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Banner days for L.A. film shoots

A marketing campaign aims to remind often film-weary L.A. residents how important their signature industry is at a time when the region has struggled to keep productions from leaving the state.

August 23, 2011|By Richard Verrier, Los Angeles Times
  • Camera operator Ian Dodd, left, and Forrest Thurman, right, at work during a location shoot for "The Mentalist" TV series in the Highland Park neighborhood of Los Angeles.
Camera operator Ian Dodd, left, and Forrest Thurman, right, at work during… (Francine Orr, Los Angeles…)

About 300 protesters marched down 56th Street past a theater in Highland Park, hoisting placards with slogans like "Stop targeting aliens" and "We're not thugs" and chanting, "We're united."

No, this wasn't an immigration rights rally. The demonstrators were extras who gathered on a hot Monday morning to film a scene for an upcoming episode of "The Mentalist, " the CBS crime drama that is shooting its fourth season in Los Angeles.

Producers had cordoned off three blocks of the Highland Park community , where the extras milled with another 100 crew members and the show's stars, Simon Baker, Amanda Righetti and Tim Kang, whose characters were investigating a murder amid the protest.

"This was a big one for us," said location manager David Marmolejo, who spent a week getting the permits and approvals to film the protest march sequence. "Your average Joe doesn't realize how many people work on a show like this. There are lots of people who are contributing to our local economy."

To reinforce the point, "The Mentalist" is among the first of several local TV shows that have emblazoned their production trucks with 8-foot-long yellow and black banners reading: "FilmWorks. Keep jobs in Los Angeles."

The banners are part of a two-year, approximately $150,000 marketing campaign launched in December by FilmL.A. Inc., the nonprofit group that handles film permits for the city and incorporated areas of the county. The goal is to remind often film-weary L.A. residents how important their signature industry is at a time when the region has struggled to keep productions from leaving the state.

"The Mentalist" is one of about 45 one-hour dramas and nearly 60 sitcoms that regularly film in Los Angeles, which remains the largest production hub in the world despite growing competition from cities such as Vancouver, Canada; Detroit; and New Orleans.

FilmL.A. has been plastering thousands of FilmWorks logos on bumpers, billboards, bus stops, kiosks and, more recently, film equipment trucks. The campaign also will feature a 90-second public service announcement starring Tia Carrere that will run in Mann theaters next month.

Warner Bros., which produces "The Mentalist," has featured the FilmWorks slogan on half a dozen production trucks and has included the logos on "Hart of Dixie," the new medical drama from CW. ABC Studios also has agreed to feature the stickers on half a dozen production trucks, said Todd Lindgren, spokesman for FilmL.A.

"It's just to remind the public of the cultural and economic value of this industry to the region," Lindgren said.

On-location production in Los Angeles was up 17% last week compared with the same period a year earlier, thanks to a surge in feature film activity, including shoots for Sony Pictures Entertainment's "The Girl With the Dragon Tattoo" and the romantic comedy "Think Like a Man." Feature film production activity rose 117%, while commercial production increased 8% and TV activity dropped 3%, according to FilmL.A. data.

"The Mentalist," about a psychic who helps police solve crimes, is set in Sacramento but films heavily throughout L.A., from downtown to the beaches to the San Fernando Valley. Next week the crew will shoot a desert scene in Palmdale.

"We're all over the place," Marmolejo said. "Hopefully, people will understand that we're keeping people working and putting food on the table."

richard.verrier@latimes.com

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