Big names like Quentin Tarantino and Johnny Depp have called Santa Barbara County home periodically over this past year, sending a few extra dollars to float around the county – $46 million to be exact.
As a result of a few large-scale Hollywood films shot in the area, this year has seen a flurry of high-priced activity for the Santa Barbara film industry. Atop the list of films shot in Santa Barbara County during this past year are the soon-to-be-released “Pirates of the Caribbean: At World’s End” and Tarantino’s “Death Proof,” half of the recently released “Grindhouse.”
The increased activity has resulted in an economic boom of $46 million, said former Santa Barbara County Film Commissioner Martine White. A large portion of the money goes to the local services that accommodate people working on the films, including the hotels that house the large crews, the restaurants that feed them and even the bars that intoxicate them.
White said the “Pirates of the Caribbean” crew was here for only four days, but the economic advantages of having a movie of such large proportions filmed in the county equals about $200,000 a day.
The filmmakers paid the owners of Guadalupe Dunes near Santa Maria approximately $10,000 a day to film on their premises, money that was put toward conservation efforts at the nonprofit educational and research center.
The makers of “Death Proof” – parts of which were filmed on Figueroa Mountain Road near Lompoc – spent two months filming in the county, White said. This is the longest a major feature has spent in the county since “Sideways,” which was filmed in 2004. White said feature films that utilize Santa Barbara’s resources for as long as “Death Proof” and “Sideways” can do wonders for the county.
“Thanks to ‘Sideways,’ people came to understand the impacts filming can have,” she said. “As a result of that movie, wine sales have gone up 30 percent, and business at hotels in the wine country was up 25 percent over the last few years.”
This boom of activity in the area comes at a time when less and less films are being made around the rest of California.
UCSB Film & Media Studies Dept. academic advisor Joe Palladino said filmmakers, especially those responsible for the major features that top the box-office, tend to film where it is most economically advantageous.
Due to the high prices and dense population in the state, it is becoming less feasible to shoot films in California. Despite its proximity to Hollywood, the actual city of Santa Barbara has not been the main setting of a major picture since “My Favorite Martian” in 1999. Palladino said he blames this on the high prices around the city.
While this year has seen a lot of films around the county, both White and Palladino said it is impossible to guess whether more actors and directors will choose to call Santa Barbara home again next year.
“Next year we could have five major features or it could be three years until we get another one,” White said. “It’s impossible to know. It’s just random.”
The Film & Media Studies Dept. took full advantage of the major films coming through town, Palladino said. Many film students took the opportunity to intern with the production teams. A large number of UCSB students also worked on “Sideways” when it was filmed in the county three years ago.
Some critics have voiced concerns about a hostile takeover of Santa Barbara by the Hollywood film industry, but Palladino said to have no fear.
“There’s no need to worry about Hollywood invading Santa Barbara… It’s just too expensive here,” he said.