Santa Clarita, the suburban northern Los Angeles County community that has played Afghanistan, Kentucky and Washington, D.C, had a record year for film and TV production.
The city generated 1,264 location film days in 2013, up 38% from last year. Those projects generated an estimated $30.5 million in spending on wages, hotels, catering and other goods and services in the city, up from $21.7 million in 2012, according to preliminary figures from the Santa Clarita film office.
It marks the third consecutive record year for filming activity in Santa Clarita, which saw steady gains in television production, commercial shoots and mostly lower budget movies, including “Love and Mercy” and “Kitchen Sink.”
Two high-profile features that also filmed in Santa Clarita last year were the Denzel Washington thriller “2 Guns” and Marvel Studios’ “Iron Man 3," which was mostly filmed outside of California.
“We attributed the year-over-year increase to Santa Clarita’s film friendliness, including having some of the lowest film permit fees in the greater Los Angeles area, as well as the thousands of locations in which Santa Clarita can double as almost any city in the world,” said Russell Sypowicz, who runs the city’s film office.
The increase reflects an overall upswing in local production activity in location filming in L.A. County last year, although most of the increase was due to lower-budget projects. Few large studio movies still film in Southern California. A recent L.A. Times report documented a 60% decline in the number of top-grossing movies that filmed in California in the last 15 years as producers capitalized on tax credits and rebates offered elsewhere. The region also has seen a historic decline in locally produced dramas.
Santa Clarita, however, has been less hard hit by the falloff, helped by a steady rise in television production, which accounted for nearly half of the location filming in 2013.
Although CBS canceled its locally produced “Vegas” drama last year, the city is home to seven TV shows, including “NCIS,” which is set in Washington, D.C.; “Justified,” set in Kentucky; “Franklin & Bash”; “Switched at Birth” and the new ABC Family drama “Chasing Life.”
The Santa Clarita Valley, often dubbed Hollywood North, promotes itself as a low-cost, film-friendly destination. To lure more shows, the city in 2008 agreed to refund basic permit fees to productions that film four times or more a year in the city.
Additionally, about 6,000 of the city’s nearly 205,000 residents work in the entertainment industry, many of them crew members who work locally, Sypowicz said.
“It’s a big reason why we’re so supportive of the film industry," he said.
The city’s figures also skewed higher because they included shoots from two film ranches that were recently annexed by the city, Rancho Deluxe and Sable Ranch, which is home to the game show “Wipeout.”
Those are among a dozen movie ranches in the Santa Clarita Valley that for decades have been a popular draw for movies and TV shows because of their diverse terrains and wide open spaces that can double for Afghanistan or the Old West.
Quentin Tarantino filmed some key scenes for his 2012 movie “Django Unchained” at Melody Ranch in Newhall, which was also used last year as a location for Disney’s “Saving Mr. Banks.”
Disney’s historic Golden Oak Ranch in Placerita Canyon served as a location for such movies as “Pirates of the Caribbean: At World’s End,” and is the future site of a sprawling soundstage development.
In August, the Los Angeles County Board of Supervisors approved plans for a complex with more than 500,000 square feet of studio space, multiple soundstages, writers' bungalows, a commissary and other developments spread over 58 acres. In a procedural step, the supervisors finalized their approval of the plans on Tuesday, though various agencies must still sign off on the project before construction can begin.
The development is expected to significantly boost television production in the Santa Clarita area.