It took hours to set up. People were scurrying everywhere. The lighting crew hung lights and reflectors and diffusers. The sound crew tested microphones and sound levels. The camera crew set up their cameras for various shooting angles. The director gave last minute instructions to the actors. The “all quiet” signal was given.
Then director B. Harrison Smith said “action!” and filming began in the office of Temecula Mayor Maryann Edwards in City Hall. Thus, began the last day of 30 days of shooting the first major feature film in the local Temecula Valley.
Entertainment Factory Group’s production, “Garlic and Gunpowder,” an action comedy starring Vivica A. Fox, Steven Chase, James Duval, Michael Madsen, Felissa Rose, Judy Tenuta and Lainie Kazan is due to be released in theaters around the country this summer. Fox played Mayor Brown in the city hall scene. The feature film recently debuted at Hollywood’s TCL Chinese Theatre.
In an earlier interview, Executive Producer Rick Finkelstein said that they had some resistance from some of the cast and crew who had never been out here before.
“They thought we were going out to the boonies, but when we got here, man, this place is fantastic!” Finelstein said. “The studio was great. The people – storeowners, citizens, public officials – are wonderful in how they treat us, how they welcome us! The word will definitely be getting out about this area.”
This film is just one of the 18 films, TV shows and commercials shot in the Temecula Valley since January, Bonnie Lowell, project coordinator for Film Temecula Valley, a division of Visit Temecula Valley, said. In previous years, only a few permits per year have been processed.
“We currently have a continual flow of productions in the queue waiting for approval,” Lowell said.
According to Lowell, who processes the film permits for the city of Temecula, the film projects for the first half of the year include three feature films, two television series, four documentary films, one commercial, two music videos, three reality TV episodes and one short film.
“I have been kept very, very busy,” Lowell said. She is currently a part-time employee who also scouts locations, coordinates housing and catering and acts as a liaison between directors, producers, location scouts, managers, city services and local resources.
“My job is to make sure everything goes smoothly and well, from permitting to road closures to food,” Lowell said. “This is good business for the local economy.”
Indeed the cast and crew for “Garlic and Gunpowder” numbered over 100 people for the thirty-day shoot. In addition to staying in local hotels and eating in local restaurants, they shot scenes in local businesses and locations.
“There are a lot of great locations in the area for a variety of scenes, time periods and film genres,” Lowell said. For example, the Hollywood South Studios Productions’ feature film “Desolate” was shot at the oldest house in Temecula on Pujol Street. A re-creation of the interior was made at their studios, and inside scenes were shot at the studio.
HoBo’s BBQ on Rancho California Road was recently featured in an episode of the Food Network’s “Diners, Drive-Ins and Dives.” Temecula has also been used as a backdrop for “Restaurant Express” and “Cake Masters.”
Kroger’s grocery store shot a Ralphs television commercial at a laundromat on Rancho California Road in Temecula. Jim Walter was the director, and Julie Patterson-Holland produced the advertisement.
“Vlada’s Seeds of Life” is a local television series on cooking and children that features local food and healthy food choices for children. Many of the episodes are shot at The Temecula Cheese Company with Chef Shawna Smoot. The director is Michael Herbach, and the producer is Vlada Vladic.
Sonia Perez’ cable cooking show, “Cooking off the Vine” is also filmed locally at different locales, including local wineries.
The promotional music video for Temecula Road, produced by Fictitious Productions for Disney Radio’s “The Next Big Thing,” was also filmed locally. Shoot locations included the Merc and the historic Temecula Hotel. The executive producer was Randall Bobbitt.
Temecula Road features sisters Maddie and Emma Salute and longtime friend Dawson Anderson. After opening last year for Martina McBride, Joe Nichols, Josh Turner, Sara Evans, Eli Young Band and Love and Theft and touring with Jessie James Decker, Temecula Road made their international debut at the Country to Country Music Festival in London and had another debut at the iconic Stagecoach Music Festival this year. From their name to their videos, the group is promoting Temecula.
“My Classic Car” has filmed an episode in Temecula. “Jay Leno’s Garage,” season 3 of the TV reality show was shot here in March and has not aired yet. Producers for the show were Abby Schwarzwalder, Sammy Yamada and David Swift.
Dan Henderson’s mixed martial arts gym in Temecula was the scene for another TV series shoot.
In addition to unique locations, there are local studios that are able to provide many of the same services as Hollywood studios at lower costs for studios, production and labor. There are additional cost-savings with fees, food and lodging.
“Our local resources include film production studios,” Lowell said. “We have a working relationship with JDS Video & Media Productions, who produces “Good Day Temecula.”
JDS is a full-functioning, 6,500-square-foot studio with a recently-completed, 40-foot green screen studio separate from production stage, additional a full production stage, full dressing and makeup studio and warehouse for building sets. They can also provide a line producer, camera man, crew, equipment and extra actors and actresses if needed. Owners Scott and Diane Strand have been in the industry for over 25 years.
“We also have a working relationship with Revshare/Wolfe Store Studios who provide production, post-production, mobile production and editing services,” Lowell said. Joseph Spillman and Eric Whedbee provide specialty services.
Director Brad Bruce and his wife, Executive Producer Kimahna Bruce, opened Hollywood South Studios in Murrieta three years ago.
“We were just a group of friends who made movies in our homes and garages or wherever we could find locations,” Kimahna Bruce said. “But the cost of studio time is just so high in L.A. With the encouragement of Murrieta’s Economic Development Director, we opened a 5,700 square-foot facility. We are a full-functioning studio complete with workshops, green screen, set design, editing and special effects, and we are already outgrowing this space.”
Hollywood South Studios has a complete crew with Producer Kale Flores, Director of Photography Jeremy Thornton, Assistant Director Tina Johnson, Head Gaffer Demitri Cagey and Production Sound Mixer Jonny Ramaglia.
Group 1 Productions, run by owner and producer Alan Cook, has a studio that can accommodate small productions and has specialty cameras available.
With studio resources, a variety of film locations and a “film-friendly” environment, the Temecula Valley is attracting more and more interest.
The Entertainment Factory returns to Temecula in the fall to film Steven Chase’s directorial debut, “Stan the Man,” starring Chase, Katherine Kelly Lang, Anne Leighton and Judy Tenuta.
Hollywood South Studios also has a half a dozen film projects lined up behind “Desolate.”
Riverside County set up a film commission years ago through their Economic Development Agency, and so far this year the commission has issued 236 permits countywide, accounting for 499 production days, Stephanie Stethem said, 22 percent of those permits are for feature films. The city of Riverside has processed 24 permits this year, while Temecula is up to 19.
“There is a lot happening here, and more in the works,” Lowell said. “There is tremendous potential for growth of the film industry, exposure for this area and positive economic impact, not only from the visiting film crews, but also from people who see our area through those films and want to visit.”
Film crews, actors and movie shoots may be more and more part of the local landscape in the near future as Hollywood discovers what the Temecula Valley has to offer.
For more information on filming in the Temecula Valley, visit www.FilmTemecula.com or contact Bonnie Lowell at [email protected] or call (951) 491-6085.