Why 'Westworld,' 'Veep' and More Series Are Filming Outside of L.A.

8:30 AM 5/4/2018

by Bryn Sandberg

As some of TV's biggest shows are increasingly taking advantage of other parts of California, THR highlights seven regions that are hosting them.

Westworld - Series Are Venturing Outside of L.A - Publicity-H 2018
Courtesy of HBO

Since California launched its revamped $1.55 billion film tax incentives program in 2015, TV production has scooped up 60 percent of the funds allocated to it, with a whopping 31 series currently taking advantage of the program. In addition to shows born and raised in California during that period, like 13 Reasons Why, 13 others relocated from elsewhere in the U.S., and nine of those are still on the air: Veep, Ballers, American Horror Story, The Affair, Timeless, Legion, Sneaky Pete, Lucifer and The OA have spent more than $1.1 billion in the state, about $400 million of which went to below-the-line wages. 

What’s more, series like Westworld increasingly are venturing outside the 30-mile zone (TMZ), the L.A. area that’s dense with studios and other facilities, and qualifying for a 5 percent bump in incentives when they do. 

“With TV, they have their stages and do so much in a short period of time, it’s logistically difficult to go far,” says film commissioner Amy Lemisch, noting that it’s more common for features to shoot outside the TMZ. “Nonetheless, we’re seeing a large list of shows doing that.” 

On May 5, Lemisch’s organization will partner with FLICS, the association of regional film liaisons, for its annual conference promoting California production. Ahead of the event, which will honor NCIS executive producer Mark Horowitz with the California Golden Slate Award and feature keynote speaker Courtney B. Vance, THR highlights seven hot regions outside the TMZ and the diverse shows they’ve hosted.

  • San Francisco County (C)

    When Brit Marling’s experimental drama The OA relocated from New York to California, it settled into San Francisco for two weeks to film at a mansion in Russian Hill, on 16th Avenue’s iconic tiled steps and at the San Francisco Police Department.

  • Mendocino County (A)

    HBO’s Sharp Objects searched the entire state for a Victorian house with rolling hills and oak trees where the production could make a lot of noise without anyone nearby hearing. Luckily, the show found exactly that in Redwood Valley in Northern California, where it spent 10 days shooting.

  • Ventura County (D)

    When Westworld isn’t filming at Melody Ranch in Santa Clarita, it’ll visit Ventura County, a portion of which is within the 30-mile zone. The HBO drama uses Fillmore and Western Railway for some of its train scenes, and it also has shot at Big Sky Movie Ranch above Simi Valley and Piru, Calif. 

  • Marin County (B)

    13 Reasons Why shoots almost entirely in Northern California, including in Marin County and Solano County, where the Netflix YA drama capitalizes on downtown Vallejo’s small-town USA vibe. As a result of filming in the region, production was temporarily halted during the wildfires in the fall.

  • Orange County (E)

    The Southern California region has recently been home to shows including FX’s American Horror Story, Fox’s Lucifer and HBO’s Ballers. The Dwayne Johnson comedy shot in Huntington Beach for a surf competition, employing 500 extras and 150 crew.

  • Oceanside County (G)

    TNT’s Animal Kingdom has taken up residence in Oceanside since its inception. Among the production’s regular locations: the pier amphitheater, Pacific Street and the harbor, where the drama once set fire to a car on the beach for a scene.

  • Riverside County (F)

    In addition to USA’s Shooter filming at the March Air Reserve Base, Riverside recently hosted Fox’s Lucifer, which spent a weekend filming at the Monte de Oro winery in Temecula. Since the nearest city is 17 miles outside of the 30-mile zone, TV productions often try to sneak some days in to qualify for the 5 percent tax incentives bump.

    This story first appeared in the May 2 issue of The Hollywood Reporter magazine. To receive the magazine, click here to subscribe.