Roland Cañamar has set the stage for more production in Orange County.

Editor’s Note:  is another example of a someone who has built a successful production business who keeps re-inventing himself and has the knack of taking advantage of opportunities other people are too fearful to pursue.  He is known to provide great value and fair dealing.  Although he was running a successful production stage in southern Orange County, he knew that in order to continue to grow and thrive, he needed to be inside of L.A.’s thirty mile zone (TMZ).  He moved to Anaheim just a few months ago (inside the TMZ) and this, combined with his standing sets, has proved to be another winning combination.  AND he is generous with his time to help instruct and encourage others.  A class act.

Roland Cañamar, Founder and Owner, Silver Dream Factory

Roland CañamarOCS:    How long have you been doing what you’ve been doing?
Roland:    I’ve been in the stage business for 10 years but in the motion picture business for 24 years.

OCS:    When you first entered the motion picture business, was there an aha! moment when you knew that this is what you want to do?
Roland:    Since I was a child I would typically use my G.I. Joe's and airplanes and set up scenes and shoot with a Polaroid camera.  This was back in the early 70s and when I got to junior high, my best friend John Amy suggested we take a communications course with a teacher.  This was in the seventh grade, her name was Barbara Johnson, and she was one of the only teachers who offered video production and film production as part of the communications course.  He said some of our friends had actually made movies.  That semester we had a choice to do some sort of essay or we could shoot a movie on super eight film.  When we took the course, the aha! moment was when we shot on super eight film.  That’s when I said this is what I want to do with the rest of my life.  I was about 12 years old.   We made a war epic.  We went to the local surplus store and we bought uniforms and helmets and all sorts of stuff.  My mom taxied us all over town shooting different places where we could shoot our war picture.

OCS:    So you’re a real Orange County guy.
Roland:    I moved here when I was about 9 or 10 years old.

OCS:    How did you hone your skills and take us up to your first professional job.
Roland:    The next Christmas my father bought me a GAF sound super 8 camera.  I was shooting all kinds of things immediately.  We would experiment with focal lengths, f-stops, depth of field.  There was a magazine called Super 8 Film that had all sorts of articles about super 8 film.  There were ads so you could buy a whole feature on super 8 like the Godfather or Star Wars or something but the magazine gave us a lot of information.  As a junior filmmaker there was a lot of things we could actually do and hone our skills.  So we made a all kinds of movies, documentaries, and experimental films.   Mostly fight scenes.  We were boys so we beat up each other but they all had a tiny, little story.   So I was very used to working in the narrative telling stories.  In school, all we did from eighth to twelfh grade was make a lot of documentaries instead of writing essays.  Instead of a term paper we’d ask the teachers if we could shoot a documentary of what the subject was and they always said yes.

But when I was in eighth and ninth grade I would take my film to the local theater in Tustin, which became Elizabeth Howard Theater and recently purchased by a Church.   Anyway, I would show my movies during the intermission time.  I made friends with the local projectionist and the manager and after school I would go there and watch movies for hours after school and on weekends.   I got to see a lot of films most kids weren’t allowed to see, for instance. I saw Taxi Driver when I was 14.

My first professional job was as a grip while I was still in high school.  A fellow from my church who was an inventor, who fought in World War II, was an extraordinary gentleman who served in General Patton's Third Army.  Anyway they were shooting a TV show at a church they rented and my friend and I hung 20 x 20 rags around church.  So my first professional job was at16 years old.

OCS:    So what did you do when you graduated from high school?
Roland:    I went to Saddleback College with my friends.  We took a film course.  The funny thing is, even though I love film,  I wanted to be a lawyer and I thought that it would be kind of cool to be a lawyer.   I loved argument and I loved to debate but I knew I was going to be a filmmaker.  However, I decided to explore being a lawyer and took some pre-law courses but once I started my filmmaking classes I knew that there was no way I was going to do anything but that.   My parents have always been supportive.  My mom used to be a professional flamenco dancer and my dad owned a car lot so he was a business guy.

When I took my first course at Saddleback, Jim Lane was my teacher, it was amazing.  I just fell in love with it even more.  So that's what that's where I started.  Jim Lane was a great teacher.  He worked at ABC and taught some great courses.    I finished up at Saddleback and then went to Cal State Northridge and continued my studies in Radio/Film/TV with an emphasis in Film.     I dropped out in my just before my senior year because, while the TV professors were all accomplished industry professionals, the film faculty were basically just a bunch of left over hippies trying to "re-invent" the cinema and I don’t think any of them had ever made a film of any note except one excellent professor, Sid Salkow who worked as a contract director for Columbia Pictures for 34 years and really knew his stuff.  He was probably 75 when I had him as a teacher and I really respected him because he really did make movies and I learned the most from Salkow.  He taught the subtleties of directing and was a wealth of film making knowledge.    Anyway, I quit school, went to work for my father for about six months and then got an opportunity that landed me in production.

