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Blue Cloud Movie Ranch: The world in 100 acres

More than 50 productions filmed on 30 sets

Posted: April 14, 2009 1:30 a.m.
Updated: April 14, 2009 4:55 a.m.

René Veluzat walks around a Middle Eastern town, one of the latest additions to his Blue Cloud Movie Ranch located in Bouquet Canyon north of Plum Canyon Road.

 
René Veluzat's eyes lit up as he described the ways in which production crews have disguised his Saugus filming ranch as an African village, Mexican marketplace, the streets of Baghdad, a Tibetan neighborhood, an army camp and more.

"That prison cell is a duplicate of a cell in Afghanistan," said Veluzat, standing in the midst of a dingy, dirt-floored space where the National Guard once filmed a military training video. "Osama bin Laden's look alike has been in there."

Since purchasing the site in 2000, Veluzat has converted 100 acres of what used to be an unofficial trash-dumping grounds into a layout of 30 film sets he calls Blue Cloud Movie Ranch.

Veluzat's land sits off Bouquet Canyon Road, a short drive into the hills just south of Lombardi Ranch in Saugus. A rustic, deserted-looking gas station, which sits at the site's entrance, has been captured in scenes of television show Nip/Tuck and on the cover of Vogue magazine.

Around the corner from the station resides a long strip of buildings and false fronts that breathe scenes from Iron Man, Ugly Betty, Alias, The Shaggy Dog and more.

At first look, the place seems somewhat ghostly, with grey-brown building fronts made of stucco and plaster. But then Veluzat describes the way a scene comes to life within the two-block "town" after a production crew works its magic.

"For a half-day of filming, the Shaggy Dog (production crew) transformed this into Tibet. Shaggy runs out of a building, runs down the street and runs into an alley," Veluzat said.

"You build a town and they alter it for what they want."

And after they're gone, they often leave a new addition to Veluzat's set.

"It's cheaper for them to give it to me than for them to destroy it," he said.

Veluzat has spent the last nine years adding to his collection of materials and props that he can offer to crews. He has several military vehicles, helicopters, burnt cars and water trucks to make things easier on visiting production crews.

"This is like my baby," he said. "I started this business in 2000 - almost nine years ago, working from the ground up with just dirt.

My heart is in the movies. That's what I've been in all my life."

In the 1950s, Veluzat caught his first film break while playing guitar in a Huntington Beach talent show.

"A guy in the audience leaned over and said to my dad, ‘does your boy want to be in the movies?'" Veluzat said. It was not long before Veluzat found himself working in movies with stars like Natalie Wood, Tony Curtis and Marilyn Monroe.

Veluzat graduated with business-management and dramatics degrees and worked a number of fields, including home and building construction, playing guitar on road shows, flying helicopters, doing security work, acting, stunting and producing - all of which, he says, fit in perfectly with owning a successful movie ranch with the help of his son Marcel.

The production of adventure-drama television show JAG was the first to use Blue Cloud Movie Ranch.

"I got three-and-a-half years worth of work outta them," Veluzat said. "It's not all about the town. The hills look like Afghanistan.
(Their) helicopters flew down this canyon all the time."

Since that beginning, the ranch has seen more than 50 productions filter through its sets.

Even after more than 50 years within the entertainment industry and years of watching productions move in and out of his ranch, Veluzat is still charmed by the scenes that come to life in his ranch, and by the people he encounters.

"I'm very proud of this place," he said.

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