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Sunday, September 23, 2012

Filmmaking in Malibu Creek State Park

If you’re a fan of the movies, and you live in Southern California, one place you should visit is Malibu Creek State Park.  This area, once owned by Fox Studios, is where many movies and TV shows were shot.  You won’t find much in the way of existing film sets, so you’ll need to do some Internet research to get a sense of which of your favorite scenes was filmed where.  But knowing exactly where this or that story element took place isn’t necessary to gain an appreciation for this area.  Once you know that your favorite stories were filmed here, the imagination takes over.  The mind starts the projector rolling, and as you walk the trail, Fiction overlays Reality.

This isn’t the lush landscape of England, where constant rainfall converts your surroundings into varying but vivid shades of green.  Yet the landscape offers up its own arid beauty.  Your footsteps may hasten across the sunbaked portions of the trail, then slow beneath the shadows cast from the Oak, Sycamore, Willow, and other trees that somehow survive such dry conditions.  But if you love old movies and TV shows, there is meaning here beyond what physically exists.

The old Fox Ranch may be owned by the State of California now, but movies are still shot here.  We happened upon one production as we approached Century Lake.  We passed an equipment truck humming with generators, and followed the power cables to a large camera.  Twenty to thirty people waited or worked or chatted as key members debated where and how to set up their next shot.  The company allowed us through, and we walked along the shore until we reached the dam.  The water reflected the surrounding hills, trees, and reeds that sprouted up along the shore.  A couple men picked up a big light on a tall stand, and carried it to its next position.  A lifeguard, there in case anyone fell in the lake, sat reading a paperback.  After we took our photographs, we followed the trail (the only way out) back through their “set.”  I asked a woman if she needed two extras.  She smiled and said, “Not today.”

When we discovered that the crew had used the only picnic table by the lake, we walked another mile or so until we finally gave in and climbed onto a concrete cistern.  While it would have been nice to eat our lunch by the lake, the company’s presence served as a pleasant reminder that filmmakers still use this area to weave their transforming magic.  I wonder: if I ever see the finished TV show or movie, will I recognize that particular scene?

Dragon Dave

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