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Lake Tahoe stars in Hollywood

In the 2007 film, “Into The Wild,” there’s a shot of Emile Hirsch trekking in Tahoe’s mountains.

The shot was taken from a helicopter in 2006. The camera focuses on Hirsch hiking along what is meant to be the Pacific Crest Trail, and then it rises up and pans out to reveal Lake Tahoe.

The clip is short, and film crews were in and out, said Beverly Lewis of the Placer-Lake Tahoe Film Office. But despite it’s brevity, the shot will promote Lake Tahoe as a destination of adventure to thousands of viewers, she said.



And that’s one of the benefits of bringing films to Lake Tahoe.

In “City of Angels,” Meg Ryan pedals her bike near Fallen Leaf Lake with her arms opening wide to Tahoe’s blue sky.




The “Godfather II,” released in 1974, features the old-timers’ Tahoe at the West Shore Fleur du Lac, which set the scene for the Corleone Estate.

The opening scene of the 1994 film, “True Lies,” has Arnold Schwarzenegger – now California’s governor, then a celebrity known for his action-hero movie roles – being chased through a snowy Tahoe and Donner.

And Michael Keaton’s snowman comes to life in Truckee and North Tahoe in 1998’s “Jack Frost.”

“The fact that they want to come here really says something about our destination,” said Pettit Gilwee, who promotes Lake Tahoe through her public relations business.

But Hollywood flicks, commercials and photo shoots don’t just promote the area to the outside world. They also stimulate the economy.

During the fiscal year of 2006-07, productions and film crews generated an estimated $1.26 million for Placer County, Lewis said. The figure is based off a standard formula that looks at the average expenditures a production company spends when their on location.

From lodging to retail, food and supplies – film crews spend a lot of money, Lewis said.

“So we’re here to ensure that if they need to spend their money, we get them in touch with the local community,” she said.

With more than 55 film commissions statewide and more than 400 in the world, Lewis must compete to feature the region in the spotlight. She attends trade shows and goes after production companies that have shown interest in the area.

“The locations are just exquisite,” Lewis said. “Whether it’s snow-capped vistas or beautiful lakeside settings or pine trees.”

Of the 21 filming permits Lewis has coordinated countywide so far this fiscal year, 14 are located in the Tahoe area and most are commercials, she said.

Especially, car commercials seek the area’s rugged and winding roads, she added

The film office is funded mostly by the county’s general fund. The North Lake Tahoe Resort Association contributes nearly $35,000 annually – a third of the film office budget.

“Any time you bring a large film production, or down to a photo shoot, it creates an economic impact,” association Director of Tourism Andy Chapman said.


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