For more than a century, the Santa Clarita Valley has been a preferred filming destination for some of the most beloved productions in television and movie history. Over the years, countless Hollywood directors and actors have filmed on location in Santa Clarita – from our very own cinema cowboy legend William S. Hart, to D.W. Griffith, Mary Pickford and Leonardo DiCaprio.
The Santa Clarita Valley has been the backdrop for countless television commercials, as well as music videos made by a wide range of artists, including Beyoncé and Blake Shelton. Some popular and award-winning television shows have been based here as well, including “NCIS,” “Knight Rider” and “Deadwood.” It is true that you can film almost anything in Santa Clarita due to our variety of geography and local landscaping.
Our city has also appeared on the silver screen more times than you can count, notably in Quentin Tarantino’s “Once Upon a Time in…Hollywood” and one of this year’s Academy Award nominees for Best Picture, “The Fabelmans.” But it is our shared connection with the history of film – many would say that Santa Clarita and Hollywood “grew up together” – that is the main cause for celebration.
Each year, Santa Clarita reflects on its deep connection with the film industry with the annual Newhallywood Silent Film Festival. This one-of-a-kind extravaganza explores the silent film era and our city’s unique role in the history of movies that have delighted generations of families around the world for over one hundred years.
The Newhallywood Silent Film Festival will take place this weekend, from Feb. 24-26, and this year will honor the careers and legacies of Charlie Chaplin and Cecil B. DeMille. The festival gives residents the chance to learn more about the early days of filming in Santa Clarita and hear behind-the-scenes details from iconic silent movies.
There will be a number of exciting opportunities to connect with the history of silent films, including guest speaker presentations and special movie screenings. Three films that are featured in this year’s Newhallywood Silent Film Festival are celebrating their 100th anniversary and now is your chance to experience them in their original form.
First, “The Hunchback of Notre Dame,” starring Lon Chaney, will be shown at The Main (24266 Main St.) on Friday starting at 11 p.m. This film helped set the standard for Hollywood’s later horror movies. This screening is part of the festival’s “Silent Screams” program, which highlights achievements made in the horror genre. The other “Silent Screams” entry to be featured is “Nosferatu,” which will be shown at 11 p.m. on Saturday at The Main.
Also on Saturday, you can enjoy a screening of “The Ten Commandments,” which was produced and directed by Cecil B. DeMille. It will be screened at the Newhall Family Theatre of the Performing Arts (24607 Walnut St.) at 8 p.m. This film is the first in DeMille’s biblical trilogy and was followed up by “The King of Kings” and “The Sign of the Cross.”
“The Ten Commandments” was truly a groundbreaking film and tells the story of Moses, while also sharing a practical application of the Ten Commandments for a modern (at the time) audience.
On Sunday at 8 p.m. close out the festival at the Newhall Family Theatre with a back-to-back showing of Chaplin’s “The Adventurer” and “The Pilgrim,” the latter of which turns 100 this year. Both are beloved comedies that will make for an entertaining end to a remarkable weekend.
While these three films share a milestone anniversary in 2023, they are far from the only ones being celebrated at the Newhallywood Silent Film Festival. Each day features programming beginning at 1 p.m. and a number of guest speakers will be on hand to share even more about the history of silent film.
All film screenings as part of the festival are completely free to attend. There is also a paid tour that visits filming sites in both Santa Clarita and Hollywood – aptly named “BusTour Keaton.” (You know, after Buster Keaton. We find humor where we can!) You can find out everything you need to know about the tour, as well as the full festival schedule, by visiting NewhallywoodFilmFest.org.
I hope you’ll enjoy this exciting trip to Santa Clarita’s silent movie past!
Councilwoman Laurene Weste is a member of the Santa Clarita City Council and can be reached at [email protected].