Sunday, June 21, 2009

Recent Filming Projects Take Many Unusual Forms (Inyo Register May 7, 2009)

BS Ranch Perspective:

It looks as if the government has found another way to bolster the economy for the film industry in the Owens Vally, I mean, since the car industry has taken a fall, and cannot produce as many commercials in the valley as they usually do! Now the DoD is taking up the Slack in the Free time of the Back Drop of the Valley to make Training Films for the Men and Woman that are going to Iraq for the War on Terror! The training will be a valuable tool for the American Solder, so I feel that the trade off is a wonderful one, but I still feel awful about the economic slow down in the Auto Industry, so bad, that I did purchase a Truck from one of the failing markets just to see if my purchase makes a difference, after all the Chrysler Family of Automobiles and Trucks are the BEST on the ROAD! Now I am not saying that there is anything wrong with the Ford or Chevrolet vehicles. It is just my belief that when it comes to Trucks, the Dodge Truck is the best on the market, after all they get the same Torque out of a 6.9 liter, that Ford or Chevy gets out of their big 7.2 Liter. Now the biggest difference is that Dodge's Cummings Engine has two less Cylinders and therefor gets better fuel economy with the same amount of torque, hence the better vehicle! Again this is just my opinion, just remember that an opinion is like your but, everyone has one!

I am glad that these training films are being made now, but I am wondering why? Why, they have not been made a whole lot earlier then now? I guess because we have a kinder gentler President in Office now that is the difference, to make training films to show how people should ride in a Hummer when it is in motion in Iraq!

BS Ranch

Recent filming projects take many unusual forms

Humvees at the ready at Whitney Portal and Movie Flat roads as part of a Department of Defense training film for troops in Afghanistan. Photos courtesy Inyo County Film Commission

By Chris Langley
Inyo County Film Commission

The economic slowdown has had a significant, measurable effect on filming projects locally. By this time each year, the county usually has had 20-30 automobile commercials. This year they can be counted on fingers of both hands. Different kinds of filming projects have been scouting and filming, however, and demonstrate that many new forms, markets and formats are being generated by innovative artists and Internet gurus.
The writers' strike last year ended the hopes of many budding television series, and furloughed feature film production. That was followed by the threatened actors' strike. Although a tentative agreement has been reached, the strike's shadow is still present. Many companies stored their money for films in hedge funds, which quickly evaporated with the enormous drop in the Stock Market.

As the economy contracted calamitously, the three major automobile companies' sales did too, bringing them to the edge of collapse. Now Chrysler has filed for bankruptcy, GM is trying to reorganize and even Ford struggles. With the government involved, the companies have how they do business, and in one sense have changed how they do commercials for marketing their products. GM requires a production company to use its own money creating the commercial, only receiving half the money upon completion and acceptance of the ad. The second half of the money is paid only after the commercial has aired or been published. In fact, the automobile companies are using the production company's money to fund the creating of the commercial. Obviously, production companies are unwilling to front money for a company that may disappear, obviating their need to repay the company.
Nevertheless,Spider Motorcycle, a three-wheel version introduced a few years ago in a commercial made here, Kia, and Subaru all have worked locally in the last months. While they have worked in the Alabama Hills, many of the shoots have taken place on the scenic roads of the county, north and south.
When "Transformers 2: Revenge of the Fallen" opens at the end of June, it will be interesting to see if the show begins with the work done here as originally planned. When "G.I. Joe" opens in August, we'll be looking for Tuttle Creek and Whitney Portal second unit work.
Two very interesting projects have shot here in the last few months. They are very different from each other in style, purpose and intended audience. Neither will be seen in your local multiplex, that is for certain. The Metabolic Studio from L.A. is filming one project and the other is being done under the auspices of the Department of Defense and will be used in training Humvee drivers in Afghanistan to avoid IEDs and terrorist threats.
"Silver and Water" is an artist's film under the direction of visionary artist Lauren Bon who works with FarmLab, and the Metabolic Studio, a collective of artists practicing social sculpture. Rochelle Fabb, project manager, began working in the Owens Valley nearly a year-and-a-half ago, consulting with the Film Commission on locations, history of the area and local resources to create an installation/performance piece being created by Ms. Bon. The group intended to investigate the history of the area that links Lone Pine and Southern Inyo so closely with the city of Los Angeles. The work had many aspects including performance and installation at the PPG Plant south of Lone Pine, Swansea and Cerro Gordo.
Then it would all be filmed on a schema of the "Wizard of Oz" and titled "Silver and Water." The silver is the bullion from Cerro Gordo that kick-started the backwater town that became Los Angeles. The water was the water the city took from the area to allow for development of the megalopolis that exists to our south today. To further their reach into the community for support, they taught a group of local citizens to play the glass harp (wine glasses tuned to specific notes). Called the Metabolic Orchestra and dressed in costumes inspired by the Bauhaus style of design in Europe, the group played "Somewhere Over the Rainbow" in one of the silos at the PPG. All this was filmed to be incorporated in the film in a public performance.
Additional filming was done over at Swansea where projects involving growing algae for oil extraction as a fuel were attempted. There was even a skywriter who spelled out "Surrender Dorothy." The work of the group continues with the themes of "Film, Fuel and Food," and they have leased property on Main Street in Lone Pine near the Espresso Parlor to develop the "food" component. Work on the filming will also continue. It is planned now that the film will be shown at a new theater up at Cerro Gordo during the Film Festival this year. The group has created a beautiful greenhouse to develop sustainable agriculture and replication of an algae/brine shrimp art installation from 1972.
The other project of note is a training film for a simulator for military personnel driving in Afghanistan. Scouting and staging plans took several months because the film was made in 300-degree-plus panorama with a state-of-the-art digital camera. Actually, the camera was eight cameras all in-synch, and the final film would be projected in the round so the trainees experienced encountering terrorist threats in Afghanistan. Again, the Alabama Hills stood in for Afghanistan as they did in "Iron Man" and a Motorola commercial before. Inyo County, in film terms, is more the "New Afghanistan" than the "Old West."
The shoot was challenging because of the panorama nature of the staged encounters. The director had to ride in the camera car and anyone in the Alabamas camping or climbing would appear as being in war-torn Afghanistan. This required the Inyo County Board of Supervisors to close Movie Road for five days. The supervisors and the county really practice being film friendly when needed. The wind blew some of the days very hard, and as one crewman steadfastly said, "I guess the wind blows like this in Afghanistan as well."
This shoot was good for our economy and of even more value because it would make our men and women in the Armed Forces better prepared for the challenges of the Middle East.
Langley can be reached by phone at (760) 937-1189 or by e-mail at

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