Lights, Camera, Edison!
As Hollywood rolls out the red carpet for the Oscars on Sunday, Southern California Edison has played its own supporting role as the location for numerous film, television and commercial productions.
SCE facilities, including substations, office buildings, educational centers and recreation areas, have starred in feature films, television shows, commercials and photo shoots for at least 20 years.
Besides being conveniently located near Hollywood, the facilities often offer unique architectural characteristics that productions find appealing.
For instance, SCE’s Eagle Rock substation, only a few miles from the heart of Hollywood, has been a popular location because of its 1920s Art Deco architecture, high ceilings and basement. It was the site for scenes in the 2012 Oscar-winning movie “The Artist.”
“At times I didn’t know what they were doing because they all spoke French,” laughed Richard Fujikawa, an SCE land services agent who oversees production requests for SCE facilities. “It wasn’t until I was watching the Oscars that I realized what it was.”
Eagle Rock also was used for the interior of Alcatraz for the movie “The Hangover Part III.”
“They recreated Alcatraz with a full three-story cell block with 350 jail cells,” Fujikawa said.
The Eagle Rock substation currently is being renovated, so some productions have moved to SCE’s similar Laguna Bell substation in the City of Commerce. Scenes from the TV series “24” and “Agent X” were shot there.
Safety is the top priority for all film shoots at SCE facilities. Each location has its own set of safety procedures that cast and crew are required to follow. For example, the entire production crew filming at the Mountainview Generating Station in Redlands must participate in a safety orientation before filming.
If aerial shots are planned, SCE’s Air Operations team provides input to film crew aircraft to help them maintain a safe distance from power lines.
“SCE is known to be a trusted, reliable and safe company and we won’t jeopardize that reputation for any reason,” said Steve Conroy, SCE Corporate Communications director. “If a proposed scene calls for an unsafe stunt, chances are we won’t allow that production to be filmed on site.”
Not all productions are in town. Crews filmed the short-lived reality television series, “Capture,” for seven weeks on SCE land at Shaver Lake in the Sierra Nevada Mountains. That production was a big boost to the local economy, one of the main reasons the utility supports these film projects.
SCE’s local feature film productions have declined in recent years along with the rest of the industry in Greater Los Angeles as companies looked for cheaper, out-of-state locations to shoot. Fujikawa said feature film requests for SCE facilities also fell after the Eagle Rock substation became unavailable.
In 2014, SCE’s Transmission & Distribution’s Land Management department received 157 inquiries about company locations, and 19 projects were approved for filming. Last year, there were 147 requests and 15 projects filmed.
Commercials have filled some of the void left by fewer feature films. Among the companies using SCE facilities for commercials are Lowe’s, Dunkin’ Donuts, Mercedes-Benz and Jeep.
“There are lots of car commercials — especially electric and hybrid vehicles,” Fujikawa said.