‘Sons of Anarchy’ gives L.A. a dose of mayhem


LOS ANGELES — A group of Irish mobsters pulled up in
an SUV outside a barn and makeshift gun warehouse, where a band of gang
members parked their custom-made Harley-Davidson motorcycles.

men huddled inside the barn, as bodyguards in leather jackets and armed
with chains and foot-long knives swatted away flies and eyed one
another with suspicion. After a tense exchange, the men got down to
business to discuss a weapons deal involving a Mexican cartel.

staging weapons deals, gunfights or motorcycle chases, the FX
television series “Sons of Anarchy” is creating mayhem all over Los
Angeles — and that’s a good thing.

Since its 2008
premiere, “Sons of Anarchy,” an edgy, one-hour drama about a gang of
motorcycle outlaws, has become a staple of local TV production. The show
shoots in all corners of Los Angeles County, from Simi Valley to the
arts district in downtown L.A.

“We’re everywhere,”
said director and executive producer Paris Barclay during a break from
shooting a scene at the Simi Valley barn.

welcome at a time when fewer TV dramas are being filmed locally.
On-location shoots for TV dramas dropped 20 percent in the third quarter
compared with the same period last year, reflecting the cancellation of
long-running dramas such as “24” and more shows being filmed in New

FX recently ordered a fifth 13-episode
season for “Sons of Anarchy,” which has become the network’s
highest-rated series and one of the top-rated dramas on basic cable. The
show employs 150 crew members and has a budget of $2 million to $2.5
million per episode, making it a valuable contributor to the local
production economy.

“That’s money spent on wages,
vendors and local companies, so when you look at an economic impact of a
full season of a popular drama like ‘Sons of Anarchy,’ it’s
substantial,” said Todd Lindgren, spokesman for film permitting group
FilmL.A. Inc.

“Sons of Anarchy,” which recently
completed filming its fourth season, stars Charlie Hunnam, Ron Perlman
and Katey Sagal and is set in a fictional town called Charming near

The show’s creator, Kurt Sutter, spent
time with a motorcycle club to research his story and often has local
club members serve as extras. He acknowledged that others had pitched
the idea of a drama about outlaw bikers but said they didn’t reflect

“For the most part they (outlaw bikers)
were portrayed as either funny, good characters, or straight scumbags
with no redeeming quality. Like anything else, there is truth to all of
those stereotypes,” Sutter said.

“Sons of
Anarchy’s” main set is at Occidental Studios in North Hollywood. The
crew spends at least three of seven shoot days filming in various
locations around L.A., often in the Sunland area.

sites have included the Mira Loma Detention Center in Lancaster, where
the gang was released from prison; and the old Golden State Freeway just
north of Castaic, site of a car crash and gunfight scene with 20 stunt

Typically, the filmmakers try to pass off
L.A. for Oakland. For some episodes, they faced a harder challenge of
making L.A. look like Belfast, Northern Ireland, where part of the story
takes place.

Producers shot some footage in Northern Ireland, but to keep costs down most of the scenes were filmed locally.

designers built a 60-foot set to look like a back alley in Belfast,
complete with political murals. A park in Chatsworth was the setting for
a shootout between the gang and some rogue Irish Republican Army

The park was meant to represent
farmland outside of Belfast, but the grass was too brown. The color of
the grass was digitally changed to green to make it look more like the
Emerald Isle.

“In most cases, we find just about
anything we need to shoot here in L.A.,” said location manager Gary
Kesell. “We can double for anywhere — even Northern Ireland.”


%uFFFD2011 the Los Angeles Times

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