Aaron West, The Triplicate

The Humboldt-Del Norte Film Commission has put Del Norte County on the map - literally - with its most recent project, a "Map of the Stars" that's set to be released this month.

The "Map of the Movies: Filmed on the Redwood Coast," which has been in the works since last year, will be ready for distribution in time for the commission's unveiling party on May 29 at the Battery Point Lighthouse, where Tim McGraw's "Not a Moment Too Soon" music video was shot in 2009. A release party for Humboldt County is planned for May 22.

The map will feature 60 locations - 30 in Del Norte, 30 in Humboldt County - where scenes from various movies, like "Star Wars: Return of the Jedi," "E.T.," and the 1936 classic "Last of the Mohicans" were filmed. Movie buffs interested in checking out the locations will be able to follow the map to the sites, where markers commemorating the films have been set up.

"People love to get out and explore this area, so what more fun way to do so than to check out film sites," Cassandra Hesseltine, Del Norte-Humboldt film commissioner, said.

Once people have found a marker, Hesseltine said the commission is encouraging them to take a picture and post it on the commission's Facebook page.

Beyond simply exploring the destinations on the movie map, Hesseltine said that folks coming to town with movies in mind provide an economic boost for both counties.

"It's another way we benefit economically from films being here," she said. "We wont necessarily be tracking the dollars that come in, but we're excited to know we'll be contributing to the economic stimulus in the area."

The map, which features Battery Point Lighthouse on the cover, is an updated version of an older map created 20 years ago that didn't include Del Norte. It will be available at the Crescent City-Del Norte Chamber of Commerce, online atwww.filmhumboldtdelnorte.org/mapofthemovies, as well as other locations around town that are still to be determined, Hesseltine said.

The process for narrowing down the films from a list of hundreds to the 60 that made the map was a long one, Hesseltine said, and without the old map, which was created by Humboldt County resident Tom Murray, it would have taken even longer. Another element that delayed the map's completion was trying to find appropriate locations for the film markers.

"Just finding a location that would work," Hesseltine said. "You have to think of where they filmed, then the location has to say yes, then you have to find a place where cars can pull over and people can get out. There's a lot of logistics you have to deal with."

For example, Hesseltine pointed out the marker for the 1936 film "Last of the Mohicans," scenes of which were filmed near Lake Earl and the Smith River, as a particularly troublesome one.

"We just couldn't coordinate a location where it was filmed, and we decided to place it by the Klamath River. It's the farthest from its actual filming location."

She said the marker's Klamath River home would eventually be moved to a more fitting, permanent site.

The map is just one of the local projects made possible in part by $13,500 the film commission received this fiscal year from the Chamber of Commerce, which contracted with the commission to represent Del Norte three years ago.

Tours for filmmakers

Another project, which Hesseltine outlined at last week's City Council meeting, is a "fam" - that's short for familiarity - tour of the region, scheduled for September. A fam tour, which is a common film industry practice, typically involves location managers and studio executives traveling to a city or region to learn about area highlights, particularly those that might lend themselves well to films. Hesseltine said a field trip like that is simple enough to arrange for somewhere close to Los Angeles, but for Del Norte and Humboldt counties, a tour gets a little trickier.

"It's industry practice but we haven't done it here yet," she said. "It's just expensive for us to do because we have to fly them here and arrange hotel accommodations."

Besides the money from the Chamber, the commission received an $18,551 Headwaters Fund grant as well as funding from other agencies and organizations in Humboldt County.

Hesseltine said that during the three-day tour, eight or nine tour participants will be led around Del Norte and Humboldt counties and shown everything the area has to offer.

"It's a great way to educate them firsthand," she said. "To get them here for three days and saturate them with what we have to offer, there's just no other way to market. It's the best way."

Besides the tour, the commission is spearheading another local effort to bring films to Del Norte and Humboldt - and to keep them in California, for that matter. Hesseltine said the commission is drumming up local support for AB 1839, a proposed state tax credit bill that would allow California to compete with tax incentives in other states by providing more tax credits to movie and television productions.

She cited one movie in particular starring Ellen Page that was written specifically for the redwood forest but ended up moving north to Canada because of financial incentives.

"These people were really interested in us," Hesseltine said. "But they have to make financial choices that are best for them, and it was best for them to go to Canada. Hopefully we can curb that from continuing to happen. It's imperative the tax legislation goes through."

At the meeting Hesseltine estimated that the county missed out on roughly $100,000, not including the money that would have been spent by film crew at local businesses.

Hesseltine said that anyone interested in writing a letter in support of AB 1839 should contact the film commission atinfo@filmhumboldtdelnorte.org.

Reach Aaron West at awest@triplicate.com.