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Incentives used to spur filming

HOLLYWOOD — Film producers are racking up pre-box office dollars thanks to Film California First programs.

Twentieth Century Fox will be reimbursed more than $75,000 by FCF for three weeks of filming “Planet of the Apes” on Bureau of Land Management property at Trona Pinnacles near Ridgecrest. Additionally, $3.4 million was pumped into the area during production.

“God bless Fox,” Ridgecrest Film Commission executive director Ray Arthur said. “Whatever money they saved by using the (Film California First) program, they spent with businesses in Ridgecrest. We saw ape dollars in places that had never seen film revenue before: feed stores, gravel quarries; we even had a local dentist make a set of teeth for one of the crew.”

“Planet of the Apes”‘ accountant, Ida Lee Henderson said, “It’s a great bonus to have. All the information was online and the forms were very self-explanatory and easy to fill out. The FCF program is clearly a step in the right direction to help keep filming in the state of California.”

Web operation

FCF has a deal for even the newest production medium: made-for-Internet films.

An old man with a stash of priceless jewels must make his escape and hitches a ride with a mysterious man driving a BMW. The latest “James Bond” action pic? No. Top directors John Frankenheimer, Ang Lee, Wong Kar-wei, Guy Richie and Alejandro Gonzalez Inarritu have been tapped to film BMW’s new-media, high-end branding, Internet campaign to showcase their sedans.

“Ambush,” produced by Anonymous Content and the first in a series of five six-minute films, was reimbursed over $17,000 by FCF for filming on California public roads such as the Sierra Highway in Santa Clarita, a road near Piru, and an interior road near Malibu State Park.

The protagonist of each film is a chauffeur called the Hire, who is played by British actor Clive Owen (“Croupier”), who picks up different characters and races away with them. “Ambush” can be seen at a desktop near you on BMWFilms.com.

“(‘Ambush’) was like shooting a feature film,” production manager Betsy Kelley said. “Production lasted for 12 nights and one day and there were over 120 people on the payroll. The FCF programs definitely made a difference. We were able to put the money that we were reimbursed back into the film.”

Location loot

“The truth is out there.” So sayeth “The X-Files,” which saved a very earthly $60,000-$80,000 in television production costs through FCF. Producers also received rebates for filming its season finale on Paramount Ranch, a National Park Service site also used for “Dr. Quinn, Medicine Woman” and “Little House on the Prairie.”

Producer Harry Bring said, ” ‘The X-Files’ does a great deal of location work and we had two complete units shooting at the same time last season. We will definitely be using the FCF program for our next season.”

” ‘The X-Files’ is a very location-intensive show. CHP and park rangers were used in almost every episode and ‘The X-Files’ incurred a great deal of location and personnel costs,” location manager Ilt Jones said. “We are very pleased to have been able to take advantage of this program.”

Designed to bring down production costs by reimbursing companies for the cost of public labor, excluding local police, and reducing location site, film permit and public equipment fees for filming on public land in the state, the multimillion-dollar 3-year incentive program is administered by the California Film Commission. Log on to the FCF’s interactive Web site at http://www.filmcafirst.com for more info.

* * *

Last call for transplanted Clevelanders to enter the Greater Cleveland Film Commission’s 2001 Eaton Corp. Screenplay Awards competition.

Judges will award prizes and plane trips to L.A. to a winner whose script is set in Cleveland and/or Northern Ohio. Entries must be received by Aug. 31. For rules and entry forms, go to ClevelandFilm.com or call (216) 623-3900.

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