Here's what the Iverson Movie Ranch obsession is all about ...

For an introduction to this blog and to the obsession a growing number of vintage film and TV fans have with the Iverson Movie Ranch — the most widely filmed outdoor location in movie and TV history — please read the site's introductory post, found here.
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• To find specific rock features or look up movie titles, TV shows, actors and production people, see the "LABELS" section — the long alphabetical listing on the right side of the page, below.
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• I've also begun a YouTube channel for Iverson Movie Ranch clips and other movie location videos, which you can get to by clicking here.
• Here's a link to Garden of the Gods, the best-known section of the Iverson Movie Ranch (featured in the movie "Stagecoach," the "Lone Ranger" TV show and hundreds of other productions).
• To go right to the great Iverson cinematographers, click here.
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Thursday, September 17, 2015

Are car commercials the new B-Westerns?

Scion commercial starring James Franco (2015)

The B-Western faded from the cultural landscape decades ago, taking with it the Iverson Movie Ranch's most reliable source of revenue. But in the past few years, a new breed of Hollywood production — the car commercial — has begun to make itself at home in the same rocky gulches of northwest Chatsworth, Calif.

Scion just unveiled a new spot it calls "James Franco and James Franco," which includes a couple of nice shots taken in the Garden of the Gods. The ad shows a denim-clad Franco exploring his artistic side while showcasing the Scion iM against the rugged backdrop of the former Iverson Ranch.

James Franco in the 2016 Scion iA

Franco is seen elsewhere in the ad driving a different model, the Scion iA, in which he navigates a more urban environment while wearing a tux. We're given the impression that the iA nurtures the actor's civilized side while the iM is his choice when he needs to color outside the lines.

Above is a video of the Scion spot. The ad is brand new — Iverson researcher Cliff Roberts sent word after spotting it on TV a few days ago, and Scion just posted the above version on its YouTube site Sept. 14.

The same location, photographed on a recent visit — after the tree removal

The location for this shoot is the same spot where we recently discovered that a large tree had been removed. The ad was shot just a month ago — I heard they were filming in Garden of the Gods on Aug. 15. That was after the tree came down, and probably as soon as the 2016 Scions were available for the shoot.

From this angle we can make out the stump that remained after the tree was cut down. In the Scion ad, the view of the stump is blocked by the car. For more about the removal of the tree, please check out this recent post.

The rocks in the background of the Scion shoot can be matched up against the current setting. Nothing unusual there, but what is unusual about the ad is it's such a recent shoot that even the sagebrush matches.

The dry brush area and the sagebrush plants highlighted here are the same ones seen in the Scion commercial. I'd say the Scion ad is just about the "freshest" Iverson shoot I have ever seen in a production.

I took this photo on a visit to the site just yesterday — on Sept. 16. To me, this looks like about where Franco stands in the Scion ad, amid the familiar sagebrush and dry clump.

Here I've designated three of the sagebrush plants "A," "B" and "C," to make them easy to match up with the shot from the Scion ad.

The same plants are identified in the ad, again marked "A," "B" and "C."

The Scion ad also features this sequence shot a little deeper in Garden of the Gods — in the camera mount area, or Overlook Point, just south of where the previous shots of Franco were taken.

Besides Franco and his artistic interpretation of the landscape, the sequence features the Chatsworth landmark Stoney Point — and another interesting clump of weeds.

Along the lines of the previous sagebrush labels, I've identified these hardy plants as "A," "B" and "C."

The match is less than conclusive, in part because the artist's easel blocks the view of Plant C in the Scion ad. But I believe these are the same plants, as they appeared on Sept. 16.

Components of the old camera mount

You may have noticed the metal track, said to be part of an old camera mount apparatus once used to film shots of the Iverson Gorge. The rig's center mount, resembling a piece of pipe sticking out of the ground, can also be seen.

This closeup provides a better look at the camera mount's center "pipe," along with an additional piece of track that remains in place from the front of the camera rig.

For the Scion commercial, foliage was brought in and strategically placed to conceal the metal track and other unwanted elements of the setting. The hunk of foliage noted at the left appears to hide the front track area, while the hunk on the right hides the rear track. I suspect that the artist's easel is blocking the pipe.

The strategic foliage blends well with actual live plants growing at the site. We might never have known the added foliage was anything out of the ordinary if "someone" didn't obsess over this stuff in excruciating detail.

The actual live plants are still found at the site, and are a nice match for the Scion ad. Incidentally, that's Judy Garland Rock that the plants are hiding behind.

Speaking of excruciating detail, I found this tiny group of rocks interesting. In the ad, the rocks appear just in front of some of the imported foliage.

In the real world, the same tiny cluster of rocks can be seen immediately adjacent to the end of the metal track. The proximity of the rocks and the track underscores that the foliage was used to cover up the track.

Another car company that has filmed at Iverson in recent years is Subaru. I originally had a video here showing an ad for the 2015 Subaru Legacy, which included a shot of the Hangover Rock area, east of Nyoka Cliff. But Subaru has since decided to make the video private, so we're left to imagine it. Bad Subaru!


Cliff said...

That was fast, nice job.

David King said...

Great! Very funny, thorough and detailed (as always) and a wonderful conflation of past and present.

Anonymous said...

Well done spotting the details in the views in this TV ad. It's interesting to see Easy Chair, Bench, Tower, and Sphinx rocks; the old filming camera mounts on the overlook; and Nyoka Cliff.

Anonymous said...

Your photos clearly shows houses at the base of Stoney Point. The Scion ad has brushed them out. It also appears another fake plant has hidden a rooftop somewhat closer, just above the ”A" in your shot.

Swami Nano said...

You're right, Anonymous — nice spotting.

Most of the "unwanted" stuff in the background is traffic on Topanga Canyon Boulevard, and there are also a number of buildings that they got rid of. James Franco blocks out a big chunk of buildings, and the painting blocks out another batch in the background. Some of the added foliage in the Scion ad is probably also there to hide the traffic and buildings. And they appear to have used special effects to eliminate the rest of the traffic and some of the buildings below Topanga. It's especially noticeable between the "A" and the "B" in the Scion ad shot.

Thanks for commenting!