Charles Bukowski, the hard-living poet, novelist and short-story writer who probed the cultural and social underbelly of Los Angeles, is getting the James Franco treatment.
The prolific actor-director-writer-producer has started production on a movie titled "Bukowski," an adaptation of the boozy poet's semi-autobiographical novel "Ham on Rye," which is set in Depression-era L.A. The project is one of several low-budget movies contributing to a modest upswing in local feature film activity this year.
"Bukowski" recently began filming at a home in the historic neighborhood of Oxford Square, as well as the Lazy J. Ranch Park in Canoga Park, the Orcutt Ranch Horticultural Center in West Hills, the former Linda Vista Community Hospital and various downtown locations, including the 6th Street bridge. Last week, the crew filmed at St. Michael's School in South Los Angeles, according to permits filed with FilmL.A. Inc.
In addition to producing and directing the movie, Franco wrote the script with his brother Dave.
The Franco movie, which stars Tim Blake Nelson, is not the first to be made of Bukowski's life and material. Mickey Rourke and Faye Dunaway co-starred in the 1987 movie "Barfly" by director Barbet Schroeder, who filmed in many signature L.A. locations, with a screenplay written by Bukowski himself. He also had a cameo appearance in the film.
"Bukowski" is the latest among several projects for Franco, who stars in Disney's upcoming "Oz the Great and Powerful" and the independent feature "Lovelace," a biographical account of the life of "Deep Throat" adult film actress Linda Lovelace.
Franco's other projects include directing the documentary "Interior. Leather. Bar," a story about William Friedkin's explicit 1980 film "Cruising." He's also producing "Kink," a nonfiction look at a San Francisco bondage site of the same name.
Franco could not be reached for comment for this article. Gustavo Alcaraz, location manager for "Bukowski," said the 35-member crew had completed two weeks of filming and will resume production in L.A. in March.
"We're representing the period from the 1920s and '30s, so the challenge is trying to find locations that work for that," Alcaraz said. "We did a lot of cold scouting to find locations that had not been used before because we had a limited budget."
"Bukowski" is one of several new movies shooting locally. L.A. feature films generated 113 production days last week, up 69% from the same period last year, according to data from FilmL.A., which tracks location shoots that occur on city and county streets as well as those on non-certified soundstages.
The category is up nearly 7% this year compared with the same period in 2012.
Other new projects include "Larry Gaye: Renegade Male Flight Attendant," a comedy starring Stanley Tucci, Henry Winkler and Molly Shannon that filmed at the Roosevelt Hotel in Hollywood and in Marina del Rey last week; "Whiskey Bay," a drama starring Matt Dillon and Willem Dafoe that was filming in the Mar Vista area last week; and "Blood of Redemption," a low-budget movie with Dolph Lundgren and Billy Zane, filming in Encino this week.
The television industry also had a busy week, accounting for 369 production days, up 9% from the same period a year ago. Otherwise, television activity has been virtually flat this year, reflecting the loss of one-hour dramas to New York and other cities.
Commercial shoots, which soared in the fourth quarter of 2012 thanks to a flurry of Super Bowl ad shoots, have slowed. Production days for commercials dropped 2% to 226 last week compared with the year-earlier period. The category is down 5% so far this year.
Where the cameras roll: Sample of neighborhoods with permitted TV, film and commercial shoots scheduled this week. Permits are subject to last-minute changes. Sources: FilmL.A. Inc., cities of Beverly Hills, Pasadena and Santa Clarita. Thomas Suh Lauder / Los Angeles Times
INTERACTIVE: TVs highest paid stars
INTERACTIVE: YouTube's viral videos of 2012
PHOTOS: Hollywood back lot moments