Scouting Tahoe

Nick Cruit/Sierra SunThe cameras are ready to roll on a scene from and#8220;The Sierra,and#8221; a half-hour western filmed at White Wolf in Placer County. The production team, FLF films, and Alano Massi, writer, director and star of the movie, spent six days filming around the 460 acres of terrain at White Wolf, one of the countyand#8217;s premier filming locations.

LAKE TAHOE and#8212;-With Californiaand#8217;s new film tax credits to go into effect July 1, the Placer County Film Office held their first and#8220;famand#8221; tour last weekend to show location managers what Tahoe has to offer.

The tour is a common practice among film offices in which location managers are invited to scout the scenery of a certain state or county and#8212; and#8220;famand#8221; is short for familiarization.

Now that California has a chance to compete with the other states that offer enticing tax incentives for film productions, these fam tours are an effective way to advertise an area such as Placer County.

and#8220;This is money well spent,and#8221; said Beverly Lewis, the director of the Placer County Film Office. and#8220;An ad in a trade magazine in Hollywood is roughly the same cost as bringing people up for a fam tour, and nothing can be compared with the hands-on experience of actually being at the location rather than just seeing it in the pages in a magazine.and#8221;

The tour had Lewis and six location managers from Los Angeles exploring Placer County for three days, finishing their trip on and#8220;a very high noteand#8221; in Tahoe.

and#8220;Placer County is blessed with a lot of fabulous locations,and#8221; Lewis said. and#8220;And ending up in Tahoe was truly the icing on the cake.and#8221;

But while the scouted locations are attractive in their own right, it is their ability to stand in as something else and their close proximity to a variety of other locations that make them desirable, location managers said.

and#8220;Beverly showed us what Tahoe has and she showed us what Tahoe has that Los Angeles does not have and what Tahoe can be a ‘cheat’ for, i.e. small mid-western town,and#8221; said Nancy Haecker, the location manager for televisionand#8217;s and#8220;House.and#8221;

and#8220;Cheatingand#8221; is a common practice in filming because it saves productions the time and money of having to travel great distances for varying shots.

Los Angeles was originally settled as the place to shoot movies and#8212; moved from New York City and#8212; because of the amount of scenery in one area, said Bill Doyle, the location manager for and#8220;The Curious Case of Benjamin Buttonand#8221; and and#8220;2012,and#8221; a film expected to hit theaters in November.

and#8220;As a location manager it is best when you can keep movement to a minimum, so having all this scenery in Placer County within an hourand#8217;s drive makes it very convenient,and#8221; Doyle said.

Cheating takes on even greater importance today, in the era of film tax credits.

Now that the government has become a co-financer of filmmaking, tax credits are a part of the and#8220;new formulaand#8221; for producing a movie, Doyle said.

and#8220;Benjamin Buttonand#8221; was originally slated to be filmed in Baltimore, where the F. Scott Fitzgerald short story the movie is based on takes place. But because Louisianaand#8217;s tax incentives were too good to pass up, Doyle said the script was rewritten to take place in New Orleans, where filming began in late 2006.

and#8220;The first thing you look at is what place has the best incentives and is close to home,and#8221; Doyle said, and#8220;The rest is just trying to squeeze a square peg into a round hole to make a certain location work.and#8221;

While location managers will first try to find the best location for the best price, the second part of the equation deals with the logistics of amenities, basically where everyone involved in the shoot will eat and sleep.

and#8220;They [location managers] are the eyes and ears of the producer,and#8221; Lewis said, and#8220;so they also evaluate an area based on how well it can accommodate the cast and crew.and#8221;

Producers can open up the Yellow Pages to see whatand#8217;s available, but they depend on location managers who have actually stayed there to fill them in, Doyle said.

and#8220;Youand#8217;re moving a circus sometimes everyday so you have to make sure a location has all the things cast and crew may need,and#8221; he added.

And when location managers need help playing ring leader, they turn to the North Lake Tahoe Resort Association for assistance.

In addition to providing funding for the Placer County Film Office, the resort association is a valuable resource for location managers and producers who need to find food and lodging for cast and crew.

and#8220;They will price out hotels through their connections and streamline the process so the production companies donand#8217;t have to hassle with lodging in an area they are unfamiliar with,and#8221; Lewis said.

But while Tahoe hotels wonand#8217;t be hosting the cast and crew of the next big blockbuster just yet, the nature of some production projects, mainly commercials, could bring a shoot to Tahoe within weeks.

and#8220;Commercials typically shoot in a very small window of time,and#8221; Doyle said. and#8220;I could get a storyboard for a commercial tomorrow that could use a Tahoe location.and#8221;

And thatand#8217;s what fam tours are designed to do, Lewis said. Itand#8217;s about planting the seed for future reference more than selling a location on the spot.

and#8220;Location managers are independent contractors that work many different jobs, so even if the script for their current project doesnand#8217;t need a Tahoe location, their next project could,and#8221; she said.

And now that California is on board with the majority of states that have film tax incentives, the amount of actors and directors living in Los Angeles who want to work closer to home gives location managers a reason to look harder within the state.

and#8220;Iand#8217;m sure the film tax credits will give California what it hasnand#8217;t gotten in years,and#8221; Doyle said, and#8220;a consideration.and#8221;

The Placer County Film Office is always searching for new locations to add to their catalogue. One location they are continually looking for is a completely isolated cabin set deep in the woods. To see if your cabin is ready for the big screen, contact Beverly Lewis at

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