Lights! Camera! Action!
How would you like to watch an actual movie being shot on location?
Well, up until Sept. 11, 2001, you could easily do just that.
Many of the scenes for Hollywood movies & TV shows are filmed inside studio sound stages and on studio back lots. But when producers want to inject a little authenticity into their projects, they often hits the road to film on location. They usually go no farther than the L.A. basin.
Every day of the year, dozens of film crews are out on the streets of L.A. and Hollywood, shooting key scenes for major motion pictures, TV shows, music videos, commercials, etc. If you can find out where these crews will be shooting, you can stop by and watch the action; if you're lucky, you may even see your favorite movie stars in person.
The question, of course, is how do you find out where (and when) these studio location crews will be filming?
There used to be an easy way you could get that information.
In Los Angeles, film companies need a special permit before they can shoot on the streets of the city (and that includes Hollywood). The city office that gives out those permits - The Los Angeles Film Permit Office - issues a daily list of exactly when and where each movie, TV show, commercial or music video is going to be shot. They call this list a "shoot sheet."
Up until 9/11, they gave these "shoot sheets" out to the public. You could stop by at the Permit office on any weekday, between 7 AM and 6 PM, and pick up a copy of this "shoot sheet" for a nominal fee. But unfortunaltely, that has changed now that Hollywood is worried about possible terrorist attacks. The shoot sheets are still being published, but unfortunately they are no longer available to the general public.
They are now restricted to people who work in the Hollywood entertainment industry.
The "shoot sheet" (actually, several sheets) includes the exact address of each filming location, along with the name of the production company that scheduled the shooting, the name of the movie or TV show that is being shot, and the hours that they have reserved for the shoot (listed in military time).
You used to be able to pick up a copy of the Shoot Sheet at the Film Permit Office, located right on Hollywood Boulevard, a short walk west of Grauman's Chinese Theatre, on the 5th floor of a tall office building right next to the new Hollywood Entertainment Museum.
I dropped by on an average Friday in August a couple of years ago, and the day's "shoot sheet" was six pages long, with almost 100 productions listed for the day, including well-known TV sitcoms and dramas ("Felicity," "Clueless," "Baywatch"...) plus many feature motion pictures such as "Inspector Gadget" "The Fight Club" (with Brad Pitt) and "Man on the Moon" (with Jim Carrey), plus music videos and numerous commercials.
On an earlier visit, the shoot sheet included a rock video being shot in the neighborhood by "Mötley Crüe" - and sure enough, on my way back from the Permit Office, Mötley Crüe happened to drive past in a convertible, waving to their fans.)
But that's history now. They no longer give them out to members of the public.
Likewise, you used to be able to get a free copy online! In fact, I had a link to their site, at http://www.seeing-stars.com/ShootSheet. But you'll no longer find the shoot sheet at that link, just a notice that from now on people will need to apply for a password and prove they work for the entertainment industry before they can access the online sheets.
One important bit of information that the "shoot sheet" doesn't provide, however, is the names of the stars of the movies being filmed. That could be a major drawback. However, to find out which stars are appearing in which movies, just click here to see a short list I've compiled of some of the major movies being shot in L.A. and the stars featured in each film. So if you're one of the lucky ones who has access to the sheets, my "Movies Being Shot in L.A." page makes a good companion. For most people, though, it won't be of much use on its own.
In short, it looks like 9/11 has produced another victim: the well-meaning tourist who used to enjoy watching movies being made on location in Hollywood, who will now have to do without the shoot sheets that were once his guide.
There's one other way you still might be able to find a filming location, but it takes a bit of luck. When film crews are scheduled to shoot at a location, they usually send out someone in advance who places small signs on telephone poles, which help direct the crew to the filming location. These small signs are usually brightly colored (such as yellow, hot pink or neon green), hand-lettered, contain an often cryptic title (such as "MS503" for "Minority Report"), and have an arrow pointing in the right direction. Most people drive right past them, or think they advertise a garage sale. But if you look for them, you'll run across them fairly regularly. By following these signs, film crews eventually arrive at their destination. So, if you want to do a little sign-following yourself, you might luck out and find a major film being made. You can spot a filming location easily enough once you get there, because there will be a number of large white trucks and trailers parked in the area, as well as cables strung about. The trucks carry the film & lighting equipment, and the trailers (often Starwaggons) are the stars' dressing rooms.
But be warned that for every major movie or TV show
being filmed on any given day, there are many more TV commercials, ad shoots,
music videos and student films being shot with unknown actors. By checking
my "Movies Being Shot in L.A." list,
you might be able to match up a movie title to a sign title, but it's a
Hours: The film permit office is open Mon-Fri: 8 AM - 6 PM. (Monday-Friday only. Closed on Saturday & Sunday.)
Getting there: The Permit Office is located on the 5th floor of the office building next to the Hollywood Entertainment Museum, just east of Grauman's Chinese Theatre, at 7083 Hollywood Boulevard (on the north side of the street). From Hollywood & Vine, go west on Hollywood Boulevard (about three quarters of a mile), to between Highland Avenue and La Brea.
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Copyright © 2014-Gary Wayne
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