In October 1999, Janice Arrington became the Orange County Film Commissioner.
Her job as Film Commissioner is to promote, negotiate for, and retain filming throughout the County. Film production is a vital revenue-generator for Orange County and its 34 cities. When O. C. locations are used in movies, television series, TV commercials, and corporate videos, hundreds of millions of dollars are spent every year. Large crews and casts spend money on hotels, transportation, food, location fees, permits, supplies, and services. Production activity also attracts tourists who want to see the sites and walk the streets where their favorite shows were shot.
Janice earned a B.A. in English at the University of California at Berkeley and a Masters in Counseling Psychology from Pepperdine University. She joined the Directors Guild of America in 1992 after serving two years in its training program. As a DGA trainee, she worked at each of the major film studios with different directors. Her credits as an Assistant Director include Menace II Society; Lost in Yonkers; Honey, I Blew Up the Kid; Party of 5; Cheers; LA Law; Columbo; The Wonder Years and other features and TV series.
As Film Commissioner, Ms. Arrington is part of the Film Liaisons in California Statewide—a network of film offices that works closely with the California Film Commission to facilitate media production. As part of that network, she is the long-time co-chair of the California On Location Awards, an annual event celebrating production companies and location managers who do exemplary work while filming in our state. She also sits on community boards for the Media Alliance of Orange County (founding member), the Newport Beach Film Festival (founding member), and the Advanced Technology and Education Park (ATEP) Foundation, while serving as an ex-officio Board member of the Orange County Tourism Council.
In 2002, Janice was elected to the Board of Directors of the Association of Film Commissioners International (AFCI). In 2003, she was chosen to serve on its Executive Committee as Secretary and Membership Chair, positions she held until 2011. Directors for the Association of Film Commissioners International manage the affairs of this 330-member organization of film commissions worldwide. Arrington was selected by the AFCI Board to travel to Chile (4 times) and to South Korea to speak on the best practices of film commissioners.
Janice was the recipient in 2007 of the Award of Excellence presented by the Media Alliance of Orange County at the Newport Beach Film Festival Award Ceremony. In 2010, she received the Association of Film Commissioners International President’s Award for Outstanding Service to the AFCI.
Editor's Note: Orange County's Film Commissioner, Janice Arrington, is one of about 45 Film Commissioners in California. During her tenure, the County has consistently had one of the most active shooting schedules (placing 2 to 4) behind Los Angeles. This, of course, translates into millions of dollars spent locally on an annual basis, to the benefit of businesses such as hotels, restaurants, dozens of companies from lumber yards to florists, not to mention the sales taxes and permit fees that accrue to local governments. In the seven or some years I have known Janice, including serving together on the Media Alliance board, I've observed her constantly on the go, helping production companies and local governments work together smoothly.
SOCAL: Where were you born and raised? What brought you here?
Janice: I was born and raised in Arcadia (in Los Angeles County), until I left for college when I graduated high school. My family moved to Irvine while I was a freshman at UCLA, just before I transferred to U.C. Berkeley. My parents always loved Orange County’s amenities: the beaches, the clean air (this was the time of dense smog in Arcadia), new homes, and more. I stayed in the Bay Area for 8 years, living in Berkeley, in Marin County, and in San Francisco before moving “home.” I missed the sunshine you can count on Southern California.
SOCAL: Since a formal education is not usually a direct path to your job, when did you decide you wanted to be in “the business”?
Janice: Ever since I could read, I would comb the newspaper to see what films were coming out. My parents are both movie buffs, and they would take our family to the local cinema even on a school night. I was always begging them to let me stay up later than my bedtime to watch television. I didn’t study film in college, but because I have always loved it, I decided one day that I wanted to work in Hollywood - most likely as a development person or a director.
SOCAL: In the dozen years you have served as Film Commissioner, how has the environment for making movies and commercials changed in Orange County?
Janice: Most parts of our county - public and private - are receptive to entertainment production work. Interestingly enough, with this difficult economy, more O.C. locations have opened up for filming as cities, businesses, and property-owners seek new revenue opportunities. Over most of that time, the number of productions and shoot days increased steadily here each year. Orange County went from the 5th to the 3rd most-filmed county in the Golden State, according to statistics kept by the studios. What changed negatively in the last few years is that other states and countries have lured filming away from California by offering rebates to producers. So filming everywhere in our state has slowed. But we are starting to see our numbers rebound, and the Film Commission is getting help from entertainment organizations, such as the Media Alliance of Orange County, to spread the word that Orange County has expert resources and is film-friendly.
