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Spider-Man and Cameron Crowe give L.A. filming a boost

The Sony Pictures and 20th Century Fox productions will provide jobs for hundreds of movie industry workers.

December 21, 2010|By Richard Verrier, Los Angeles Times

Angelenos have good reason to be despondent about the flight of filming from California.

After all, the upcoming alien invasion movie "Battle: Los Angeles" was actually shot in Baton Rouge and Shreveport, La., not Southern California.

"Mission Impossible: Ghost Protocol" has been filming in Dubai; Prague, Czech Republic; and Vancouver, Canada.

Marvel Studios selected London over Los Angeles as home base to film its comic book hero movie "Captain America: The First Avenger."

And New Zealand served as the backdrop for Jellystone Park in the Warner Bros. current 3-D movie "Yogi Bear."

But for all the hand-wringing about film flight — film industry promoters recently unveiled a $135,000 marketing campaign touting the local movie and TV industry — at least two major-studio feature films are staying close to home, providing some relief to a sector that has been buffeted by job losses.

Sony Pictures recently began filming its fourth installment of the Spider-Man series locally, and 20th Century Fox's "We Bought a Zoo," starring Matt Damon and Scarlett Johansson, is preparing to begin production in Thousand Oaks next month.

For below-the-line crews who have been hard hit by the effects of runaway production and studios making fewer feature films, the film projects come at an opportune time.

"It's tremendous to have these films because you're talking about hundreds of jobs that will stay in the area," said Ed Duffy, business agent for Teamsters Local 399, which represents location managers, casting agents and studio drivers.

The latest Spider-Man film alone will employ nearly 1,000 crew members, including construction workers building sets for the production, which takes up seven stages on the Sony Pictures lot.

Sony began its 90-day film shoot for "Spider-Man" two weeks ago, mainly on the lot but also on location, including at the Henry Fonda Theater in Hollywood and Immanuel Presbyterian Church in mid-Wilshire.

Scheduled for release in 2012, "Spider Man 4" has an entirely new cast (British actor Andrew Garfield replaces Tobey Maguire) and is being directed by Marc Webb at less than half the budget of the previous Spider-Man film, which cost more than $250 million to make.

Although the production will include two weeks in New York (where the story is set), the bulk of filming will occur in Los Angeles on the Sony lot and various locations around town, from South Pasadena to San Pedro to Woodland Hills.

Sony had ample incentive to select L.A. as its primary destination.

"This is the fourth Spider-Man production we have shot primarily in Los Angeles and for good reason," Sony Pictures Entertainment spokesman Steve Elzer said. "The crews here are the best in the world, but there is a comfort level in producing a project of this size and scope on your own back lot. "

Basing the film on the lot also makes it easier for producers to interact with Sony's in-house visual effects team and gives the studios greater control of quality and security, Elzer added.

Nonetheless, Sony had considered other locations, and filmmakers met with city and film industry officials this summer seeking confirmation that they would be able to film key scenes downtown. "They wanted assurances that a film like that could be made in L.A." said Paul Audley, president of FilmL.A. Inc., the nonprofit film permit group.

In Thousand Oaks, crews have been building a zoo on a private ranch as they prepare to begin a 50-day shoot next month for "We Bought a Zoo."

Directed by Cameron Crowe, the film is based on the bestselling memoir of the same name about an Englishman who built a wildlife preserve to care for some 200 animals.

richard.verrier@latimes.com

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