An area traditionally known for its delicious beer, natural beauty, and, of course, Shakespeare festival, the identity of the Rogue Valley is recently adding filmmaking to part of its identity, with scenes from the Academy-nominated Wild filmed in the region, not to mention other recent productions like Redwood Highway, Black Road and Night Moves, starting Jesse Eisenberg—and Movie Maker magazine listing Ashland as one of the best places for filmmakers to live.
And, increasingly, the area is also becoming a site for production of marque commercials—a boon that is helping build a cottage industry for region. While popular films like Wild bring attention to the region, not all the filmmaking that is happening in the region is done with Hollywood lights in mind; instead, Southern Oregon is also becoming home—and a setting—for shootings for TV ads, such as a recent John Deere utility vehicle advertisement, shot just west of Eagle Point and released during the NCAA March Madness Tournament.
“The shoot went amazingly well,” said Gary Kout, producer of the John Deere shoot and Southern Oregon Film and Media (SOFaM) member. “We had two very jam-packed days (of filming), starting before the sun came up so we could shoot in first light and going till the sun went down.”
The ad shows lush scenery that both is distinct to Southern Oregon, but also could be Anywhere, America. The entire production was shot at C2 Cattle Ranch, a 10,000-acre ranch that exemplifies the diverse scenery of the valley, and provides the ad with scenes of open pastures, dense woodlands, creeks, lakes, trails, and plenty of cattle.
The spot begins showing a single driver in John Deere’s new Gator XUV 5901 tearing through an open field that showcases southern Oregon rolling terrain as a strong supporting character in the scene. Like a scene out of Fantasia, the lone rider soon multiplies into two, then four, eight; all off-roading, hauling large trees over a work site, and riding with cattle. The vehicles continue to multiply until a hundred Gators are seen roaming the valley. (Putting on my film studies hat, I’d say that the theme is showing a driver can ride solo, while still belonging to a larger herd.)
The entire production took roughly two weeks on the ground in mid-October. The production included a few early days of scouting and casting, a test shoot day, a tech scout, and two days of actual filming. The production crew was largely comprised of local members of SOFaM, although an LA-based company also added some post-production touches.
John Deere is only one of several major corporations to recently choose Southern Oregon as a film site. Apple, GM, and Budweiser are all national corporations that have recently shot in the area, which is helping broaden the film industry in the region, and provide more work here.
“We have beautiful locations and a really great local film market that have a fantastic understanding of production,” explains SOFaM interim Executive Director Ginny Auer.
“For us, Southern Oregon is the most comfortable and effective place to work,” added producer, co-writer and director of Black Road, Anne Lundgren, “We (receive) so much support from the community.”
The scenic diversity and community support are two key reasons for Ashland being ranked as one of the best cities in the U.S. to live as a filmmaker for the third straight year. This is an impressive achievement for Ashland, considering it is by far the smallest city included on the list. Number four-ranked Santa Fe N.M. is the closest in population at 70,000; the number one city ranked is Savannah Ga. with a population of 142,772.
And, believe members of SOFaM, successes like the John Deere ads and recent films only begets more success.
“Each production benefits local industry members by providing more and more experience and training so they can stay competitive and better prepared to work with incoming productions” concluded Kout.
To check out the John Deere ad, iSpot.TV/ad/A1yo/John-Deere-Gator-XUV-590i-working.
Published April 14, 2016. The Rogue Valley Messenger.