Speculation on what the guys at Pixar are up to is always a popular topic around these parts, and when website Gordon and the Whale speculated last summer that the next project in the animation company’s queue might be something involving dinosaurs, we all got excited. The basis for that hypothesis centered on a series of dinosaur-themed concept art featured in the background on one of Up’s special features. The idea became even more plausible when we learned that animator Austin Madison and character sculptor Greg Dykstra had taken several animators on a field trip to archaeological sites at the Black Hills Institute in South Dakota. What could it all mean?
Turns out it means almost exactly what we suspected. Pixar’s next project involves teaming up with The Discovery Channel to create a program entitled Reign of the Dinosaurs!. Sure, it’s not the feature-length dino-flick we were all anticipating, but even small screen Pixar is better than no Pixar at all, right?
Billed as “Avatar meets Jurassic Park“, the special aims to teach us all more about dinosaurs while making learning fun by combining it with Pixar’s animation and Hollywood storytelling. Normally, the idea of combining educational programming with Hollywood-styled production values would make me a little wary — but Discovery and Pixar both have excellent track records and I find the idea of them collaborating interesting.
No official air date has been set for Reign of the Dinosaurs!, but this story came about because the program was announced on Discovery’s Upfront Schedule for 2010-2011. That would seem to indicate that we’ll be spending time with T-Rex and friends in the not too distant future.
Archive for the ‘PRODUCTION’ Category
Kiefer Sutherland, left, and Freddie Prinze Jr. in “24.” On-location shoots for television in the Los Angeles area rose 19% in the first three months of this year compared with the same period last year. (Richard Foreman / Fox)By Richard Verrier
March 31, 2010
A robust TV pilot season, a substantially improved climate for shooting commercials and the state’s new film incentive helped deliver a modicum of good news to Los Angeles’ beleaguered production economy in the first quarter.
Overall on-location filming activity for feature films, television and commercials jumped 25% during the first three months of 2010 compared with the same period last year, according to data from FilmL.A. Inc., the nonprofit group that handles permits for on-location filming for L.A. and unincorporated areas of the county.
“The level of production has exceeded our expectations this quarter,” said Todd Lindgren, spokesman for FilmL.A. “We’re starting to see commercials swing up, more of the state incentive productions out on the streets of L.A., and a better pilot season than we had forecast.”
The upturn is welcome news to tens of thousands of workers who work behind the scenes on film sets and who’ve been hard hit by a production downturn over the last two years caused by labor unrest, recession and the migration of work outside of California. On-location production last year posted its steepest annual decline since tracking began in 1993.
Although on-location shoots remain well below the levels of 2007, there were notable signs of improvement across all categories in the first quarter.
Leading the way were commercials, which saw about a 60% increase in production days this quarter over the same period a year ago. A production day is defined as a single crew’s permission to film at a single location over a 24-hour period.
Economic recovery and a greater willingness among advertisers to spend money brought a flurry of shoots to L.A. locations for such clients as Chevy Trucks, Subaru, AT&T, Best Buy and Miller Light, FilmL.A. said.
On-location shoots for television rose 19%, reflecting a much-improved pilot season over last year, when the major TV studios reduced spending and limited on-location shoots of locally based dramas like “NCIS: Naval Criminal Investigative Service” and “CSI: Crime Scene Investigation.”
About 30 pilots are shooting around L.A., which has been steadily losing market share to other states and to Canadian cities Vancouver and Toronto. Those include NBC’s remake of the 1970s TV series “The Rockford Files,” starring Dermot Mulroney and Beau Bridges; and a Fox TV comedy “Traffic Light,” featuring David Denman and Alexandra Breckenridge.
Feature production, the hardest hit by so-called runaway production, posted a 6% gain in activity in the quarter. But the sector would have been harder hit had it not been for the state’s film tax credits, which took effect last year, Lindgren said. At least a dozen features approved under the program have been shooting locally, including an independent crime comedy, “The Last Godfather,” starring Harvey Keitel, and the Screen Gems drama “Burlesque,” starring Cher.
“There is no question the incentive is putting productions on the street that would not otherwise have been in the state,” Lindgren said. “They are employing crews and spending money in the local economy.”
Copyright © 2010, The Los Angeles Times
Runaway film production is the star of this movie
Volunteer cast and crew, including cinematographer Ed Gutentag, left, and actor Jack McGee, seated, shoot “Ordinary, Average Guys,” a short film that is part of a campaign to keep movie and TV jobs in California. (Axel Koester / For The Times / March 5, 2010)
By Richard Verrier
March 10, 2010
In a North Hollywood studio, actor Jack McGee is stripped down to his boxers, his legs duct-taped to a chair in a room draped in plastic sheets. He’s not playing his best-known role of Chief Jerry Reilly in the TV series “Rescue Me” but the unlucky owner of a nightclub, sweating profusely as a mobster and his goons threaten to cut off his legs with a chain saw.
His crime: luring the mobster’s younger brother to perform in drag because the kid couldn’t get other work in California.
