By Dan Taylor
Many of you remember the articles by Sheri Davis of the Inland Empire Film Commission (IEFC), revealing all the juicy tidbits of information about the film industry traipsing around the High Desert looking for the perfect location for their feature film, commercial or magazine shoot. All of a sudden the Inland Empire Film Commission disappeared with little fanfare.
“What happened,” You ask? Well, the details are pretty convoluted, but basically the entity housing the Film Commission decided to close that division. So how will the High Desert continue to get the filming that brings so much money to the area?
The County of San Bernardino Economic Development Agency quickly stepped in to help fill the gap. They contracted with the newly formed Dan Taylor Consulting company to pick up the pieces – in other words, they hired the author of this article. I have worked for Sheri Davis and the IEFC for over 14 years and at the time it closed, I was the Deputy Director. Riverside County decided to also open their own film office with two wonderful ladies Sheri and I have been training for over a year, Stephanie Stethem and Bettina Breckenfeld. Sheri Davis is semi-retired but is still working, filming with the Big Bear Lake Film Office and the Greater Palm Springs Film Office / Alliance. Once you have worked 27,000 square miles of filming opportunity for over 20 years, I guess you would consider two filming regions as semi-retired too. Over the 20 plus years the IEFC was in existence, Sheri and I helped to bring in over $1.4 billion dollars in economic impact to the two county regions of the Inland Empire.
“How will all these changes affect me and my business,” you might ask. Well hopefully, you did not notice any change at all. Due to the quick actions of Mary Jane Olhasso, Assistant Executive Officer – Finance and Administration for the County of San Bernardino, the day the IEFC closed the San Bernardino County Film Office (SBCFO) was up and running. The SBCFO does most of the same things the IEFC did, such as process permits in 1-3 days, coordinate with the various county departments (i.e. Transportation, Parks, Fire, etc) to accommodate special filming requests, maintain a local film crew and services database, and keep a location library resource to assist the film industry in their search for the perfect spot to film.
Filming Report for 2015
Feature Films: Unfortunately, we were not able to secure any major feature films this year, but the High Desert had the opportunity to have a total of 18 indie features, up from 11 in 2014. California as a whole has benefited from the recent State Film incentive, but so far it has not trickled down to the High Desert. Here are some of the smaller films that shot here:
“The Bad Batch,” shot at El Mirage Dry Lake and Aviation Warehouse in El Mirage. This might have technically been an indie film, but it will star Keanu Reeves, Jason Momoa and Jim Carrey.
“The Neon Demon,” shot at Bristol Salt Flats in Amboy, I think Keanu Reeves likes the High Desert. This is another indie he did also starring Christina Hendricks and Elle Fanning.
“Sky,” shot in Barstow (High Noon Saloon); Hinkley (Hinkley Rd; Hinkley Ranch); Joshua Tree (Copper Mountain College; Quail Springs Rd; Broadway Rd; Sunfair Rd); Landers (Rattlesnake Cyn Rd); Lenwood (Hills Ranch); Ludlow (Ludlow Café; Main St; National Trail Hwy; Lavic Rd); Newberry Springs (Mobil Gas Station; Black Butte Rd; Pisgah St; Bagdad Café); Victorville (Holland Burger). This “little movie that could,” starred Diane Kruger, Norman Reedus, Lena Dunham, Lou Diamond Phillips and Joshua Jackson. They hopped all over the High Desert for several days to get this movie made.
“Honey Jar: Chase for the Gold,” shot at Calico Ghost Town in Yermo.
TV Episodic: The most notable was cable show “Into the Badlands,” which came out in September and shot a scene on the El Mirage Dry Lake.
TV Reality: Five TV Reality shows chose the high desert for their locations. “Little Women,” shot at Silverwood Lake in the Hesperia area, “The Great Food Truck Race,” shot at the Route 66 Museum in Barstow; “The Story Trek,” shot at Calico Ghost Town in Yermo; “This is Life with Lisa Ling,” shot at the Hotel Nipton; “Storage Wars,” shot in Adelanto; and the “Rich Kids of Beverly Hills,” shot in Yermo and Baker.
Commercials: There were 107 commercials that chose the county as a location and 54 of them were shot in the High Desert. Here are some of the most notable:
“Mercedes,” shot at the Pisgah Crater in Newberry Springs; “Born Shoes,” shot at the Death Valley National Park; “5-Hour Energy,” shot at Dumont Dunes; “Johnny Walker,” shot at El Mirage Dry Lake; “iPhone 6,” shot at El Mirage Dry Lake, and Aviation Warehouse in El Mirage; “Jay Leno’s Garage,” shot his opening sequence at the El Mirage Dry Lake; and “Dominos,” shot at Harper Dry Lake in Hinkley.
Stills & Catalog: Still photographers have loved the High Desert for years because of the wide open spaces, topography and the abundance of natural light. In 2015, 35% of all the stills shoots in the county chose the High Desert:
“Ford,” shot at Coyote Dry lake in Yermo; “VW,” shot at Rabbit Dry Lake in Apple Valley; “Maite Perroni:” This Mexican actress, model and singer/songwriter chose El Mirage Dry Lake for her latest shoot. “Kiyoharu:” This Japanese musician and singer/songwriter also chose El Mirage Dry Lake as the backdrop to his portfolio; and “Pepsi Strong Zero:” This new product from Pepsi Cola chose Cougar Buttes in Lucerne Valley for their ad campaign shoot for this Japanese soda.
Music Videos: The High Desert is THE place to shoot your music video, as evidenced by the 41 of the 54 music videos that shot in San Bernardino County:
“Interscope Records Music Video:” An undisclosed client of Interscope chose to shoot their music video at Giant Rock in Landers. I wonder who it was? “Parade of Lights:” This new genre-bending band chose Dumont Dunes and Silurian Dry Lake in the Baker area for their debut song, “Feeling Electric.” You can watch their video here – http://tinyurl.com/feelingelectric. “Andreea Balan:” This Romanian pop singer loved El Mirage Dry Lake when she shot her video “Uita-ma” – watch it here – http://tinyurl.com/uita-ma. “Cheek:” Cheek is a Finnish Rapper who found the rocky desert area of Cougar Buttes perfect for his music video “Sa Huudat” – check it out at http://tinyurl.com/sa-huudat.
Documentary and Industrial: 12 of the 22 Documentary and Industrial shoots were in the High Desert. Here are a few to look into:
“In Search of Colour:” The BBC loves California and comes out almost every year. This year they chose to shoot in Big Bear Lake, Fawnskin and Death Valley. “Scout Junior:” This was an Industrial shoot for Indian Motorcycle that shot at the El Mirage Dry Lake. What is an Industrial shoot? “It is a video that targets ‘Industry’ as its primary audience,” according to Wikipedia. In this case it was an educational video made for an audience within the motorcycle industry.
Students: 50% of ALL the student shoots in the County of San Bernardino were based in the High Desert. Here is a list of the schools that chose a desert backdrop for their project:
Art Center College of Design, Azusa Pacific University, Biola University, Chapman University, Columbia College Hollywood, Loyola Marymount University, New York Film Academy, Saddleback College, and St. John’s University.
Other: Other encompasses any film shoot that does not fit into one of the categories above (i.e. web video, short films, etc). Over 59% of this category chose the High Desert:
“Mini/Tony Hawk BTS” – Web Commercial; “Triumph Motorcycles” – Web Commercial; “King of the Hammers” – Event Video; “The Road” – Short Film; and “Leap” – Short Film – http://tinyurl.com/movie-leap.