Three major film productions shot in Inyo County in the past year, helping to strengthen the area’s reputation as a film friendly community while pouring money into the local economy.
Inyo County Film Commissioner Chris Langley, in his annual report to the Board of Supervisors, said the hard numbers on how much each production spent in the area are not yet available, but he did have a lot of information to share about local film projects.
“This year’s permitting activities have been similar to last year’s, except in one specific way,” Langley said. “Through January, activity was strong with small projects and three large feature films with public and Internet exposure worked in Inyo County. It has slowed down some this spring.”
In addition to the Quentin Tarantino film “Django Unchained,” which was a very public production, Inyo County saw a new Superman film being shot at the CalTech Radio Observatory and the sequel to “G.I. Joe” shooting near Bishop.
While shooting “Django Unchained,” Langley said Tarantino seemed to develop a soft spot for the area and spent more time here than was required for the film.
In addition to spending time with residents, Tarantino rented out the Beverly and Jim Rogers Museum of Lone Pine Film History to screen some of his favorite Spaghetti Westerns, which inspired his latest film.
Langley said Tarantino, a renowned film buff, took an immediate liking to the Film History Museum, and asked to borrow a vintage “clapper” that been used during filming of the original Lone Ranger series. Langley obliged, letting the director use the clapper while he while shot “Django.”
In exchange, Tarantino donated his director’s chair and a cast and crew-signed script from his film to the museum.
“Why I am going into such detail is to show how the film history of the area figures significantly in why people come to Inyo County to explore filming here,” Langley said, explaining that he believes Tarantino’s love of the Lone Ranger series put Inyo on the map for the director, and the community’s love of its film history is what endeared the area to him.
Langley said he is branding the area as the “historic, most film-friendly county in California.”
The justification for that brand comes from three local film festivals, the Film History Museum and the relative ease of obtaining film permits locally.
The largest contributor to the county’s reputation, Langley said, is the residents, who are always happy to accommodate film crews and make their stay in the area an enjoyable and memorable experience.
Langley also said there were several smaller productions shooting in the area, including the Mark Twain Film Project headed up by local filmmakers Jesse Steele and Jason Crockett.
Another new trend Langley said he noticed was more filming in the northern part of the county, whereas in previous years, filming tended to focus on the southern end, where the versatile Alabama Hills have stood in for a number of different environs and Death Valley’s desolate moonscapes have been used for everything from Westerns to science-fiction films.
Some of the areas in the northern end of the county that were used were Rock Creek Road, roads in Round Valley and the Talbot Ranch, which were used for commercials.
Using the California Film Commission’s formula for determining the financial affect films have on a community, Langley said Inyo County may have seen as much as $7.8 million in economic stimulus.
However, he pointed out that the state Film Commission’s formula probably does not apply locally, as many of the amenities film productions would spend money on in major cities are not available here.
He is working on his own formula and will return to the board with a better (and most likely lower) estimate on the money spent locally during film projects.