Sunday, September 26, 2010

Avenue of the Giants, Humboldt Redwood State Park,California"

Along with the sunny weather and world-class crews, California offers something else that is sought by filmmakers: an abundance of state parks with diverse landscapes, from the redwood forests in Northern California to the desert of Anza-Borrego and the vast beaches and rocky coves of Point Dume.

Not surprisingly, the beauty and variety of the state’s 278 parks have provided countless backdrops for movies, TV shows and commercials for a century. In 2009 alone, nearly 500 permits were issued for nearly 1,000 days of filming in state parks for various productions, including "Iron Man 2" (Point Dume State Beach) and the romantic comedy "I Love You, Man" (Leo Carrillo State Park).

There’s even an annual film series, hosted next month by the California State Parks Foundation, that highlights how Hollywood has relied on state parks as settings for such shows as the long-running TV series "MASH" and films such as the 1968 classic "Planet of the Apes."

But there’s growing concern in the film community that state parks, which are severely underfunded and at risk of closing or falling into disrepair due to the state’s budget crisis, could get written out of the filmmaking script.

On Nov. 2, state residents will be voting on a ballot initiative, called Proposition 21, that would require Californians to pay an extra $18 as part of their annual vehicle registration fee in exchange for eliminating day-pass fees at state parks. That may be a tough sell in the current economic climate, but proponents say California’s state parks need a reliable revenue stream to keep them open to the public and for commercial use.

Some of the biggest supporters of the initiative aren’t just conservation groups -- film commissions as well as location managers view the parks as an essential asset for filmmakers.

"The parks are beautiful, huge and diverse back lots for us," said Veronique Vowell, chairman of the government affairs committee for the Location Managers Guild of America, which has endorsed the ballot initiative. "My concern is that if some of the parks were to close, it would be a disincentive to keep filming in California."

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