Disney shoots ad in Talent

In their search for an authentic looking, middle-class American home to use for a Disney commercial, Los Angeles producers realized it would be cheaper and easier if they came 1,000 miles to the Rogue Valley.

"It's great not always to shoot in L.A., where you have the same old architecture, color temperature and it's always warm and sunny, with no clouds," says Michael Albert, director of "Treasure Hunt," a commercial promoting the Disney Movie Rewards program. Color temperature is a means of measuring hues of visible light, from cool to warm, in units called kelvins.

"People here aren't jaded with the film industry, and they've got great crew and equipment here."

It's a fairly simple, two-day shoot of mom, dad and four kids tracking movie rewards, then winning prizes such as movies and CDs, says producer Gary Kout of Ashland, whose well-connected in the Southern Oregon film and video scene and was line producer for "Calvin Marshall."

The commercial was shot in a home with lots of space, inside and out, on Suncrest Road in Talent.

"All the talent is local. They have backgrounds in stage and screen," says Kout, who cast the two adults and four kids from local auditions that attracted 145 people, some from as far away as Vancouver, Wash.

Kout says it's getting more difficult for producers there to find a fresh location in L.A., one that hasn't been seen on screen many times. And homeowners there are wise to film budgets, demanding exorbitant sums. "Locations are off the charts, completely out of hand and productions suffer," says Kout, recalling a homeowner next-door to a shoot who demanded $1,000 because his lawn got in the picture.

"We're a smaller market, and people here are well-trained," he says. "We're able to offer greater value for the dollar and keep costs to realistic levels.

"We provide a fresh look with talent and location," he adds, gesturing at the unusual clouds overhead. "L.A. is so overused and shot out. Everything on screen, it all looks like L.A."

The script calls for a teen girl and kids ages 11, 7 and 5, who they found in Caitlin Campbell, Karan Johnson, Baylee Rogers and Lionel Ward. The parents are Larry Ziegelmeyer and Laurel Dryland.

Much of the crew had worked on "Calvin Marshall," shot in Ashland and released in 2009. They worked as a team Wednesday, cramming the house with cables, lights, microphones, cameras. The cameras shoot at twice the resolution of high definition, so they can crop part of a frame with no loss of clarity, says grip Eric Bixler of Ashland.

"It's nice to get work here. I wish there were more of it," he says. "These are very experienced people, good crew."

Former Ashlander Jackson Rowe, now an assistant director in Portland, says the Rogue Valley is growing more attractive to filmmakers and can often outdo Portland, where persistent winter clouds and rain hamper shoots.

"In November, it's tough in Portland, but they were shooting golf scenes here in November last year," says Rowe. "Ashland has enough crew and equipment for small features, and for bigger ones, it can get equipment from Portland."

Producer Anne Lundgren, a recent transplant from the industry in L.A. who's launching a film company in Ashland with her husband, Gary, says this is "one of the most beautiful locations to shoot in the country. The state is very supportive. It's just a short flight from L.A. and that's huge.

"People may think it rains here all the time, but that's not true. Ashland is attractive to the cast. In a lot of locations, they can't hang out, but they can here."

Karen Peterson, a costume designer with the Oregon Shakespeare Festival, notes, "There's a huge pool of talent here in the valley — and a lot at the festival. We're so happy to be working."

John Darling is a freelance writer living in Ashland. E-mail him at jdarling@jeffnet.org.

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