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If there's any U.S. location we all think we know it is surely - alongside New York City - the state of California. We've all seen California's glorious locales a thousand times. What else is there to know? Where else to go that hasn't already been in countless movies, television shows and commercials? This complacent presumption is what the California Film Commission must battle week in, week out. The CFC is the state agency that attracts production business and issues permits for bridges, highways and rivers. It also works with some 55 city and county partners; local film commissions that facilitate California's massive film schedule. The state estimates that entertainment production stimulates some $33.4 billion in economic activity. Last year, Los Angeles alone reported the equivalent of 5,600 days of commercials production. And since introducing its new Film California First initiative in 2001- which has been put on hold through June due to reduced budgets and increased demand - the state has seen total production increase by about 12 percent. This comes as a result of a range of incentive programs that strike back at runaway production. The Star Program, for example, is an initiative that allows production companies to take advantage of protected state properties at no cost.

It's a response to the twin image problems of overfamiliarity and cost - misconceptions the CFC is tackling in the face of the economic downturn, which has hurt advertising production worse than movies and television. "We have no location fees or permit fees for bridges and beaches and other state-owned properties," says Karen Constine, the director of CFC. There is a small charge for monitors, however. And not all bridges are state owned. San Francisco's Golden Gate Bridge is privately owned, whereas the Bay Bridge comes under the preserve of the state. Sonoma County is also a favorite. These are obviously some of the most in-demand locations in the state. Others include the Malibu beaches and Malibu Creek Park. Mount Tamalpais, with its winding roads and great views of San Francisco, is also a big draw, as are freeways like the Pacific Coast Highway and roads in Monterey and Big Sur. "Runaway production was, and is, a problem," Constine concedes, "so we wanted to get out there and be more proactive. What's the point of going all the way to South Africa to build a set you can already get in California?" We all know that the answer is price. But the CFC also promotes its streamlined statewide service as a plus. It has an instant faxback service that automatically sends out storyboards and other approaches it receives from production companies on to its 55 more localized partners. Obviously, California has more movie production than anywhere else in the world outside of India's Bollywood, and the CFC is anxious to prove that it can be as much about commercials and videos.

There is no denying familiarity with some of the locations detailed above, both rural and urban. Melinda Farrell, CFC deputy director, adds: "There is a familiarity issue we're battling. We do feel we have to go out and actively market all sorts of locations that people perhaps don't know about here. Both M*A*S*H and Rebecca were filmed in California," she continues by way of illustration. "Look at BMW and Mission Impossible, which both used downtown and the Angeles Crest highway." The CFC has also recently launched a series of PSAs along the lines of "Where does genius dream?" Directed by the Artists Company's Steven Murashige, it pays tribute to California directors like Carl Franklin, Curtis Hanson and Dogtown and Z-Boys shooter Stacy Peralta. The PSAs use location from M*A*S*H, Chinatown and The African Queen to tell us that there's more about filming in California than we can imagine.

We all know about winter filming in California, where the run-up to the Super Bowl is usually the busiest time of the year. But the next big challenge is to attract more wintry filming to the state, particularly in the northern area with its snowy flatlands. "We really don't worry about competition like Colorado or Canada too much," concludes Constine. "We focus on ourselves. We offer a very wide range of properties, and we not only have a streamlined process, but we do an astonishing amount of troubleshooting."

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