Four Questions: Evan Thomason

The city of Santa Clarita enjoys facilitating commercials, TV and feature films, an addition to streaming shows. Long-running shows such as “NCIS,” which has been filming in Santa Clarita for more than a decade, have the largest impact. Courtesy Santa Clarita Film Office.
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Economic Development Associate Evan Thomason leads the city of Santa Clarita’s Film Office, which helps production companies find locations for permitted shoots in the Santa Clarita Valley. To contact the city of Santa Clarita Film Office, contact 661) 284-1425 or visit filmSantaClarita.com.

Evan Thomason. Dan Watson/The Signal

In addition to being in the TMZ or the 30-mile zone, what are some of the big draws for those in the film industry who want to film in Santa Clarita?

Santa Clarita has a lot to offer productions. We are home to over 25 sound stages and over 10 movie ranches so there is a lot of infrastructure in a relatively small area. We also offer a large variety of locations enabling Santa Clarita to double as just about anywhere.

We can portray “anywhere America,” big city, small town, the Middle East — even alien planets. This diversity allows productions to get the look of just about any location with only moving a few miles from their home base. When “Westworld” was filming season one and two here, they would often film at multiple movie ranches at once, which were only a few miles from their home stages.

We also have a streamlined film permit process. Our Film Office acts as a one-stop-shop and facilitates just about all of the interagency/interdepartmental approvals, and we offer a local Film Incentive Program.

We know there’s been an increase in the sheer volume of local filming, how else has the filming industry changed in just the last 5-10 years in the SCV?

In the last six years, we’ve been pretty consistent with averaging over 500 permits, over 1,300 film days and over $30 million in estimated economic impact, which makes for a very busy film office and there are a few reasons for that.

In 2009, the state of California started the Film and Television Tax Rebate program, which is still going strong today. Prior to that, production fled to other states and even other countries to take advantage of their film incentive programs.

California’s own program has brought billions of dollars in spending back into the economy, and with it, thousands of jobs. Santa Clarita has benefited greatly, with many of California’s approved productions filming in our City including “S.W.A.T.,” “Mayan’s MC” and “Once Upon a Time in Hollywood,” to name a few recent examples. Another change in the industry that has led to more filming has to do with the streaming services like Netflix, Amazon and Hulu that are creating so much new content. We’ve had a good amount of production attributed just to those three, but there seems to be more all the time with the likes of YouTube and CBS also creating content exclusively for subscription streaming services.

All filming brings in revenue to the city, but what types of projects have had the most positive financial impact for the city, and why?

Feature films and network television typically generate the most economic impact in terms of daily spending and job creation.

A show like “S.W.A.T.” can easily have over 300 crew members, and they shoot on location quite a bit. We’ve had great success with episodic television in that one show could easily turn into multiple seasons, and make a significant impact to the local economy.

Productions also typically shop local and there’s so much work that goes into creating shows. A mill that’s crafting wood work to create sets can have a hundred people working, for example, and they’re buying lumber and supplies locally. Add that to rental fees for locations and equipment, food, gas and a host of other goods and services, and those numbers quickly add up.

The city recently toured the SCV with the state’s Film Commission officials. What were the highlights of the tour, and what was the discussion about?

Yes, it was a great opportunity to meet the new Director of the California Film Commission, Collen Bell, give her an overview of production in Santa Clarita and hear her thoughts on the future of production and the next phase of the California Film and Television Rebate Program.

We were also fortunate to have Assemblywoman Christy Smith and Mayor Marsha McLean join us for the tour.

The group had a nice dialogue and then toured Santa Clarita Studios and heard from studio ownership, and even a couple of members from current productions, about what filming in California means to them and their crew. After that, we visited Blue Cloud Movie Ranch for a tour, which is one of our local ranches that has expanded quite a bit in just the last few years.

A lot of the discussion centered around how vital the California Film and Tax Credit program has been in bringing jobs and production back to California.

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