"Monterey County Provides Backdrop to Array of Films,
At Least 185 Films Have Been Partially Filmed in Area"

by Brian Seals, The Californian (Salinas), 16 December 2000


"Bandits" is a story of two bank robbers, played by Willis and Thornton, who fall in love with a hostage, played by Blanchett, taken during a robbery. Scenes have been shot in the Portland, Ore., area as well as in Santa Rosa and Half Moon Bay. The movie is expected to be released in the summer/fall of 2001.


MONTEREY COUNTY FILM COMMISSION: http://www.filmmonterey.org/

NORTHERN CALIFORNIAN MOVIES: http://www.filminamerica.com/PacificNorthwest/NCA/

CALIFORNIA VIEWS: http://www.caviews.com/

Movies and real estate have something very important in common: location, location, location.

Monterey County has served as an ideal location for scores of films over the past 90 or so years.

As a result, the county has seen Elizabeth Taylor on horseback in "National Velvet," James Dean cruising Salinas, and Janet Jackson and Tupac Shakur riding up Highway 1 near Big Sur. Not to mention a handful of movies by a former Carmel mayor named Eastwood.

Next week's shooting of the film "Bandits" in Oldtown Salinas came about because the movie's producers needed a coastline scene. Out of that came talk about small town settings. The film's backers looked at both King City and Salinas. Salinas won out.

"They particularly liked the architecture on the downtown buildings here," said Karen Nordstrand of the Monterey Film Commission. "And the coastline scene ended up going somewhere else, after all."

Maybe the county isn't quite ready to be crowned the Hollywood of Northern California. But at least 185 feature films, or portions of them, have been filmed here. And that doesn't include plenty of television movies and commercials.

The scenery on the Monterey Peninsula has drawn the largest share of feature films. But the enduring works of Salinas' favorite son, John Steinbeck, continue to cast the stunning Salinas Valley in a starring role.

Many factors combine to draw production crews. The main appeal is the many contrasting vistas — from rocky coast to mountains and broad green valleys.

"They don't come here by accident," said Carmel-based location scout Dick Broder. "The proximity to diversity, that's the key to it. They can capture a real diversity of looks."

The movie productions offer Monterey County something in return. The film commission reckons that a feature film results in about $30,000 per day spent here. The commission says filmmaking has brought in a yearly average of $3 million.

The county agency works to make sure the productions — be they feature films, commercials or even magazine shoots — keep on coming. Established in 1987, the commission operates on a yearly budget of about $200,000.

"We have an entire marketing program to try and interest the Hollywood community to film on location," said Nordstrand, the commission's marketing and film production director. "We're trying to be as visible as we can."

The tremendous diversity of geography is a constant selling point. Parts of Big Sur can represent the coastline of Ireland or England just as easy as they can the West Coast. Stone Pine Resort in Carmel Valley can serve as a French chateau, while the Rancho San Carlos area, also in Carmel Valley, can stand in for a swampy Louisiana bayou. Cities in Monterey County boast downtowns that could be Anytown, USA.

But other factors attract moviemakers as well.

For one, Broder said, local governments are generally receptive to film work and knowledgeable about what it can mean for them.

"They're accustomed to it," he said. "They understand what the drill is."

Also, Monterey County is relatively close to San Francisco and Los Angeles. That means production facilities are nearby, which complements a growing regional talent pool of workers for support work such as grips, production assistants and other creative tasks.

All this is not to say there are no obstacles.

One major hindrance is fog. "When we get the coastal fog, it can damn near put a production out of business," Broder said. "I've stood around with companies of 75 people in the fog waiting to get off a shoot."

Still, productions continue to choose Monterey County. Commercials are the bread and butter, but full-length features are hardly uncommon.

"You get stuff here you don't get anywhere else," Broder said.

©2000 The Californian