From earning “safest city” to “most pet-friendly city” in the past, there’s no doubt Santa Clarita has a lot to boast about. But perhaps the one that consists is its recognition as the “most business-friendly” location in Los Angeles County, including show business.
The film industry in the area has been around longer than this generation or the previous one, and even before record-setting roller coasters at Six Flags Magic Mountain. If you look closely, you’ll notice many relics still exist today that proves Santa Clarita’s window into fame is attributed to its Hollywood Western culture.
Down in Newhall, there’s silent film star William Hart’s former 256-acre ranch now known as the William S. Hart Park and Museum, which houses Western artwork and Hollywood memorabilia. Just north of the locale on Railroad Avenue, you’ll find Saugus Café, which opened in 1886 and served legends like President Theodore Roosevelt and Charlie Chaplin and modern-day celebrities.
Hollywood has brought its productions to this end of the county since the silent film era but over the most recent years, and with the birth and expansion of the city, the film industry has also grown, according to local government and business officials.
“We’re consistently going really strong,” said Evan Thomason, economic development associate with the city. “Santa Clarita has been known as a film destination, especially for Western films because we were very rural. Santa Clarita is not a secret in the production world but everyone is taking a second look and we are having a lot of activity.”
Just how much? For its 2018-19 fiscal year, the city’s film office recorded 526 film permits and 1,380 film days, which generated an estimated $33.4 million in economic impact to the local community. And these figures are consistent as the fiscal impact has remained steady between $30 million and $33.9 million over the last six years.
Why film here?
The city and the Santa Clarita Valley as a whole attract film production companies for multiple reasons and its diverse communities are among the top reasons, according to Monica Harrison, president and owner of L.A. Film Locations, which provides locations for producers, directors and location scouts.
“It’s a perfect city to do business in — especially film business,” she said, adding that “Santa Clarita can be ‘cheated’ as almost any place in the world. It’s a very ripe and receptive city for filming.”
With its mountains, bodies of water and both green and desert-like spaces, productions have found it easy to turn the SCV other parts of the United States such as Louisiana and Washington D.C., and other nations including Iraq, France, Morocco, Mexico and Spain.
Production companies enjoy filming in areas that can easily mold into other parts of the world, which include “unique neighborhoods like Main Street, College of the Canyons and movie ranches,” said Thomason.
Most recently, Hollywood director Quentin Tarantino returned to Melody Ranch in Newhall for its latest film “Once Upon a Time … In Hollywood,” filming four days at the rand and one day at the Saugus Speedway in an overnight shoot on Oct. 2018.
Plenty of Hollywood magic happens within Santa Clarita Studios, an independent studio operator and favorite among film producers which expanded operations to a more than 100,000-square-foot industrial building in Valencia in January as many productions flock back to the SCV.
“There is no doubt that SCV is a happening location for filming, and with space at sound stages at a premium, our region has added several more over the past year to accommodate the demand including the expansion of Santa Clarita Studios and the addition of LA North Studios in Valencia Industrial Center. These new soundstages bring the region’s total number close to 40,” said Holly Schroeder, president and CEO of the SCV Economic Development Corporation in an August blog post about the local film industry.
When it comes to the permitting process, the city’s film office is known for its successful efforts in guiding productions through all the requirements as well as offer a film incentive program, which subsidizes permit fees and reduces costs of safety personnel.
Santa Clarita is also located within the 30-mile film zone, radius used by union film projects to determine per diem rates and driving distances for crew members, according to the California Film Commission.
“The reason we see so many movie trailers and crews working around the city is because we are in the magic 30-mile zone,” said Mayor Marsha McLean. “Not only do these local productions enhance our economy –they also provide jobs to our residents. In fact, some 6,000 Santa Clarita residents are employed by the entertainment industry.”
While not employed, many businesses and SCV locations directly benefit from local filming, including Ice Station Valencia, Hyatt Regency Valencia, Newhall Refinery and Bridgeport Marketplace.
“Overall, the film industry has been very positive,” said Chris Hailstone, Bridgeport Marketplace property owner. “They often make improvements to some of our properties for a specific shoot they may need. A number of years ago, they painted the bridge at no cost to the tenants. We do what we can and work with as many film crews as possible, including independent and student crews.”
With the California Film and Television Tax Credit program, which offers tax credits based on qualified expenditures for eligible productions produced in the state, productions are returning to the area — a positive sign that Santa Clarita could continue to see strong film years.
“We’ve been very consistent for the past five years and I think it will continue. A lot of productions are returning to California due to the tax rebate program and we’re the beneficiary of that. We have a lot of California-approved productions that film in Santa Clarita.”
To celebrate the booming, local film scene, the city has planned its annual State of the City event around Santa Clarita’s growing film success on Oct. 24.