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Imagining Potential for Film Growth at Disney's Golden Oak Ranch

Posted by Jana Adkins

Film industry people, studio and movie ranch owners and operators, and members of the Santa Clarita Economic Development Corporation executive committee and board gathered to tour the Disney’s Golden Oak Ranch – the land that Walt Disney first acquired in 1959.

Some 50 people gathered on the patio of ‘Walt’s cabin’ – his home away from home when he felt the need to get away for a few days – to mingle and eat a dinner courtesy of the Disney folks.

Tours of local movie ranches first began in January of this year when the Santa Clarita Economic Development Corporation helped bring the owners together to see each movie property first-hand. A Rancho Deluxe movie ranch, just up the road from Disney’s, was the first site visited. The Disney people were on that earlier outing and reciprocated Aug. 26 with a tour of their own property.

The tour idea first came together last year during an industry round-table discussion hosted by the SCV Business Journal – where participants in the discussion described a high level of cooperation amongst the movie studio and ranch operators in Santa Clarita. If one property didn’t have quite the right background setting, the owners said they were referring production companies to each other’s properties to keep filming in Santa Clarita. The SCVEDC moved to build an ongoing industry group and organize property tours.

“The tours have been great. We’ve had some smaller projects sent our way by the other ranches,” said Carey Lee from the Stickleback Ranch in Agua Dulce.

As members of the tour were shuttled through the backlots and residential and business districts built for filming by Disney, EDC executive committee member John Shaffery of Poole & Shaffery said the tour was very positive for advancing the growth of film activity, “coupled with supporting the large number of people in Santa Clarita Valley who work in the industry.”

Digital media and entertainment is one of Santa Clarita’s largest industries, and the events are designed to bring people in the film industry together in Santa Clarita to promote cross-referrals, said Holly Schroeder, president and CEO for the SCVEDC.

“It allows them to become familiar with the staff and assets at each property, and become advocates for the industry in the future,” she said.

Groups of people were taken on driven tours of the property, located in the pristine nature setting that is Placerita Canyon. Despite the large film sets built and outback buildings dotting the property, the Disney ranch now consists of nearly 900 acres. The size alone allows multiple film productions to occur at the same time and for crews to shoot 24/7 without interfering sounds or lights from the city, nor a production bothering neighbors in the still rural area.

In addition to the owners of Santa Clarita movie ranches on hand to tour the Disney property, among the people involved in the tour who help influence shaping the local film industry in Santa Clarita were SCVEDC Co-Chairman Calvin Hedman; Dylan Lewis, new owner of Blue Cloud Movie Ranch; Monica Harrison and her staff from LA Film Locations; Mike DeLorenzo from Santa Clarita Studios; Economic Development Manager for the city Jason Crawford, and the city of Santa Clarita’s film office staff; and Marlee Lauffer of Newhall Land Development.

On hand to speak with tour members was Disney’s ranch operations staff, Director of West Coast Operations Doug Worten, Director of Corporate Real Estate Adam Gilbert, and longtime Ranch Manager Steve Sligh.

As the film tour wrapped up, Crawford noted that while it’s tough to predict if the city will beat it’s film records for a sixth consecutive year, “so far it’s looking up,” he said.

Tags: SCVEDC, Business Attraction, Business Expansion in the SCV, economic development, Movie Ranch, Santa Clarita Valley