects Johnson Valley and is filled with races, vehicle rock climbing, etc. that have an audience of over 25,000 people attending.

Johnson Valley Update

For those who weren’t aware that Johnson Valley had been slated for use by the Marine Corp. out of Twentynine Palms which would have meant a loss of the use of most of Johnson Valley to both the Production Industry but also the recreational users as well. An article published on December 11, 2011 by writer Robert Burns of the Associated Press quotes Marine Corp. Commandant General James F. Amos stating that the future of the Marine Corps lies in a “smaller, versatile sea-based fighting force based primarily around the Pacific, including bases in Okinawa and Australia….but not in Iraq or Afghanistan.”

Since Marine representatives haverepeatedly stated that the sole reason for the very expensive and widely criticized takeover of the Johnson Valley area is to prepare Marines for land-based battles in Iraq and Afghanistan, General Amos has confirmed that this proposed expansion is no longer necessary or even critical to the future of the Marine Corps.

California Tax Incentive Update

The California Film Commission has been tasked with overseeing a five-year, $500 million dollar program (recently extended by one year), which provides tax credits to eligible film and TV productions that meet specific criteria. The program, which launched in July 2009, targets those productions most likely to leave the state due to incentives offered by other states and countries. The program has succeeded in attracting the target groups of basic cable TV series, mid-sized feature films and TV movies. This has enabled California to be competitive and keep many at-risk projects in the state. To date, approximately $400 million in tax credits has been allocated (reserved), resulting in:

  • Estimated total aggregate direct spending by Program projects – $2.9 Billion
  • Estimated total below-the-line wages paid / to be paid by Program projects – $1 Billion
  • An estimated 32,000 crew and 8,900 cast members have been / will be hired by the approved projects

The CFC will be accepting applications for its next round of tax credits on June 1, 2012. Please visit its website for more information –

As anticipated, Assemblymember Felipe Fuentes introduced a bill (AB 2026) seeking to extend the Film & Television Tax Credit for five years through 2019-2020. Please join the effort to extend the tax incentive program for California by contacting your state representatives and encourage them to vote for bill AB 2026.

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