When movie fans stick Corbin Bernsen's new film into the DVD player, they'll see a cute romantic comedy set in the windy city of Chicago.
But the movie's not being filmed in Chicago – it's being shot right here in Turlock, thanks to the efforts of the Turlock Film Commission.
“We've been working on bringing a major movie here for two years,” said Turlock Film Commission Founder Micheal Everett. “It's finally happened.”
Everett founded the commission in 2011, in hopes of drawing movie makers to Turlock. It's based on a similar, highly successful effort in Shreveport, Louisiana, which drew $1 billion in film production in less than 10 years.
Turlock's first feature film will be written and directed by Bernsen. It will be produced and distributed by Bernsen's production company Home Theater Films, which focuses on smart family films for home distribution.
The film follows the journey of 30-year-old Gwyneth who is tired of dating jerks, and turns to a Christian dating website to find a nice guy. She meets Mr. Right – the son of a pastor – but there's only one problem: Gwyneth isn't actually Christian.
And though Turlock may not look much like Chicago to the casual observer, remember: Bernsen's “Psych” is shot in rainy Vancouver, but set in sunny Santa Barbara. “Battle of Los Angeles?” Try Baton Rouge, La.
Everett and the Turlock Film Commission first met Bernsen through a mutual friend – Matt Swanson, who co-owns recording and film studio The Creation Lab with Everett.
Bernsen expressed interest in visiting Turlock, and perhaps filming a few scenes of his new movie here. But after a day spent touring Turlock, Bernsen was sold.
“He said, 'Man, I can shoot 85 percent of the film here,'” Everett said.
It's thanks to Turlock's diverse range of “looks,” Everett said. With both nice neighborhoods and the Westside, a scenic downtown, the park-like California State University, Stanislaus campus, and abandoned buildings on Golden State Boulevard, Turlock can look like anywhere.
“I've always known this is a good location to shoot,” Everett said. “The people in this area thought I was crazy at first.”
But Turlock checks all the boxes. It's relatively close to Los Angeles, but lacks the permitting hassles and costs associated with filming in LA. A coffee shop won't charge several thousand dollars for two hours of filming, as in Los Angeles. And a road closure permit is just a phone call away here, not tucked behind countless bureaucrats.
“The main thing is to make the producer's job easy, and that's where they're going to go,” Everett said.
Bernsen is in Turlock now, conducting four days of location scouting. Everett anticipates eight to ten locations will be used in the shoot, many of them downtown.
Filming is expected to run for about three weeks, starting Dec. 3 and wrapping up Dec. 18.
The Turlock community will have a chance to get involved with the film, Everett said, both as extras and with some auditions for minor roles.
“The idea is it's a community thing,” said Everett. “I want to make sure the city's involved.”
Though the Bernsen film is the big catch, it's not the Turlock Film Commission's only achievement.
A reality show will be filming in Turlock over the next several months, featuring a notable local arm wrestler. And in the past year, Discovery 3D TV has shot in Turlock.
And that doesn't begin to mention the Film Commission's last big get – Rich Correll, the creator/director of “Hannah Montana” and other top kids shows – shot two music videos for teen pop band The PreZcotts in Turlock in August, 2011. Corell was so pleased, he spread the word about Turlock to others.
“He's told everybody about Turlock,” Everett said. “He loves Turlock.”
The hope is that Bernsen, too, will spread the word about Turlock. And perhaps, one day, Turlock may become a movie mecca just like Los Angeles – only without the drawbacks.
“We've got the real deal here,” Everett said.
Turlockers may see more Corbin Bernsen pictures like this one taken at Century 21 M&M and Associates office in Turlock.