The California On Location Awards helped launch Hollywood’s upcoming awards season with a casual, almost “pre-season” afternoon event this past Sunday, to reward the best of California location work. The show has a pretty specific mandate, but it’s also grown in scope enough to be hosted at the true “location” of award season – the ballroom of the Beverly Hilton hotel.
If any themes or trends emerged from this year’s COLAs, it was that either working in presumably tough locations, like Compton, or really photogenic ones, like San Francisco, tends to bring notice.
In the latter category, road-film-with-existential-purpose, Sweet Life, which ends up at the Golden Gate bridge, copped an award for Dan Cooley as best location professional in the indie category, while Chris Baugh took that same award in the studio category for Steve Jobs.
“Danny Boyle fought to keep the film in California,” Baugh recounted, meaning that neither Toronto nor Atlanta had to double for the San Francisco Bay Area, in the Silicon Valley-set tale of Macs, mayhem and ostensible Zen mindfulness.
The COLAs also offer a particularly picaresque touch with a slew of awards for best public servants, in categories ranging from city, to county, state and federal levels.
The federal winner – repeating in that category – was ranger Melinda Moses of the National Park Service. One of her main duties? Helping secure access for filming in areas near historical Ft. Point at the foot of the Golden Gate Bridge.
And yet, this being not only a quintessentially California awards show, but a quintessentially L.A. one, it was, of course, L.A.’s own mayor, Eric Garcetti who presented the public service awards, made even more fitting by the fact that Garcetti is a card-carrying SAG member.
Garcetti praised the lifeblood of the film business – “all of you,” he said, gesturing to the room. Which is to say, “the middle class,” as he termed it, of Hollywood workers. And while America’s middle class is currently best known for how much it is shrinking, Garcetti praised the $1.07 billion in tax credits, signed by Governor Jerry Brown – known to be parsimonious with tax credits – to keep filmmaking in here in the Golden State.
Indeed, that worked so well that in a reversal of recent trends, the aforementioned Sweet Life “cheated seven states” in various near-at-hand California locales, according to Cooley, to chart the bridge-bound road trip.
Meanwhile, various rain-slick and neon-lit roads, cul-de-sacs, and more, were honored, along with the dusty and unpaved ones, in a slew of other awards for commercial, TV and still work.
Locations manager Alicia Taylor and her crew won for best location team in the studio feature films category, for their work on Straight Outta Compton. She talked about how she wound up getting that job through networking that started at a previous COLA gathering, and how, as expected, the film dealt with “complicated neighborhoods” to negotiate locations for, and to keep such neighborhoods safe, or perhaps neutral, as the case may be.
She also mentioned how rich neighborhoods can often be even more complicated, in terms of demands and negotiations.
In an interview for the COLA Awards program, Taylor mentioned if she wasn’t location managing, she’d be working in travel and tourism.
As it is, the afternoon did a good job of honoring the virtual tours of the Eureka state taken by viewers all over the world, even when they didn’t even realize they were looking at California.