Cameras and San Luis Obispo County’s North Coast area are meant for each other. After all, what’s not to love, with the seashore, tidepools, Hearst Castle, elephant seals and other wildlife, Cambria’s rare native Monterey pine forest, quaint artists’ village, relaxed atmosphere and all that creativity?
Filmmakers also fancy the scenic area and draw inspiration from it, including some heavy hitters and several talented locals.
There was Arnold Schwarzenegger’s 1985 “Commando,” the finale for which was filmed near the pier in San Simeon. (The fortress watchtower and five barracks were constructed and subsequently blown up for the film’s finale.)
And 1990’s “Arachnophobia,” directed by Frank Marshall and starring Jeff Daniels, John Goodman and so many (too many?) spiders.
There are rumors that a remake is in the works. Shiver.
Other notable films, videos and various TV series and segments have also used the North Coast as a scenic set.
For instance, there have been dozens of entertainment, documentary and news show segments filmed at and about Hearst Castle — ranging from a Lady Gaga music video to an episode of CBS’s “Sunday Morning.”
Among other North Coast onscreen projects were segments of PBS’s “Big Blue Live,” Food Network’s “Best Thing I Ever Ate” and movies including “The Dead Kid” in 2012 and “Dark Honeymoon” in 2008, plus gobs of commercials.
The North Coast also draws other creative types from the entertainment industry.
For instance, multi-talented screenwriter, actor, comedian and author Steve Martin — who’s also a crackerjack banjo player — was known to rent a Cambria house when he needed someplace private in which to hole up and write. Award-winning director/writer/producer S.J. “Summer” Main Muñoz and director/actor Peter Horton also have ties to Cambria, as did the late cinematographer Frank Stanley.
The area also has some of its very own filmmakers. Here are some examples:
“For The Love of Jessee” — a dramatic love story screen written and directed by 2001 Coast Union High School grad David McAbee — is to be distributed to select theaters, various platforms and DVD in January. The release caps McAbee’s already busy, nearly two-decade career in the entertainment industry.
McAbee grew up in Cayucos and attended North Coast schools from kindergarten through 12th grade. After attending Cuesta College in San Luis Obispo, where he majored in radio communication and had a radio show from 2004 to 2006, he went to work locally as a DJ, on-air talent personality and producer.
By 2008, McAbee was ready to move up, and by 2010, he said in a series of social media interviews, “I was producing for such networks as The Travel Channel, Discovery, the Food Network and HGTV.”
In 2016, McAbee wrote and directed his first horror short, “Night Terrors,” which was shown at many festivals, won some awards and, he said, “got me hired to write ‘For The Love of Jessee.’ ”
He said in a social media interview that he was attracted to the “idea that we all deserve a second chance,” or, as he explained in a recent Lifebox Media Channel podcast, “getting that second chance that most people don’t think they deserve.”
In “For the Love of Jessee,” a doctor must start over after an accident leaves him a widower and a father in a matter of hours. A former patient who had a miscarriage becomes nanny to the workaholic doctor’s baby.
As a logline for the film says, “Sometimes love is born from second chances.”
“I spent a good portion of 2017 writing the script,” McAbee said, “and we shot the film in October/November” with stars Adrienne Barbeau (“The Fog” and “Escape from New York”), Randy Wayne (“Honey 2”) and Mandahla Rose (“Wolf Creek 2”).
McAbee’s script won best dramatic screenplay at the Burbank Film Festival and Los Angeles Film Awards.
The Plummer brothers
Brothers Kyle and Carlos Plummer, who were raised in Cambria, started their award-winning film work in their middle-school years.
They’ve written, produced and directed short films on topics as diverse as Indiana Jones, the value of libraries (especially the Cambria library) and North Coast veterans the Korean War.
Plummer films have been screened at and won awards from notable film fests since “The Magic Hat” in 2010, when the brothers were 12 and 8 years old, respectively. Their short film “Korea Remembered” in 2013 was honored by the U.S. Department of Defense in 2013 as part of the Korean War 60th Anniversary Initiative.
