Ben Beitzel of Mtn Locations helps connect filmmakers with the locations they need. (Photo by Mary-Justine Lanyon)
Director Travis Knight (left) and John Cena behind the scenes on the set of Bumblebee at Thousand Pines Christian Camp in Crestline.
(Photo Credit: John P. Johnson. © 2018 Paramount Pictures. All Rights Reserved. HASBRO, TRANSFORMERS, and all related characters are trademarks of Hasbro. © 2018 Hasbro. All Rights Reserved.)
Bringing the mountain to screens big and small
By Mary-Justine Lanyon
We’ve all seen them – those big trucks filled with cameras and other equipment, trailers and even a famous face or two (was that Chris Pratt?).
Over the years, many movies have been filmed in part in the mountain communities. How does that happen?
When Ben Beitzel spotted a movie being filmed on the mountain, he knocked on a trailer door and asked if the crew needed anything. The location scout, he said, “came out with a list of what they needed.”
That was the genesis of MtnLocations. “I am an advocate for film in the mountains,” Beitzel recently told members of the Crestline-Lake Gregory Rotary Club. “I am an agent to the property like an agent to an actor.”
Beitzel works with Inland Empire Film Services, serving as their partner in the Rim communities from Crestline to Running Springs.
Typically, what happens, he explained, is an initial scout will visit the area with a camera. “We’ll look at half a dozen properties that might fit their needs,” Beitzel said. “If they like it, they’ll come back with more people. And if they like it, they’ll book it at that point.”
For example, for the 2018 film Bumblebee, the prequel to the 2007 film Transformers, a scout came to the mountain to photograph possible shooting sites. He then returned with the producers. They decided an area at Thousand Pines Christian Camp in Crestline would blend perfectly with what they had already shot.
“They filmed for three days,” Beitzel said, “but were here for seven.” The cast and crew of 170 stayed at the Lake Arrowhead Resort and Spa.
“When they’re not working,” Beitzel noted, “they are patronizing local businesses.”
This crew was “really great to work with,” Beitzel said. “They went out of their way to make and leave a good impression. My goal,” he added, “is to leave the property as good or better than we found it.”
He recognizes that there may be some inconvenience for the residents, with intermittent traffic control often necessary. But, Beitzel said, “this is a group effort to help the economy. It’s fun and exciting.”
Beitzel has agreements with a number of properties on the mountain. The movie Dog was shot in part at Alpine Camp and Conference Center in 2021. “It snowed during the filming,” Beitzel said. Snow hadn’t been called for in the script so, he noted, “they had to rewrite the script to support the snow.”
The Terminal List, an Amazon Prime production starring Chris Pratt, was shot on both Lake Gregory and Lake Arrowhead. They had scouted the blue tower in Lake Arrowhead and were going to try to make it into a lighthouse. That, however, did not happen.
Other films and television shows Beitzel has scouted mountain locations for include Us (2019), Real Housewives of OC (2021), NCIS (2021 – the Season 18 finale) and Star Wars: Obi-Wan Kenobi (2022).
MtnLocations takes care of notifying homes close to the shooting about the activity and the lighting that will be necessary for the production. They also get any necessary permits and put up signage, which they also remove after the shoot.
“We protect the house and the property,” Beitzel said. “We make sure anything added is removable and that everything is restored to its original condition.”
Beitzel is usually on site during filming, answering questions about where to obtain supplies and protecting the property.
The sets, Beitzel said, are “extremely locked down. We have unwritten permission to document them for safety sake.” He has been trained by County Fire to check locations to make sure they are safe for filming. “We always vet the film friendliness of a property,” he added.
In addition to filming for film and television, MtnLocations has scouted locations for a number of commercials: Chevron, Toyota, Nissan, Southern California Edison and AARP. The Kia commercial that was shown during the Superbowl was shot in part on the mountain just before Christmas.
He showed the Rotarians some of the magic behind a commercial for Great Wolf Lodge. How does that girl ride on the back of a wolf (the secret is safe with us)?
Anyone interested in having their home or property listed with MtnLocations can visit the website, mtnlocations.com, and complete the form.