Inland area gets share of the spotlight
Hollywood finds myriad settings within commuting distance
04:46 PM PST on Thursday, November 30, 2006
The Inland area is so much more than most people think.
The region's wind-swept deserts, snowcapped mountains and dry lakebedshave doubled for Las Vegas, Vietnam and the Sahara.
Locations in Riverside and San Bernardino counties are regularstand-ins for the Midwest, the South of France and Napa Valley --earning it billing as "Hollywood's largest back lot."
With about 27,000 square miles, there's been plenty of space forfilming pirates, gun battles and alien invasions, all of which haveoccurred locally.
The area's varied landscape has made ita favorite of location managers, who offer up options to movie creativeteams for location shots.
"You go where you find thelocations," said Richard McMillan, who has scouted the Inland Empirefor film, TV and print shoots. "There are many that exist in the InlandEmpire that simply don't exist in the LA area."
One ofhis favorite locales is the two-lane Greenspot Bridge in Highland. Withits erector-set style, the bridge is perfect for period pieces andoffers a dramatic view of canyons and mountains in the background,McMillan said.
"It's a kind of bridge that you reallycan't find around anymore. The only one similar is in the NorthernCalifornia area," he said.
The region has long beensought after by moviemakers but streamlining of the permit processthrough the two-county Inland Empire Film Commission has made it astar.
In 2005, shooting of feature films, TV shows,commercials and still photography for advertising generated about $75million for the Inland area, according to the commission.
"It's a combination," said Sheri Davis, the commission's director."Diversity of locations between the two counties and service is whatmakes us appealing. And we're so close to L.A."
Reach Janet Zimmerman at 951-368-9586 or jzimmerman@PE.com
Where: 33 miles north of Baker on Highway 127
Claim to fame:The dunes doubled for Morocco in the 2004 film "Hidalgo," about a3,000-mile survival race across the desert riding horses. In 2003, "TheHulk" was chased through the dunes en route from Moab, Utah, to SanFrancisco.
What makes it special:The dunes rise 400 to 485 feet and overlook steep volcanic hills andthe slow-flowing Amargosa River. The sand here was deposited by theriver over millions of years. While there are other dunes inCalifornia, "It's the only one I know of with the high peaks that giveyou that magnificent, majestic feeling," said Laura Sode-Matteson,location manager for "Hulk," "Hidalgo" and "Pirates of the Caribbean.""It can double for a lot of different places around the world."
Screen credits:"Pirates of the Caribbean: At World's End" (2007); "I, Robot" (2004);"The Burial Society" (2004); "The Big Empty" (2003); "The Core" (2003)
Eagle Mountain/Desert Center
Where:Desert Center is a small town tucked between Indio and Blythe, offInterstate 10; Eagle Mountain is about 13 miles north.
Claim to fame:In "The Island," last year's action thriller about cloning, the escapeof a couple from the laboratory where they were created was filmed inEagle Mountain's underground shafts, once used to carry iron ore out ofthe mine.
What makes it special:The open-pit iron mining operation here closed in the late 1980s, butthe thousands of acres of land are still owned by Kaiser Steel. Thecompany town, now abandoned, still has a bank, post office, café andbarbershop often sought after by film crews. "It is absolutelyphenomenal," said Sheri Davis, director of the Inland Empire FilmCommission. "There's no place else like it in California. It has anarea that looks like World War III or the Apocalypse; it has hugequarries ... a ghost town."
Screen credits:"Constantine" (2005); "H.G. Wells' War of the Worlds" (2005); "TheImposter" (2002); "Live from Baghdad" (2002); "The Terminator" (1984)
El Mirage Dry Lake
Where: 30 miles west of Victorville in the Mojave Desert
Claim to fame:Will Smith battled aliens in the skies over this area for the 1996blockbuster "Independence Day." In the film, the area also doubled asthe government's famed Area 51 secret air base.
What makes it special:The flat lakebed formed in an undrained basin, where silt and clay aredeposited during heavy rain. When the "lake" dries, a hard, crackedsurface is left behind. It is a favorite for straight track racing andfor flying ultralight aircraft, model rockets and remote- controlairplanes. It is also the most popular site for filming in the region.
Screen credits:"There Will be Blood" (awaiting release); "Delta Farce" (2007);"Herbie: Fully Loaded" (2005); "Helter Skelter" (2004)
San Bernardino International Airport
Where: Off Del Rosa Avenue in San Bernardino
Claim to fame:In "The Fast and the Furious," the 2001 film about street racers, thehuge "Race Wars" sequence was filmed at the airport, and involvedbuilding a tent city and racing area. The filming attracted hundreds ofimport-car owners who wanted their cars to appear in the movie.
What makes it special:More than 200 acres of concrete ramps, tarmacs, taxiways, hangars andvacant land make this a favorite among location scouts looking forwide-open spaces for running cars and planes. The airport was home toNorton Air Force Base until its closure in 1995.
Screen credits:"The Aviator" (2004); "Terminator 3: Rise of the Machines" (2003); "BadBoys II" (2003) and "Bad Boys" (1995); "Desperate Measures" (1998);"Volcano" (1997); "Congo" (1995)
Big Bear Area
Where: In the mountains north of San Bernardino
Claim to fame:For the 1999 film "The Insider," about tobacco industry whistleblowerJeffrey Wigand, the crew covered the town in snow during summer.
What makes it special:The pristine landscape, which includes snow, fall colors and the lake'sfamous Treasure Island, also known as China Island. It is "one of themost popular spots. It has little wood homes and the only way to get toit is by boat," said Cheri Haggerty, spokeswoman for the city of BigBear Lake.
Screen credits: "Next" (2007); "Magnolia" (1999); "Beethoven's 3rd" (1999); "Dr. Doolittle" (1997)
Where: Eastern Riverside County
Claim to fame:In last year's "Mission: Impossible III," the explosive Berlin sequenceinvolved a helicopter battle among the valley's signature windmills.The feat required running five miles of cable to light the windmills atnight.
What makes it special: Thearea's landscape is varied, from a desert that can look like the MiddleEast to kitschy architecture reminiscent of the Rat Pack heyday. Thearea also offers a unique quality of light, said location scout RichardMcMillan. "There's a liquid-looking light that you get two hours afterthe sun goes down behind Mount San Jacinto."
Screen credits:"Alpha Dog" (2007); "Phat Girlz" (2006); "Neowolf" (2006); "Torque"(2004); "Auto Focus" (2002); "Ocean's 11" (2001); "Bounce" (2000)
Where: Primarily downtown
Claim to fame:Originally, "Nixon" (1995) was going to include only pictures of theformer president's wedding at the Mission Inn. But the script wasrewritten to film at the historic hotel after location scouts saw it inperson, said Sheri Davis, of the Inland Empire Film Commission.
What makes it special:In addition to the historic Mission Inn, the Wood Streets area south ofRiverside Community College "is so classic and could be anywhere in theUnited States," Davis said. The city also boasts anold-fashioned-looking courthouse, which is often in demand by filmcrews, she said.
Screen credits:"Slackers" (2002); "The Time Machine" (2002); "What's the Worst ThatCould Happen?" (2001); "Space Cowboys" (2000)
BS Ranch Perspective:
If they would just come to my house they could film many of the up and coming getto movies, with the fully run down look that my house has, the poor exterior presents compaired to the houses that surround it!! LOL. I wish they would film more movies in the Inland Empire, there are many area's that are great and are very useful for the back drop to many cities, and what would be used as a county or desert area in the I.E. that could be used, but they know that and they have many of them scouted out. I just hope that they use them to bring well deserved money inte the area!!