The young men were schooled by California Virtual Academies and their lifelong passion for film.
Kyle Plummer is a recent graduate of Dixie State University’s rigorous film program, in which freshman Carlos is currently enrolled. Kyle is back in California, pursuing independent production work for films and videos and launching the ambitious Plummer firm Superimage Ltd.
Recently, Carlos Plummer’s “Becoming Rich” in 2018 and “The Nine Lives of Harald Bauer” in 2016 were screened at several film festivals, winning multiple best student film awards.
“Becoming Rich” — which chronicles the life and career of San Luis Obispo magician, entertainer and YouTuber Rich Ferguson — won the best student film award in the 2019 San Luis Obispo International Film Festival and the 2019 Kanab Film Festival.
Kyle Plummer’s senior thesis film, “Sara,” a psychological thriller, is in post-production. It’s one of the Plummer brothers’ most ambitious projects to date.
The brothers soon will launch a crowdfunding endeavor for it, because, Kyle Plummer said in an email interview, “we are definitely going to need as much support as possible to get that film to happen.”
For more about the Plummer brothers, their films and Superimage Ltd., go to superimageltd.com.
Three young men who graduated in June from Coast Union High School are now furthering their film production education at Woodbury College in Burbank.
Meanwhile, according to their mentor, TV andfilm producer Gary Stephenson of Cambria, Darien Jewel, Julian Mercado and Magnus Marthaler are promoting their first joint-venture movie, “Astray,” which is tentatively scheduled to be screened in early February during the Cambria Film Festival.
Jewel wrote the script, Mercado directed and Marthaler produced the film and was its cinematographer.
Stephenson, a producer who worked for Dick Clark for years and produced for Nickleodeon, NBC and Disney Channel, described “Astray” as being about the relationship between a prickly young lady on the wrong life track and the young man whom she eventually befriends and helps to repair his relationship with his troubled older brother.
The partners cast the movie in December and January, then shot the film over the next few months.
“I didn’t know what to expect,” Stephenson said of signing on last year to help the students navigate the complex world of filmmaking. “I was blown away by the level of talent and professionalism these guys already had.”
Jim Kelty of Cambria has been a multi-media producer since 1983, when he graduated from film school at Los Angeles City College. He “started small and is still small,” Kelty said in a recent email interview.
Diverse is a good adjective for Kelty’s work, ranging from history TV to mystery novel, State Parks to Father Junipero Serra. It includes the 2010 audio series of commentary that’s broadcast on Hearst Castle bus trips, with narration provided by Alex Trebek of “Jeopardy” fame.
Some of the series “Serra: Always Forward Never Back” was shot on the Central Coast, while the rest was shot in Mexico, Mallorca and other Spanish locales.
And honors? You bet.
Several of his productions have been for and shown on EWTN, Catholic TV.
One made-for-TV movie, “Kateri,” about a Mohawk woman who converted to Christianity in 1678, won an award at the Vatican. Scenes were shot in Cambria in a replicated Mohawk village on Covell Ranch.
A script written by Kelty and wife Laurelle Barnett in 2016, “In for a Penny,” won the best script award at the New York Los Angeles International Film Festival.
Side note: He and Barnett met on the set of his 2005 “The Mansion Remembers” short for State Parks. She captured the lead role, and later Kelty’s heart.
His 2017 docudrama “Called and Chosen” — about Navy Chaplain Vincent R. Capodanno, who died in a 1972 Vietnam battle — won the Gabriel Award from the Catholic Press Association. The film was shot in Santa Clarita.
In Kelty’s immediate future are a TV film about another Korean War chaplain, a documentary to be filmed in 2020 in Israel and the promotion of his mystery novel, “Ragged Point,” set in Big Sur.
The experienced director, producer and writer has some guidance for the North Coast’s up-and-coming moviemakers: “As the senior citizen” in this group, “I humbly offer a bit of hard-learned advice to young filmmakers — there is an audience for authenticity. Don’t let the ‘business’ co-opt or kill the story you know needs to be told.”