SOCAL: Please tell us about productions (features or commercials) that you helped bring here that you are most proud of.
Janice: I think it is more accurate to talk in terms of projects that might not have filmed here except for help from the Film Commission. I’ll talk about two very recent productions, both of which sought the Film Commission’s assistance when problems arose. Clint Eastwood’s new film, J. Edgar, starring Leonardo DiCaprio as J. Edgar Hoover, needed a certain schedule to film in the Old County Courthouse in Santa Ana. The Film Commission worked closely with county representatives and the film’s crew to find a compromise where J. Edgar could use the courtroom and offices (not usually available for filming) while the courthouse staff was able to do their work, including setting up a new museum exhibit. In another example, Lifetime’s upcoming movie-of-the-week, Untouchable: The Drew Peterson Story, starring Rob Lowe, wanted to film for 10 shoot days in the community of Rossmoor. The shoot required some night scenes, filming on streets, and taking over a cul-de-sac for two weeks to film in several homes. The Film Commission wanted a plan that would accommodate the community as well as the production company. We held a meeting with county departments such as sheriff, permitting, traffic, public works, and set rules for the film company, which they followed. I’m happy to report that both these productions went smoothly, in no small part due to the skilled county representatives and the gracious Rossmoor residents.
SOCAL: Who are some of the people (celebrities, directors, etc. in the business) you have had the most fun meeting?
Janice: In 2011, renowned director Michael Mann (The Insider, Heat, Last of the Mohicans) brought a new HBO series called Luck, starring Dustin Hoffman, to a county jail. Mann has been one of my favorites since he created the TV series Miami Vice, and I have listened to him speak at DGA events. It was a treat to watch him direct and, of course, to watch Dustin Hoffman act. Some of the nicest celebrities I have met here in Orange County are George Clooney, Matt Damon, Ben Affleck, and Paul Walker. I say this because they treated everyone around them kindly and even signed autographs for spectators.
SOCAL: During your tenure, all or part of some 60 features, 100 Television series, and countless commercials have been shot in Orange County, an impressive number. Please tell us about some of your favorites.
Janice: What gives me a kick is when someone is surprised that their favorite movie or TV episodic was shot here. We have had big features like Star Trek, Iron Man, Rush Hour 3, Transformers, The Perfect Storm, and Pearl Harbor. We have hosted other movies such as Catch Me If You Can, Ocean’s 11, Miss Congeniality 2, Big Momma’s House (1 and 2), Elizabethtown, You, Me & Dupree, Old Dogs, The Informant!, and The Fast and the Furious. For television shows, some of my favorites are Chuck, CSI: Miami, 24, Dexter, 90210, Criminal Minds, Parenthood, Prison Break, The West Wing, Monk, The OC, and JAG. And at any one time, of course, we have many reality shows that use Orange County sites.
SOCAL: What are the favorite locations you help production companies secure for their projects?
Janice: I’m happy to report (and say “thank you”) that filming has taken place in all 34 cities in Orange County and on county properties such as regional parks, harbors, beaches and historic buildings. I especially like when we use Great Park (former El Toro base) lands in Irvine because for now, at least, we can blow up things, race cars, shoot all night with bright lights, and no one is bothered by noise or lights. Some of the projects there, besides numerous TV commercials, have been the popular TV shows 24 and Top Gear and the action film Eagle Eye.
SOCAL: What do you find are your most important responsibilities as Film Commissioner?
Janice: Besides marketing O.C. locations and our infrastructure of entertainment-related businesses and services, my most important job is getting a No turned into a Yes when it comes to filming. Filming means jobs and money to Orange County, and it also creates a tourism boon when visitors want to see locations where their favorite stars stood. But production work can also bring traffic flow concerns and other irritants, so getting all of the parties to communicate and follow the best plan is my main goal.
SOCAL: How is the Orange County Film Commission funded? What incentives, if any, does Orange County provide to production companies to entice them to shoot here?
SOCAL: What do you see as the future of production in the County?
Janice: I see our portion of the entertainment industry increasing. Despite this sluggish economy, business is beginning to pick up for our local production companies. We have a wealth of skilled and creative people working here who make commercials, TV series, corporate videos, Web entertainment, and more. Production work coming from Hollywood and other centers is also picking up. Orange County has a glamorous reputation that brings projects to film our coastline, our modern buildings, at our shopping centers, resorts, and varied neighborhoods. The Film Commission will continue to market to Hollywood and production hubs outside of California, sharing what the OC offers: diverse locations, proximity to Los Angeles, perfect weather, film-savvy cities, and a first-rate filming infrastructure.