INYO FILM JOURNAL 162
RECENT FILMING PROJECTS IN INYO TAKE MANY UNUSUAL FORMS AND CREATIVE PURPOSES
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 twenty to thirty 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.
Humvees on Movie Road
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, they have changed how the companies 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 one 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.
Set portraying an Afghani Village
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). The group was 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.
|COP or "command outpost" Set|
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 Supervisors to close Movie Road for five days. The Supervisors and the County really practice beiung 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 even of more value because it would make our men in women in the Armed Forces better prepared for the challenges of the Middle East.