Underfunded California Schools Get Silverscreened
Underfunded schools seek money on the side!
As a non-ceasing recession pinches schooling and education with severe budget cuts, California schools engage in a new way of money earning, which is not that unusual for the renowned star place.
School districts from Lawndale to Glendale are seeking to earn thousands of dollars a day from renting their campuses as locations for movies, TV shows, commercials, and even truck parking.
The money is being used to save teachers’ jobs, upgrade school facilities and replenish districts’ dwindling funds.
Officials at FilmLA, the Los Angeles film promotion nonprofit, say they’ve already had a flurry of inquiries from cash-strapped districts in recent months asking how they can market themselves to production companies.
The surge of interest from schools comes amid a handy time. Youth networks such as the Disney Channel and MTV are moving away from reality shows to scripted programs that often feature kids at school.
To serve the increased demand from both schools and producers, FilmLA recently rolled out a new website featuring photos of campuses and a description to make it easier for location managers to find what they’re looking for, whether a football field, classroom or cafeteria.
Viewers have seen the classic red brick-Ivy League look of El Segundo High School in the 1955 drama “Blackboard Jungle,” and the TV sitcom that launched Will Smith, “The Fresh Prince of Bel-Air.” Torrance High School’s graceful Spanish-style arched walkways served as backdrop for TV shows “90210“, “Buffy the Vampire Slayer” and “Medium“.
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School officials who permit movie shoots say it nets them big bucks. Location fees range from Los Angeles Unified’s $3,100 per day to Torrance’s $5,500, plus sundries such as cleanup.
FilmLA takes a 16 percent commission for arranging the deals, the host school keeps three quarters of the remaining amount and the district takes the rest.
In a hunt for easy money, some schools go to considerable lengths to accommodate filming. Thus, El Segundo High Principal removed the school’s palm trees so the campus would look less “Southern California” and fit a wider location demand. At University High in Los Angeles, interiors and exteriors were painted, floor tiles replaced, landscaping overhauled and classes and lockers moved for “Drillbit Taylor.” The school earned $90,000 for the 2008 comedy starring Owen Wilson.
However, allowing the film crews to school grounds does bring some unpleasant repercussions, with most complains being for security services’ actions, excessive noise and ways blocked. Because of educational process disruptions, not all schools allow movie shoots. But after all, most of them solve the problem by restricting filming to outside schools hours. Filming seems to have become just a way of earning extra cash for them. What else can they do if state education cuts bring thousands of teacher layoffs and furloughs for the third year in a row?
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