Despite increased competition from Canada, the UK and other US states, California remains the number one hub for movie and TV production. After a stint of losing major productions, new tax credits were introduced after extensive lobbying from the industry. This moved California back into the top spot in 2014 attracting 22 of the top 106 productions made that year. The main hub for production is undoubtedly centered on Hollywood, but it’s just not just L.A. where the magic happens. All over California you can find a range of production facilities and settings to cater for any type of production.
Situated on the West Coast of America, the state of California boasts a diverse landscape including rugged coastlines, giant redwood forests, high mountain ranges, desolate desert scenery, quaint towns and gritty urban centres.
The weather isn’t bad either, with 315 sunny days per year coupled with the largest and most talented film crews in the world. In addition, the state offers over 500 stages and state of the art production and post-production facilities.
Here are just some of the movies that filmed in California over the last few years:
American Sniper (2014, Blue Cloud movie ranch), Whiplash (Los Angeles, 2014), Entourage (Los Angeles, 2015), True Detective series 2, TV series (Los Angeles, 2015) Terminator Genisys (Locations in L.A and San Francisco area, 2015) Anchorman 2: The Legend Continues (2013, San Diago), After Earth (2013, Humboldt County), The Lone Ranger (2013, Antelope Valley, Lancaster), Man of Steel (2013, Edwards Air Force Base in Kern County), Gangster Squad (2013, LA mainly), Hitchcock (2012, Universal Studios), Django Unchained (2012, Melody Ranch) and the TV series Vegas (2012, Santa Clarita Studios).
Given its rich history of filmmaking, California remains a relatively straightforward place to organize shoots. The California Film Commission offers free online permits for all state property including state parks and beaches, freeways, roads, and government buildings. From hospitals and prisons to back roads and mountain ranges, they help filmmakers gain access to the locations they need. The CFC requires a minimum of four business days to clear simple filming permits and a minimum of two weeks if road closures are required.
For permits for particular regions of California, the website lists 60 film offices that can assist you further and should be your first point of contact.
In early November 2013, the permit fee for filming TV pilots in the city was waived in a decision announced by the Los Angeles City Council. And in November 2014, the Los Angeles City Council decided to drop the permit fees for filming in municipal buildings for at least five years, backdated to July of that year.
All information can be found at http://www.film.ca.gov.
California has an endless list of big-name film studios. They’re all here, including: Paramount, Warner Bros. and Universal. As well as housing movie head honchos, a lot of filming activity goes on, with each studio offering sound stages and backdrops.
Need a New York or jungle backdrop? Then head to Warner Bros. Studio Facilities in Burbank. With Thirty-Five Soundstages, Fourteen Exterior Sets and post production facilities, the studio complex can cater for every aspect of the filmmaking process. The Last Samurai (2003) and Million Dollar Baby (2004) used these sets, and Warner’s Hensey Street doubled as Gotham City in Tim Burton’s Batman films.
The studios are also famous for the recording of TV shows – Friends filmed there, and at the time of writing it houses The Ellen DeGeneres Show (Stage 1), The Big Bang Theory (Stage 25), and Two and Half Men (Stage 26) to name but a few.
Universal Studios - one of the oldest in the US and undoubtedly the most famous - has around 30 sound stages and over 30 backlot locations, including New York and Mexican and Western streets as well as residential streets. All services are available in-house here, whether you need a 1950s looking doll as a prop for your film or post-production geniuses which can add ghosts to your horror TV series.
The Studios at Paramount
This 65-acre lot provides various stages and backdrops, production and post-production services. Paramount’s New York backlot covers 5 acres and features replicas of areas such as Brooklyn, the financial district and Lower East Side. Films that have used the backlot include Hitchcock 2013, The Girl with the Dragon Tattoo 2011, The Artist 2011, and Cloverfield 2008, which shot many scenes on the New York street set. Furthermore, you can shoot your water scenes in the Blue Sky Tank and dead bodies in the studio’s dark Alley-Standing set.
Golden Oak Ranch
Located in the Santa Clarita Valley, south of California is Golden Oak Ranch, owned by Disney. Covering an 890-acre area it offers large natural green areas, residential streets, bridges and barns and American towns.
CBS Television City
CBS Television City, located in the Fairfax District of L.A. is a TV studio and certainly has some history: The Ed Sullivan Show, The Price is Right and The Jokers Wild all filmed there. Today, it’s home to ratings-winning shows like The X Factor and American Idol. There are eight sound stages and a digital studio.
To see our full list of LA-based studios click here.
Blue Cloud Movie Ranch
The Blue Cloud Movie Ranch is a 100-acre ranch used as a filming location for many TV, movie and film projects. The property is owned and operated by Rene Veluzat. The Blue Cloud Ranch includes props for rent, as well as contracting services.
To see our full list of LA-based studios click here.
Tons of post-production firms are listed on the KFTV website, click here to see all.
When you think of America, L.A. will probably spring to mind, along with New York and Las Vegas. Towards the south of California, L.A. has been the backdrop to many famous films – from Beverly Hills Cop (1984) to Pretty Woman (1990). In L.A. you’re also never far from famous faces dining out for lunch or a deal being made by executives in a fancy restaurant at night.
L.A. is home to Venice Beach, a popular tourist spot and a place full of muscle-flexing body builders and rollerskating residents. Branch out a bit and you have Laguna Beach in Orange County, Surfrider Beach in Malibu (popular with, you guessed it, surfers) or the romantic setting of El Matador Beach. Also in Orange County is Huntington Beach, which has its own film commission.
If you’re seeking harbours and marinas with surrounding countryside then there’s the City of Ventura (also known as the City of San Buenaventura), located north of L.A. Films that have shot there include Bridesmaids (2011), The Aviator (2004) and Castaway (2000).
But there is much more on offer in California than sand and sea. If you’re looking for forests, rivers and cliffs then head north to Humbolt County where After Earth (2013), Lost World: Jurassic Park (1997) and Star Wars: Return of the Jedi (1983) was filmed. The region can double for Ireland, Scotland or New Zealand.
Venturing further North, the states second largest city, San Francisco, has its own unique identity. The city has a separate film office that can help with anything from permits to location suggestions.
Looking for a desert setting? Then it’s worth checking out Antelope Valley in Lancaster. It’s the closest desert to Hollywood, with over 3000 square miles of terrain. Films that have shot in Antelope Valley include The Lone Ranger (2013), Seven Psychopaths (2012) and Rock of Ages (2012).
You won’t be stuck with finding equipment rental companies in California. From walkie talkies to cranes and dollies, these hire companies are listed on the KFTV website.