OCS:    OK, tell us about how you started making a living in production.
Roland:    My brother had a buddy whose brother-in-law worked at a local television studio - it was Trinity Broadcasting.    He knew that I liked film and told me there was some cameraman positions open for $10 an hour for freelancers.  So for two years I was on call.  I also got some work as a PA or a utility grip for $50 a day.  I was having a lot of fun.  Along the way, I started buying some equipment (c-stands, 1Ks) and kept them in my car.  From time to time, the production I was on was short equipment and I could rent them a 1K, 2K, c-stand, whatever I had in my car and began to steadily earn income from equipment rentals.  In 1987, I was about 25 and started my first company, Mini Mini Grip and Lighting.    I bought a small trailer, about 4 x 6, and could get the equivalent of a 1 ton package in there.

OCS:    When did you set up your own place?
Roland:     My long term goal had been to produce and direct my own films so I got an office in Santa Ana (17th and Tustin).  In fact, that is why I started buying equipment in the first place, so I could do what I wanted, when I wanted. without going up to L.A. to rent equipment on a Friday, get it back on Monday morning, and so on.  I went from PA to DP in about three years.  I did whatever it took, worked long hours, paid my dues, ate baloney sandwiches for lunch as many shoots didn’t really have craft services.

I was in Santa Ana for about six years until one day I was shooting a commercial at a stage located down south, known as “the stage.”  It was pretty much the first stage in Orange County.  I asked the owner if I could rent it.  He said “did I want to own it?”  Eventually I took it over and built some sets and people started coming since I had sets and props.  I built a green screen and eventually had about 3800 sq feet.

OCS:    How long were you there and what was the cause of you moving to Anaheim?
Roland:    After about ten years, especially once the recession of ’08 started hitting hard, a lot of people started saying it was too far away and they needed to stay in the thirty mile zone.

OCS:    Please give us one or two examples of highlights of your career so far.
Roland:    One example is in 1991, a friend of mine was directing a film for USA Network called The Elf Who Saved Christmas.  I was picked to be the DP.  Somehow, for some reason, just one of those things that happens, they picked  another DP who was a documentary cinematographer and they moved me down to gaffer.   I had my truck and my crew ready to go.  So I did the job.  Within two days we were a day and a half behind schedule.   The DP they hired was in way over his head in his ability to shoot narrative.  He was used to shooting headshots and just going out himself and shooting.  It became clear he never shot with a crew before.  Anyway, they fired him.  We were at Old Santa’s Village near Big Bear.  They asked if there was any other DP that could be here by 7AM the next morning.  I said I’m the best one I know and they hired me on the spot to finish the shoot.  We ordered another camera because the first DP had brought his own camera.  We were ready for first shot at 10 AM.  I had four days to bring it in on time, on budget, and we did it.  With no overtime!  I was used to this kind of cranking it out.  This was in 1991 and as it turns out, it ran that Christmas and for about another 10 years.  It had Barry Livingston (who played Ernie from My Three Sons), and Jo Anne Worley (of Laugh-In fame).  When they shot the sequel, The Elf And The Magic Key, essentially with the same cast.  I was first call.  That too, was a fun shoot.

Another example.  When I had the stage in Laguna Niguel, I had two people there in the last two years that were really fun.  One was Stephen J Cannell (creator ofThe Rockford Files, The A-Team, The Greatest American Hero, and dozens of other TV and Films) for a project he was doing for a book.  He shot a video as an introduction to it in the jail and police station.  Six months later I got a call from a gal, Renee, who wanted to shoot the police station.  I looked her up, she was Renee O’Connor, who among other things played Gabrielle, companion to Xena: Warrior Princess.  I have since developed a friendship with her and we are working on some projects together.

OCS:    What would you tell someone just coming into the business that are the most important attributes if they want to be successful?
Roland:    You need to NOT be a jerk.  You need to be kind to people.  You have to have tenacity and you have to be nice.  Kind but not a pushover.  And in the end you have to have talent.  Hustle your butt off and smile through it.  Learn your craft(s) well.   There are a lot of schools out there that will cost $100,000 to $150,000.  If you want to be a producer, don’t go to film school, maybe take that $100k and make your own movie or movies.  If you want to be a producer, make a low budget feature.  You can actually do that.  The experience you will get from filling out all the paperwork and dealing with SAG and all the problems that inevitably crop up will give real world experience as a producer.  You will then be in the business, years ahead of your contemporaries.

To find out more about Silver Dream Factory or to contact Roland, visit

Sunday, June 16, 2024