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Filming and history on the rocks

Vasquez Rocks has been a popular site for film crews for nearly a century

Posted: August 17, 2009 8:17 p.m.
Updated: August 18, 2009 4:55 a.m.

This promotional shot of Vasquez Rocks Natural Area in Agua Dulce was used to promote filming at the historic park. Filming at Vasquez Rocks dates back to the early 1900s.

The park's jagged rocks served as the backdrop to the city of "Bedrock" in the 1994 movie "The Flintstones," based on the popular cartoon.

The natural area in Agua Dulce was one stop of Michael Jackson's international journey for the music video "Black or White," where Jackson danced with dozens of American Indians in the dusty setting.

For a century, Vasquez Rocks Natural Area has been a favorite destination for movie studios looking for a unique location that's close to Hollywood.

Filming at Vasquez Rocks dates back to the early 1900s when early resident Henry Krieg homesteaded the area.

"The government gave you the land if you lived and worked it for 10 years," said Linda Therrien, a recreation services leader who has worked at Vasquez Rocks for the last decade.

Part of working the land included renting the location for filming.

"That was a significant amount of revenue for him," said Debra Goodwin, who has been a recreation services leader for about 18 years.

By the 1930 and 1940s, crews flocked to Vasquez Rocks to film Westerns.

"You cannot get an ugly view here," said Sandy Dininger, regional park superintendent.

The magic of Hollywood has turned Vasquez into everything, including the Middle East, the moon and even the Grand Canyon.
Productions like "Star Trek," "The Six Million Dollar Man," "The Bionic Woman," "McGyver," "For the Boys," "Rat Race" and "Monk" have been filmed there.

Justin Timberlake and Rihanna filmed the 2008 music video "Rehab" at the park and the rocks have served background to reality shows like MTV's "Next."

Besides giving Vasquez Rocks international recognition, filming brings in money.

"It's good for the local economy," Dininger said, adding that crews often spend money on food and supplies when in town.

Since 1997, when the park began charging a location fee, filming at Vasquez Rocks alone has brought in $900,000, Dininger said.

Filming can start as early as 7 a.m. and can run until 10 p.m. during weekdays only. Many crews return on a daily basis.

"The Flintstones" crew stayed for more than a month.

"A lot of (time spent at Vasquez Rocks) is the building of the sets," Goodwin said.

Because Vasquez Rocks is a natural and historic area, crews cannot dig or disrupt the rocky landscape.

The county park employees are required to be at the natural area when filming takes place.

"The crews that come here are very respectful," said Dininger, who has worked at the park for 20 years.

But filming has brought some surprises, too.

Production of the television show "Fast Lane" in 2002 called for two cars exploding.

While crews and the park notify the community of any filming ahead of time, the massive fireballs illuminated the sky and generated 11 phone calls to 911, the employees said.

The area's employees suspect the explosions could be seen from Highway 14, prompting passing motorists to notify the authorities about the unusual fires.

With high profile celebrities and movie productions comes a rush from the paparazzi, who have flown helicopters over the natural area and camped out to snap candid shots of actors and actresses on set.

"It's amazing how word gets out," Goodwin said.

When Cindy Crawford came to Vasquez Rocks for the 1992 "Stuntwoman World Tour," it took only a couple of days for the fans to find out about the celebrity being there.

"Every young adolescent boy in this valley was here with their magazine cover," Goodwin recalled.

For the three women at Vasquez Rocks, filming has created another opportunity as many of the crews return year after year for new productions.

"We become friends with the people because we've worked with them for so long," Goodwin said.


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