Filming of movies, commercials and more on the rise in SLO County

sduerr@thetribunenews.comMarch 1, 2014 

Scenes in this General Electric commercial were filmed at Santa Margarita Ranch.


The films being produced these days in San Luis Obispo County may not be winning any Oscars, but they’re certainly increasing in number. And that’s paying off for local hotels, restaurants and other retailers, boosting mid-week sales.

Last year, filming occurred on 183 days, leading to 364 nights of hotel stays, according to the San Luis Obispo County Film Commission, a department of Visit San Luis Obispo County, a marketing organization.

That in turn generated an approximate economic impact of about $4.1 million, using a formula provided by the Association of Film Commission International trade group that takes into account various types of productions and budgets, said Stacie Jacob, executive director of Visit SLO County.

While not perfect, it’s a good indicator, she added.

In 2012, there were 70 filming days, an upswing from the previous five years, when filming here was fairly limited due to the severe economic recession, Jacob said. (Hotel nights weren’t tracked in 2012.)

Most of the productions filmed locally are commercials, still photography, some documentaries and a few TV shows such as History Channel’s “Top Gear USA,” Animal Planet’s “Redwood Kings,” ABC’s “The Taste” and Lifetime’s “Preachers’ Daughters.”

Car commercials are especially popular because of the county’s wide open spaces and coastline, Jacob said, adding that beaches, wine country and quaint downtowns are also magnets. Tourism officials are optimistic that this year’s numbers will be better.

Already, they said, there have been two notable productions: a General Electric commercial filmed over two days at Santa Margarita Ranch in early January that aired during the Winter Olympics, and the Lady Gaga video shoot at Hearst Castle in February. The commercial employed about 90 crew members, and the Gaga shoot more than 125.

The GE commercial, called “When you look at what GE does through a child’s eyes, you see brilliance,” shows an oversized birdcage hanging from the water tower on the historic ranch, a bedroom staged inside one of the ranch’s buildings, the ranch’s narrow-gauge railroad tracks, and a young girl sitting in the grass overlooking the train and local landscape.

The film commission is trying to build awareness of SLO County as a filming destination by hosting familiarization tours for location scouts and increasing its photo inventory of local scenes.

So far this year, it’s received an average of one to two leads a week, Jacob said.

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