The short film, “Ordinary, Average Guys,” a cross between “Goodfellas” and the “Adventures of Priscilla, Queen of the Desert,” doesn’t have a distributor. The cast and crew are working free, and it’s being shot over just three days. And its not-so-comic subtext — that jobs are scarce in California — isn’t likely to warm up studio executives.
That doesn’t faze industry veteran Mike Kehoe, the film’s director and co-producer. Kehoe and his colleagues hope to use the film to promote awareness about the economic consequences of so-called runaway production and build support for stronger incentives to keep filmmaking centered in Southern California.
“If we can get everybody involved and really wake people up to do something, then there’s a big chance we can help,” said Kehoe, a longtime craft service coordinator. “We have to make a statement to the politicians.”
Of course, where there’s a film, there are aspirations for a film festival to go along with it.
Kehoe and his colleagues hope the 20-minute movie will be featured in a festival they’re planning that would showcase short films that are shot in California and public-service announcements highlighting production flight.
The festival would dovetail with a campaign by a coalition of industry, labor and city officials to market the region’s film industry, which has seen a steady loss in production to other states and countries.
Kehoe said he was motivated to make the film after spending three months away from his family last summer, missing his twin sons’ birthday, while working on “Battle: Los Angeles,” a Sony Pictures movie about aliens invading L.A. that was shot in Louisiana.
“I want to make movies here because I want to be near my family, just like so many other skilled professionals,” he said.
Kehoe had no trouble finding volunteers, recruiting about 100 actors and crew members, many of them friends he’s worked with over the years, like McGee.
Cinematographer Ed Gutentag provided his services and enlisted help through a website called Shoot Movies in California (www.shootmoviesincalifornia.com).
The site evolved out of a Facebook group and claims 14,000 users, many of them below-the-line crew members hard hit by the exodus of production.
“We’re using films to get our message out,” said Gutentag, a camera operator on such films as “War of the Worlds” and “Collateral.” “And what better way to hone our craft.”
Vendors donated camera and lighting equipment, and the studio space was provided courtesy of an actors training center in North Hollywood.
Some high-level players pitched in, including sound mixer Jeff Wexler, whose credits include “Valentine’s Day,” and Tommy Harper, a unit production manager on “Alice in Wonderland,” who is a co-producer on Kehoe’s project.
“A project like this shows that we need to come together and formulate a plan of how to keep stuff in L.A. It stirs up the conversation,” Harper said.
Copyright © 2010, The Los Angeles Times
Sometimes it takes a foreigner to point out what the natives take for granted.
Just ask Hein Mevissen, director of commercials for John Doe Productions in Amsterdam.
Mevissen was hired by a Netherlands ad agency to direct a commercial for a Dutch horticultural association, De Nederlandse Tuinbouw, touting the global reach of Holland’s fruits and veggies. Apparently, Holland’s agriculture business has more to boast than just tulips.
But instead of filming the ad in northern Europe, where the commercial will be aired, Mevissen took a detour: He opted to film the bulk of the $500,000 commercial in the Los Angeles area.
Although the commercial’s star is a 40-foot beanstalk (the metaphor: Holland spreading its agricultural roots around the world) much of the commercial was shot with a California crew of about 40 people, along with 60 Los Angeles-area extras and English- and Dutch-speaking actors.
In one scene, producers converted Gigi’s Bakery and Cafe on West Temple Street into a Dutch cafe, selling healthy fruits instead of the greasy fried food typically found in Dutch snack bars. Downtown buildings were used to depict scenes set at a warehouse in Spain and a board meeting in South Korea that erupts into mayhem when the ubiquitous monster plant bursts up through their table. Even the sprawling Tejon Ranch 60 miles north of L.A. had a role, standing in for Tanzania in East Africa.
So why did Mevissen travel across the Atlantic and U.S. to film a Dutch commercial? After all, he might have saved money by shooting in Budapest, Hungary, or Hamburg, Germany, which are closer to Amsterdam and offer hefty tax breaks to boot. Although California has a new film incentive program, commercials aren’t covered by it.
The weak dollar, which makes filming here relatively cheaper, was a factor, Mevissen said. But so was the diversity of locations, good weather and experienced crews.
“I shot a few times in L.A., and it has the very best professionals here and the best crews in the world,” he said.
Nicholas Simon, the producer of the commercial, added: “Where else can you find the breadth of locations that you have here?”
Such testimonials are music to the ears of local film promoters, who are developing a plan to market the area's film industry. There has been an uptick in activity because the economy is improving and overall production is increasing, but the long-term trend has shown Los Angeles losing market share to other areas.
Southern California’s share of all commercial production fell to 48% in 2008 from 54% in 2007, with projects increasingly migrating to other states such as New Mexico, Connecticut and Pennsylvania, according to a recent report from the Assn. of Independent Commercial Producers. Data for 2009 are not yet available.
For his part, Mevissen says he’s already planning to shoot his next commercial — his client won’t let him divulge what it is — in Southern California. “You can always go someplace cheaper, but I don’t think it’s always better,” he said. “When you shoot in L.A., everything goes really smooth.”
For Angelenos, such praise could only come from a foreigner.
— Richard Verrier