The Golden State is home to red-carpeted award ceremonies, big-name production studios, celebrity handprints in sidewalks, and storied cemeteries where cinema legends have been laid to rest. Two Hollywood stars have even served as the state's governor—Arnold Schwarzenegger and Ronald Reagan.
Want to take part in this glittering celluloid fantasy? On the latest California Now Podcast, host Soterios Johnson talks to three experts about easy ways to deep-dive into California's moviemaking world.
Visit the Academy Museum of Motion Pictures
First on the podcast, Ana Santiago, assistant curator at the Academy Museum of Motion Pictures in Los Angeles, discusses the museum's long-awaited opening on September 30. Featuring exhibits that celebrate the art and science of moviemaking, the Academy Museum is designed to appeal to devoted cinema fans as well as more casual museumgoers, Santiago says. "In crafting all of these exhibitions, we really want everyone to find something that they want to see, that they're excited about, that they're passionate about."
"For someone who loves blockbusters, we have a gallery called Encounters that looks at the artistry of sci-fi and fantasy and horror movies," she says. "You'll see costumes for Okoye and Black Panther, the vid phone from Blade Runner, C-3PO and R2-D2 [from Star Wars], and a head appliance from Alien."
Cinephiles will want to check out an original "Rosebud" from Citizen Kane, a pair of ruby slippers from The Wizard of Oz, and the retrospective on animation master Hayao Miyazaki. "The curators really designed this to be a journey into the world of Miyazaki,” Santiago notes. “As soon as you enter, you're walking into this tree tunnel that really transports you into his cinematic universe."
The Academy Museum will also host film screenings. "At the 1,000-seat David Geffen Theater, you can see movies in 35 millimeters, 70 millimeters, digital laser projection, as well as nitrate," Santiago says. A smaller theater will hold daily screenings and Saturday morning matinees for families, as well as filmmaker retrospectives.
Tour the Golden State's famous film locations
Colleen Bell, the California Film Commission’s executive director, offers keen insights about the Golden State's popularity as a film-shooting location. California's consistently good weather plays a role, she notes, but even bigger draws are the state's "diverse landscapes and topography.” "A good illustration of this are the old Star Wars movies,” Bell points out, “which feature California redwoods representing one planet, and Death Valley or the state's southeastern deserts for another planet. It's pretty incredible."
Travelers can easily plan itineraries around visiting sites where their favorite films or TV shows were shot. Obvious examples include the glittering Los Angeles backdrops in La La Land and Once Upon a Time in Hollywood, but Bell also mentions locations farther afield.
"I thought Lady Bird paid such a lovely tribute to Sacramento. I always think about that beautiful little film every time I'm there," she says. "Also there's A Wrinkle in Time, which is such a beautiful film that was filmed up in Humboldt County. It's just gorgeous up there."
Bell also suggests exploring California's movie scene by checking out Hollywood Boulevard's star-studded Walk of Fame or riding on the tram tour at Universal Studios Hollywood. "Universal's backlot never gets old. I could go through and ride on that tram 20 times in a year. I still think it's so exciting and fascinating."
Cruise Hollywood on a TMZ celebrity tour
Also on the podcast, tour guide Melanie Miller talks about Hollywood's celebrity intrigue and what guests can see on a TMZ Celebrity Tour. The two-hour tour in a plush, open-air bus travels past landmarks like Paramount Studios, the Viper Room, and the Whisky a Go Go.
"You're seeing Hollywood through the eyes of TMZ," she says. "We really show you the history of Hollywood."
Celebrity sightings happen often, Miller says. "We've seen Mark Wahlberg; we've seen Charlie Sheen. We've seen celebrities from all walks of the entertainment industry."
"My favorite thing about the TMZ celebrity tour is literally anything could happen at any moment," she says. "We go to a stoplight, and then boom, we see Jennifer Lopez sitting next to us at the light. And then the bus goes crazy."