On Location: "The Mentalist" TV drama joins film marketing effort
No, this wasn’t an immigration rights rally. The demonstrators were actually extras who gathered on a hot Monday morning to film a scene for an upcoming episode of “The Mentalist, “ the CBS crime drama that is shooting its fourth season in Los Angeles.
Producers had cordoned off three blocks in the Highland Park community , where the extras milled with another 100 crew members and the show’s stars Simon Baker, Amanda Righetti and Tim Kang, whose characters were investigating a murder amidst the protest.
“This was a big one for us,’’ said location manager David Marmolejo, who spent a week getting the necessary permits and approvals to film the protest march sequence. “Your average Joe doesn’t realize how many people work on a show like this. There are lot of people who are contributing to our local economy.”
To reinforce the point, “The Mentalist” is among the first of several local TV shows that have emblazoned their production trucks with eight-foot long yellow and black banners with the slogan: “FilmWorks. Keep jobs in Los Angeles.”
The banners are part of a two-year, $150,000 marketing campaign launched in December by FilmL.A., Inc., the nonprofit group that handles films permits for the city and incorporated areas of the country. The goal is to remind often film-weary L.A. residents how important their signature industry is at a time when the region has struggled to keep productions from leaving the state.
“The Mentalist” is one of about 45 one-hour dramas and nearly 60 sitcoms that regularly film in Los Angeles, which still remains the largest production hub in the world, notwithstanding growing competition from cities like Vancouver, Canada, Detroit, Michigan, and New Orleans, Louisiana.
FilmL.A. has been plastering thousands of FilmWorks logos on bumper stickers, billboards, bus stops, kiosks and, more recently, film equipment trucks. The campaign also will feature a 90-second public service announcement starring Tia Carrere that will run in Mann Theatres next month.
Warner Bros., which produces “The Mentalist,” has featured the Film Works slogan on a half dozen production trucks and has also included the logos on “Hart of Dixie,” the new medical drama series from the CW. ABC Studios also has agreed to feature the stickers on a half-dozen production trucks, said Todd Lindgren, spokesman for FilmL.A. Inc.
“It’s just to remind the public of the cultural and economic value of this industry to the region,’’ said Lindgren.
Overall, on location production in Los Angeles rose 17% last week compared to same time a year ago due to a surge in feature film activity, including shoots for Sony Pictures Entertainment’s “The Girl with the Dragon Tattoo,” based on the Swedish crime novel and the romantic comedy “Think Like a Man.” Feature film production activity rose 117% while commercial production increased 8% and TV activity dropped 3%, according to data from FilmL.A.
“The Mentalist,” about a psychic who helps police solve crimes, is set in Sacramento but films heavily throughout L.A., from downtown to the beaches and San Fernando Valley. Next week the crew will shoot a desert scene in Palmdale.
“We’re all over the place,” Marmolejo said. “Hopefully, people will understand that we’re keeping people working and putting food on the table.”
Photo: A truck from the set of the CBS TV drama "The Mentalist," which was filming in Highland Park on Monday, displays a "FilmWorks" banner as part of a campaign to promote the local film industry. Credit: Francine Orr/ Los Angeles Times.