Santa Paula Times

Lights, camera, Santa Paula! Hometown USA drawing more film companies

April 18, 2012
Santa Paula News

Santa Paulans are seeing now what people don’t see until later: television commercials being filmed on a regular basis throughout the city, while larger productions are scouting the area.

According to Filming Liaison Pattie Harrison, several commercials have been filmed in the city in recent months with an emphasis on automobiles.

With its picturesque and “Anywhere USA” downtown, the central business district has become a particular favorite for shoots, especially those that call for a parade.

Subaru utilized the area for a commercial - that also highlighted the first of the city’s famous murals - when the couple in the vehicle inadvertently joined a parade in their muddy Outback. Harrison said a more recent downtown shoot in December for Chevrolet also offered “great exposure” of the central business district, and also of the Santa Paula High School Band.

“It was really, really good exposure for our kids in the band,” featured in the commercial with the school’s Cardinal mascot. In addition, “They made a $4,000 donation to the band program... I was so excited it was our band and the donation is a significant amount of money for new band instruments. The kids were really troupers... they walked back and forth what must have been 25 times. It was awesome!”

About 100 extras were needed for the shoot that included Topa-Topa Flywheelers and the Santa Paula Fire Department’s vintage Mack engine. “The Santa Paula Firefighters Association also received a significant donation” for their help, including from several off-duty firefighters who appeared in the commercial.

The one-day shoot was a production of Aero Films of Santa Monica, which also left behind the banners made for the parade scenes that “you can really tell is Santa Paula.”

In recent weeks La Casita on West Main Street was turned into a saltwater taffy stand for another Chevrolet commercial. “You could say Chevy likes Santa Paula,” noted Harrison. 

As does Trinity Films of Camarillo, scheduled to return a third time to Santa Paula for the “Modos: The Prophecy Armageddon” television series, which recently debuted on WGN. Harrison said Modos was filmed at Mupu Grill and Blanchard Community Library, among other locations, and many of the cast and crew stayed at the Glen Tavern Inn for more than a week.

The recent upswing in commercials she believes is connected to the recovery in the wake of destruction in Japan caused by the 2011 earthquake and tsunami that destroyed factories that made automobile parts, which caused a slow down in manufacturing.

Harrison - who has been the film liaison for Santa Paula for 14 years - said she has learned “a pattern in the advertising business... maybe because it’s an election year they go more Americana, they gauge what the general public is feeling.... And if it’s ‘apple pie’ they’ll come here” because of the city’s warm hometown feel.

That feeling is also coupled with the product: “It’s a different mindset” that makes a Subaru Outback or Chevy pickup truck appearing right at home in the rural area with a Midwest small town feeling. “We must be in a season of feel good small towns, so we’re getting the business.”

And Harrison makes it her business to be available for the business conducted by location managers: “They have my cell phone number and when they call I will answer.... If you don’t take their call they don’t have time to call you back,” and might move to another potential location. 

Harrison takes part in filming trade shows and works to promote filming countywide with the Ventura County Economic Development Corporation, recognized by the California Film Commission as the county’s film commission.

“I’m always looking for positive ways to promote Santa Paula... I love my town. And I do apologize for the inconvenience at times caused by filming, but the benefits and promotion of our community, the positive outcomes of these shoots include those people that do come out, search out our community” when they learn the location of the filming.

“The Chamber has always been outstanding in their support of me promoting Santa Paula... and filming does bring in commerce.... It never fails,” said Harrison, “when something is filmed in Santa Paula the crew love going to Mupu Grill and Garman’s Pub” when they stay overnight in a hotel nearby.