Plenty of COLA nods to go around

'Transformers' locations team of 26 among winners

The location manager for Fox's "Live Free or Die Hard" and the locations team behind DreamWorks' "Transformers" took the top prizes at the 13th annual California On Location Awards.

CBS' "CSI: NY" swept the television side, with the show getting the prizes for location team of the year (episodic) and location professional of the year at the awards ceremony Sunday night in City of Industry, Calif.

Curtis Collins, the location manager on "Die Hard," found himself in the line of fire of the cargo and airline industries when the big-budget production forced closures of Southern California's Imperial Highway and the 105 Freeway and affected LAX. Collins, who received the location professional of the year award (features) was praised for showing that the city "can make movies, run trucks and fly planes" at the same time.

The "Transformers" location unit was awarded the location team of the year. The team comprised 26 location professionals, underscoring the breadth of the undertaking.

"I wonder if this is the first time in an awards show that there are more people onstage than in the audience," snickered supervising locations manager Ilt Jones, looking at the crowd standing behind him onstage.

Shooting throughout Southern California, "Transformers" juggled multiple-platform helicopters hovering roofline level in downtown Los Angeles, a group of three flying in formation above the Los Angeles River and a copter flying four feet above the ground along Seventh Street.

"CSI: NY" location manager Tim Hillman picked up the location professional of the year award and also was part of the group that was awarded location team of the year for television (episodic). Hillman singled out Film L.A. as a key part in helping filming take place in the city.

"I am pretty much nothing without them," he said. "They pulled some minor miracles for me, not only with 'CSI: NY' but throughout my career, coming up with last-minute closures, letting me blow things up and fly helicopters under things."

The Film L.A. mantle was taken up later by Jones.

"One thing that has pissed me off over the years is the amount of bricks thrown at Film L.A.," he said. "People in the community don't realize that the amount of work they do to mediate between the film companies and the community. They do a fantastic job."

In an acknowledgment of the growing impact of reality television, the COLAs gave the genre its own category. Discovery Channel's "Mythbusters," produced by Beyond Prods., nabbed the prize, beating Discovery Kids' "Endurance: High Sierras."

Assistant location manger of the year for features went to Mandi Dillin for "Iron Man," while Adam Robinson picked up the prize on the television side for his work on "CSI: Miami."

Because location work involves navigating all levels of bureaucracy, the COLAs honor public servants who go out of their way to make filming smoother in California. This year, Larry Blaine from Barstow BLM received the federal employee of the year award, while Caltrans' Jake Martinez, who sparred with Homeland Security over shooting near the Mexico border, took home the state employee of the year prize.

The city employee of the year award went to San Francisco's Joyce Garay, while San Bernardino County Fire Department's Ron Avanzolini received the award for county employee of the year.

Awards also were handed out for commercials and still photography.

The COLAs were presented by Film Liaisons in California, Statewide, at the Pacific Palms Conference Resort.