100 years of North Coast movies
By Jessica Cejnar, The Triplicate January 29, 2016 03:44 pm


“A Lass of the Lumberlands,” filmed in Eureka and Arcata in 1916, is thought to be the first movie shot in the redwood region. Prints of the silent film serial are nearly impossible to find.
The first movie shot in the redwoods is so old finding a print is impossible.“A Lass of the Lumberlands” was filmed in Eureka and Arcata at a time when the roads were dirt, Humboldt State University was a mere three years old and getting a camera crew to the area was no mean feat.


Yet, since the silent film serial was released in 1916, some of the most iconic movies in American cinema were shot in Humboldt and Del Norte counties.

“We’re at approximately 32 feature films that have been filmed in Humboldt and Del Norte together,” said Cassandra Hesseltine, who is film commissioner for both counties. “And that’s just the movies. That’s not your TV (shows), commercials, all the other print ads and that’s also not counting documentaries.”

Hesseltine was in Crescent City on Tuesday as the Del Norte County Board of Supervisors issued a proclamation celebrating 100 years of movies filmed in the redwoods. The Humboldt County Board of Supervisors is expected to issue a similar proclamation next week.

After accepting a copy of the proclamation, Hesseltine invited supervisors to the Humboldt-Del Norte Film Commission’s third-annual red carpet gala on Feb. 28 at the Eureka Theater. In addition to celebrating Oscar night, the gala will commemorate 100 years of filmmaking in Humboldt and Del Norte counties. Kurtis Bedford, known for his role as Dennis Beardman in the HBO dark comedy “Getting On,” will be the event’s master of ceremonies. 

The red carpet gala will also be an awards night for individuals and businesses in Humboldt and Del Norte counties, Hesseltine said. Award categories include film-friendly lodging, film-friendly transportation, film-friendly restaurant, film-friendly caterer, film-friendly private location and film-friendly public location. Awards will also be given for outstanding achievement and special thanks.

“It’s just going to be a really fun night,” Hesseltine said. “We’ll be highlighting the celebration, 100 years of filming, (by showing) video clips of films that have been filmed here. And the academy awards will be playing in the background and people can win chocolate Oscar statues.”

The idea of celebrating Humboldt and Del Norte’s 100 years of films shot in the redwoods came from the film commission’s map of the movies brochure, which was released last year. The brochure featured 30 locations in Del Norte County and 30 in Humboldt where scenes from various movies were shot. 

Using the map, people can find out where speeder chase in “Return of the Jedi” was filmed and the spot where E.T. phoned home. Jeff Parmer, executive director of the Crescent City-Del Norte Chamber of Commerce, said he has already had to order more brochures.

“If, that’s any indication, then people are interested,” he said. “We have a little display that talks about where the Empire fought and dinosaurs roamed free and aliens phoned home.” 

Redwoods in Humboldt and Del Norte counties became the Forest Moon of Endor in “Star Wars: Episode VI — Return of the Jedi.” One-hundred Del Norters were used as stormtroopers during that production. Courtesy Peter Mayhew


According to the Del Norte County Board of Supervisors’ proclamation, Humboldt and Del Norte counties attract roughly 25 productions a year, which earns the Redwood Region more than $1.3 million directly and $4 million indirectly. 

When a crew visits the area to film, Hesseltine said they’re looking for places to sleep and where to set up wardrobe and catering. She pointed out that when the M. Night Shyamalan movie “After Earth” was filmed in Humboldt Redwoods State Park, Will Smith and other members of the crew visited the farmers markets, went kayaking and ziplining. For the upcoming Kirsten Dunst movie, “Woodshock,” the crew rented a whole office building for two months.

“Love in the Time of Monsters,” a bigfoot movie that was filmed at Trees of Mystery and Patrick Creek Lodge, used local actors. The Galactic Empire made 100 Del Norters stormtroopers in “Return of the Jedi,” which was shot in both counties.

“Outbreak” and “The Majestic,” which were filmed in Ferndale, also used locals as part of their cast and crew, Hesseltine said.

“As cool as it is to have a production here, really why we should care is because it helps stimulate our economy,” she said. “It infuses are area with temporary jobs and they use our resources. They have to stay somewhere so they need accommodation. They often rent cars. They have to have food so they go to local restaurants or have caterers, especially if it’s a film shot here for a couple weeks or a couple months.”

Another reason some movie crews may choose the redwoods as their setting is due to a tax incentive from the state of California. In addition to getting a 25 percent tax credit for filming inside California, productions can get an additional 5 percent tax credit for filming outside of the Hollywood and Los Angeles areas. 

Hesseltine, who helps movie crews scout for ideal locations, said being film commissioner has made her realize how different Humboldt and Del Norte are. She pointed out a movie director may want a redwood grove that’s heavy in sorrel while another one is looking for a forest that’s on an incline.

“When I went and scouted Humboldt and Del Norte County for After Earth, I learned the differences of the (redwood) groves,” she said, adding that Trinidad’s beaches are different from Del Norte’s and Crescent City has a different feel than Ferndale. 

“They don’t look anything alike. Prior to doing that scout, I thought one redwood forest is the same as any other redwood forest, but oh my gosh, they’re completely different.”

The Humboldt-Del Norte Film Commission’s Red Carpet Gala will be held at 5 p.m. Feb. 28 at the Eureka Theater, 612 F St. Tickets are $25 and can be purchased at Brown Paper Tickets, www.redcarpet2016.... Tickets include food stations, prizes and community awards. Champagne and cocktails will be available at a no-host bar.

For more information about the event, visit www.filmhumboldtd... and www.theeurekathea.... For event updates, like the page www.facebook.com/...

Reach Jessica Cejnar at jcejnar@triplicate.com.