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National Park Service facility in Agoura closes due to federal budget impasse

The Paramount Ranch in Agoura Hills has an 85-year-history that is a draw not just for tourists but for filmmakers wanting to shoot there: It’s been the location for classics like “Gunfight at the O.K. Corral” and “The Virginian,” as well as more recent TV series like “Dr. Quinn, Medicine Woman.”

But the ranch, now owned by the National Park Service, is among the locations off limits because of the federal government shutdown, meaning that not only is it closed to visitors but to any scheduled productions as well. On Tuesday, the producers of a low budget feature, “Western Religion,” scheduled to start shooting there on Oct. 21, decided to move elsewhere.

“It would have put us in a bind,” said Louie Sabatasso, one of the producers of the project via 3rd Partner Pictures. “We got right on it the second (the shutdown) happened.”

Instead, they will shoot at a ranch in Agua Dulce, northeast of Santa Clarita that is run by Peter Sherayko, whose company, Caravan West Prods., consults and supplies props and sets for western productions. He already was set to work on “Western Religion.”

Tony Hoffman, filming coordinator for California State Parks and the National Park Service in the area, said that another production called “1885” was scheduled to shoot at the ranch on Monday. That now appears unlikely.

Sabatasso said that they booked the ranch about three months ago, and although they were excited about the prospect of shooting at a location with such a storied history, they couldn’t afford to wait to see what would happen with the government shutdown. Their budget is $250,000, some of its through crowdfunding, and a delay would have been difficult.

The project centers on the stories of the gunfighters and cardsharps who descend on an Arizona mining town in 1879 to compete in a high stakes poker tournament. It was written and will be directed by James O’Brien, whose credits include the recent “Wish You Were Here.”

“We didn’t really know what we would do until the production meeting yesterday,”┬áSabatasso said, noting that it was then that Sherayko who came up with the idea of shooting at his ranch. “The great thing is a lot of independent filmmaking is a happy accident.”

The scramble to find a Plan B, he notes, is probably being played out elsewhere.

“When you are an independent filmmaker, you are a problem solver by trade,” Sabatasso said. “But I think a lot of people are looking at this government shutdown and figuring out something else.” Frustrating as that is, he said, “You find a way.”

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