Barstow is Becoming a Filming Destination

Barstow is Becoming a Filming Destination

from: Mike Lamb, Press Dispatch

City not making millions from permits, but crews spend money in town

BARSTOW — Nike looked worldwide for shooting locations for a basketball shoe commercial.

Filming was done in Los Angeles, Louisiana and Rome.

And Barstow.

Barstow Public Information Officer Anthony Riley estimates 30 percent of the commercial showed Barstow sites. In split seconds, the Barstow High School gymnasium and trophy case in the school’s hall were showcased.

That commercial could be considered the crown jewel of what the Barstow Film Office attempted to accomplish in 2014, according to Riley.

“Barstow has found its niche,” Riley said. “My co-director at the film office, Margaret Carter, she’s done an incredible job in accessing the permit process and really working through that. We are streamlining the permit process to make it as easy as possible. The Nike commercial, they literally came out on a Monday and we processed the permits within 48 hours. Closing streets and moving heaven and earth.”

The end result can add up to a few dollars for the city and an even greater benefit for businesses in the community. The city charges from $100 to $250 for a filming permit. Riley also said there are daily rates charged to film at certain locations like the abandoned Barstow Hospital.

“There isn’t a huge benefit in that regard,” Riley said. “For us, if we can bring commercials to town, they are going to stay two or three days. They will utilize the hotel industry, utilize catering, hire people for background (extras). They are going to put people to work. Provide TOT tax, transit occupancy tax. That is what we are hoping for, money for the business community.”

The strategy proved successful this year, he said. The list of filming projects requesting permits is lengthy: a Levis commercial, a Panic! At the Disco music video, a Mack truck photo shoot, a Dodge Ram commercial, two Toyota commercials, a Maserati commercial, the aforementioned Nike commercial and several short films, independent feature films and reality shows, including a show from Germany.

The benefit to the city varies from project to project. The city generated more than $7,000 in permits and fees in 2014, Riley said. The Barstow Unified School District received a $1,500 donation from Nike. In addition, the Barstow Film Office has contracted with the Inland Empire Film Commission to process permits and fees in the unincorporated areas of the region. He said the amount fees collected by that commission will not be available until after the first of the year.

A Maserati commercial that was shot in November is one good example of what a major filming project can generate in hotel revenue. During a four-day period, the Country Inn reported 191 rooms were paid for, while the Hampton Inn reported 60 rooms and Holiday Inn Express rented 66 rooms.

Riley said filming companies are constantly scouting and looking for locations. For Director Robert Benavides Jr., the decision to film his movie “Alien Strain” was an easy choice — he grew up in Barstow. But he also sees Barstow’s landscape as a great option for his projects.

“I set out to make my first feature film (”Alien Strain”) and I said, ‘well, there is no better place to make it than back in my hometown,’ ” Benavides said. “The (Barstow) Film Office really helped us out. I had a small crew. My producers and I work hand in hand and with Margaret (Carter) and Anthony (Riley). They got us what we needed in a timely manner.

“When I needed a scene and I thought about it on the spot, I needed a couple of cops going down Highway 58. Can we get them? We were able to call Margaret at the Film Office. Before you know it, we had officers Espinoza and Torra going down Highway 58, having them drive with lights and everything. It was great. It was fantastic. The Barstow Film Office was very instrumental in making this happen.”

Riley is hoping to attract more young filmmakers and the rest of the entertainment industry to Barstow and the surrounding area. The office is networking and improving its filmbarstow.com website.

Riley said the Barstow Film Office believes it has secured an upcoming feature film in January. Although he wasn’t at liberty to identify the film, the filming crew is expected to stay in Barstow for two or three weeks.

“It’s exciting. Robert really kind of spoke about the fact there are so many different places you can film here. The character and there’s a rich history that come alive in projects like his,” he said. “We have done a lot of outreach to the entertainment industry. And we are going to continue to do that. And I think 2015 holds a lot for us, just in terms of the fact we are going to amp it up. We hope it will be just as successful as this last year has been. In order to be competitive, we have to market this city.

“A lot of our partners (Barstow College, Barstow Unified School District, the hotel industry) are saying ‘come on over, we will open our campus as filming locations to help the city become competitive.’ We can bring dollars here. A couple projects were shot at the drive-in. We have one of the last drive-ins on Main Street USA type of thing. For us, in a lot of ways, we need to capitalize on and play on those strengths. We have an abandoned hospital and once you dress it up, it looks like a functioning hospital.”

Benavides, who calls the area a movie maker’s dream, said he is going to do all he can to promote Barstow. He said many locations, like Los Angeles, make the filming process difficult, which results in lost filming time.

“I got some buddies who are doing some movies. I tell them, ‘you have to check out Barstow. It’s great for your project,’ ” he said. “I’ve been taking some location photos for them as well, while I’m out here. Again, I’m proud of Barstow. I’m proud of this place and I want to see it prosper. And I want to see producers come out here and make movies.”

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