Donna McMullen, a recent retiree from the Bishop Bureau of Land Management Field Office, received prestigious recognition at the annual California On Location Awards held Nov. 3 at the Beverly Hilton Hotel.
She has spent many years handling filming permits for projects in Inyo and Mono counties on BLM-managed lands, and for her efforts, has been named “Federal Employee of the Year.”
During her time with the Bishop BLM office, according to Inyo County Film Commissioner Chris Langley, McMullen earned the respect and affection of hundreds of filmmakers.
“I have always been impressed with Donna’s fair, competent and helpful attitudes when dealing with all kinds of scouts, location manager, producers and even big name directors. While dealing with them and working to find locations and filming experiences Continued from front page
that worked for everyone, she used creative strategies that were good for the landscapes but still perfect for what the filmmakers sought,” Langley said. “She was a joy for me to work with, knowledgeable, creative and flexible.”
McMullen had been nominated with two other federal public employees in California for the title of “Federal Employee of the Year” by people in the film industry. She only found out she had actually won on Sunday night, chosen by a notable panel of 12 workers in the filming-on-location business, Langley said.
The event, which Langley called the “primo professional event” for film commissions and scouts, began with an extended meet and greet.
“I attended with friend and film scout Osceola Refetoff and we got to see a lot of people we work with year in and year out but seldom see face-to-face,” Langley said. “I saw some scouts I have worked with in Lone Pine several times, a couple of film commissioners and a lot of new people that Osceola knew and could introduce me to.”
After this period, everyone sat down at tables in the venue and watched many clips from projects that have filmed in California in the previous 12 months. Actor Perry King was the emcee. He has been to the Lone Pine Film Festival two times and often visits the Owens Valley because he is an avid quad rider, always stopping in at the Film Museum.
“I also got to talk with Mandi Dillan who was a scout and assistant location manager on ‘Iron Man’ at the COLAs, “ Langley reported. “She also worked on the ‘Django Unchained’ location in Mammoth, which finally had to be abandoned for Jackson Hole, when the needed snow arrived a week too late. Mandi reminded me how much she loved working in the valley on that show ‘Iron Man’ and was dying to get back there on a project soon.”
McMullen handled the permitting for the “Iron Man” shoot.
“One of my favorite stories about Donna,” Langley said, “was when she was waiting for ‘Iron Man’ Director Jon Favreau and about 40 production people out on Cerro Gordo Road. They were proposing to build the ‘cave’ set there. She waited for a while, out of phone range, then finally returned to town. When she saw Favreau he told her that he had given his team the morning off. Donna firmly gave him a piece of her mind about him wasting her time.” According to Langley, Favreau learned his lesson and was always on time for McMullen in the future, as were the other production people.
Now that McMullen has retired, “I am really missing her,” Langley said, “but I must say new permit agent Rich Williams is doing a great job of efficiently processing permits, and new BLM Manager Steve Nelson is signing them in a timely manner.”
And it looks like they’ll have some permits coming their way soon.
While in Los Angeles, Langley was working with two projects that were searching for sites back in Inyo. One was a car commercial that hoped to film on the Manzanar runways; another was searching for a “quaint small town with mountains in the background” for another commercial.