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"Transformers" takes over L.A. streets

June 2, 2010 |  9:00 am

Transformers The Autobots and Decepticons are back in town.

Director and executive producer Michael Bay has begun filming the third installment in the "Transformers" franchise in Los Angeles, where the production economy has been buffeted by the loss of such big studio features to other cities offering more generous film tax incentives.

The DreamWorks/Paramount Pictures production has been shooting on a sound stage at the former Spruce Goose Howard Hughes hangar at Playa Vista and will film exterior shots throughout the L.A. area over the next several weeks, including Long Beach, West Hollywood, Century City and Malibu.

The first two "Transformers" movies were also shot heavily in Southern California, filming numerous scenes downtown and at Edwards Air Force Base in the Mojave Desert.

"Mike, [producer] Lorenzo [di Bonaventura] and I are all big fans of trying to keep as much of our production in L.A. as possible," said Bay's producing partner, Ian Bryce. "It's a big movie. All our stage work is being done here."

In all, six weeks of the 4 1/2 months of shooting will occur in the L.A. area, with the rest of the filming spread across Chicago, Detroit, Washington and Cape Canaveral, Fla., and a few foreign locales, including Russia and an undisclosed African country, Bryce said.

Bryce said the science-fiction action movie starring Shia LaBeouf, Rosie Huntington-Whiteley and Patrick Dempsey required more diverse locations than L.A. could offer, and also cited the advantages of "very attractive rebates" offered in Michigan and Illinois, which will also host the production for six weeks.

The picture, with an estimated production budget of at least $200 million and a local crew of nearly 500, would not qualify for California's new film incentive program, which is limited to movies with budgets of up to $75 million.

Although the state's tax credits have helped slow the flow of work to other states and countries, on-location feature filming remains anemic.

Feature production activity in L.A., which posted a record decline last year, dropped nearly 2% between March 29 and May 30, compared with the same period a year ago, while television production was virtually flat and commercial activity soared 25%, according to data from FilmL.A. Inc., the nonprofit group that handles film permits for the city and unincorporated areas of Los Angeles County.

"We don't take any feature for granted," said Todd Lindgren, spokesman for FilmL.A. "Obviously, we wish they would choose to film everything here, but for a feature of this magnitude, even getting a percentage of the overall production is a good thing."

  • -Richard Verrier
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