More and more movie, television, video and even commercial producers are looking to Tulare County as the site of their filming locations. Over the years, the county has had its share of scenes in such notable films as “Stagecoach,” “Hulk” and “Forest Gump,” but now it seems that the county is getting a sudden influx of requests, and not just to film a quick scene.
Part of this increased interest is due to the aggressive marketing efforts of the Tulare County Film Commission. Part of the interest is the result of the way the county has been showcased in recent productions, such as a popular video for a song from a hit movie.
In February, Zedd featuring Matthew Koma and Miriam Bryant were at Sequoia National Park to film a video for “Find You,” a song featured in the movie “Divergent.”
“They wanted a wilderness look that they could only get with Giant Sequoias,” explained Eric Coyne, Tulare County film commissioner & tourism manager. He added that the crew went to the national park on Super Bowl Sunday, expecting to have to create snow. Instead they found snow on the ground. “They saved $100,000.”
The video of the song was posted at YouTube where it had 4 million hits in four days, and more than 6 million hits total. The video debuted at the SXSW Festival in Austin and was also shown on Nickelodeon.
“This led to two more video requests,” said Coyne, who wasn’t free to provide names but would only say that one was from a well known Latin American hip hop star, and the other was from a popular female country music star.
In addition to attracting film crews because of its scenic locations, Tulare County is drawing interest for educational programming. A Korean film crew was in the area to do a documentary on the Giant Sequoias for the Korean Educational Broadcast Network over Memorial Day weekend. They were well educated about the flora of the area, but unaware about the crowds that gather at Sequoia National Park on that weekend.
“They weren’t able to get in to see the General Sherman Tree,” said Coyne, who suggested they try Balch Park. “They never heard of the park, but they heard of the trees that are there. They were very familiar with the writings of (John) Muir.”
The crew had intended to film in a few counties, but after visiting Tulare County decided to do all the filming here, said Coyne. “They focused on the Giant Sequoias and what they found interesting is that the biggest trees grow from the smallest cones.
“They taught me things I didn’t know about sequoias,” added Coyne. “Sequoias have no age limit in their DNA. Theoretically, they could live over 10,000 years.”
The Korean film crew explored Balch Park and Mountain Home State Forest with equipment that produces film 32 times sharper than HDTV. The results of their filming will appear on Korean television in October 2015, reaching an estimated audience of 40 million, according to Coyne.
“They got sidetracked by mushrooms,” noted Coyne. “They were picking and eating them left and right. They were fascinated by our corner of the country.”
Last week, a film crew was in Tulare County to film another Wal-Mart commercial. Once again, this commercial follows fruit from where it’s picked to where it’s eaten by the consumer.
“Last fall, they did oranges,” said Coyne. “Now they’re doing peaches. This time, it’s not just beautiful peaches, but it’s at a beautiful orchard in the Dinuba area.”
Michael Washam, Tulare County economic development manager, credits the videos created by the Tulare County Film Commission with the increased interest in filming in the county, especially the video that makes use of a drone (www.youtube.com/channel/UCSvpOH87ZmbGbRHsPog-hZw).
“That helped sell Balch Park,” he said.
“The video has led to more than a dozen serious inquiries,” said Coyne, who mentioned the Bollywood film in Mooney Grove and three Balch Park film projects for Korean television. “‘My Country,’ for Indian Bollywood was filmed there two weeks ago.”
The drone, which was requested by the producers of “Hyperion,” was also used by the commission to get a birds-eye view of various locations in the county. The county was able to use the drone because a purely commercial use, such as the aerial views of Sequoia National Park that were important for the film “Hyperion,” weren’t enough alone to get FAA permission.
“Hyperion,” which films in several Tulare County locations, “is the story of Ren, a college senior, who is in the hospital recovering from an infection caused by her cystic fibrosis,” reads an online movie synopsis. “When Carl visits Ren, despite the fact her family doesn’t want him around, Ren tells him she doesn’t want to waste away as a victim. As he struggles to do something, anything, for the woman that he loves, Carl comes to the radical conclusion that he, and his best friend Phil, can escape with Ren and travel to the redwoods on a road trip north, fulfilling Ren’s lifelong dream to the majestic trees in person.”
In addition to filming at the national park, the producers decided to film other scenes in Springville and Porterville. “They were going to film the hospital scenes in L.A., but it can cost $600 to park a car in Malibu,” said Coyne. “Even laundromats in Malibu have rate sheets showing the cost to film there. They cancelled their shoot in L.A. to film at Sierra View Hospital. They used a section of the hospital that was being used for staff training.”
So far, “Hyperion” has only been screened to “insiders,” including this week’s screening at a director’s guild event, according to Coyne. A release date is yet to be announced.
For more information about filming in Tulare County, visit www.filmtularecounty.com.