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California's Movie Magic

Learn why the Golden State is the center of the cinematic universe, and discover new ways to experience it

On this episode of the California Now Podcast, host Soterios Johnson explores the depth and breadth of California's cinema-centric offerings with three guests representing distinct aspects of the industry. First, Johnson connects with Ana Santiago, an assistant curator at the brand-new Academy Museum of Motion Pictures, for a preview of what's in store for visitors to the long-awaited museum. Santiago says visitors can see famous film artifacts up close, like the ruby slippers from The Wizard of Oz and the famous Rosebud from Citizen Kane. They can even watch an old movie shot on rare nitrate film in a state-of-the-art theater.

Next, Johnson talks to California Film Commissioner Colleen Bell, who offers insight into how the state became the center of the movie-verse for both filmmakers and cinephiles. (Hint: California’s fabulous weather and longstanding reputation as a creative and innovative hotspot play a big role.)

Finally, Johnson chats with TMZ Bus Tour guide Melanie Miller about some of the fun to be had tooling around town looking for A-listers and checking out celebrity hangouts. The two-hour tour covers highlights in Hollywood, West Hollywood, and Beverly Hills—and Miller shares a few great stories featuring popular celebs.


Ana Santiago, assistant curator at the Academy Museum of Motion Pictures

Colleen Bell, executive director of the California Film Commission

Melanie Miller, TMZ Celebrity Tour guide


Academy Museum of Motion Pictures curator Ana Santiago says the new museum's exhibits are designed to appeal to both diehard cinephiles and casual moviegoers alike.

Los Angeles

Academy Museum of Motion Pictures

The Path to Cinema: Highlights from the Richard Balzer Collection

Stories of Cinema

Hayao Miyazaki Exhibit

California Film Commissioner Colleen Bell notes that California's favorable climate and landscapes make it an ideal destination for filmmakers.

California Film Commission

Hollywood Sign

Hollywood Walk of Fame

Universal Studio Tour


Humboldt County



Santa Ynez Valley

North Coast

Santa Monica

TMZ Celebrity Tour guide Melanie Miller says that spotting celebrities on the streets of Hollywood, West Hollywood, and Beverly Hills is quite common—and a lot of fun.

TMZ Celebrity Tour


Hard Rock Cafe


West Hollywood

Beverly Hills

Capitol Records

Paramount Studios

Beverly Wilshire

Rodeo Drive

Viper Room

Whisky a Go Go

Tower Records

Laugh Factory

Dancing with the Stars

About the Host

Soterios Johnson, formerly the local host of National Public Radio’s Morning Edition on radio station WNYC, moved from New York City to Davis in 2016. By combining his journalistic instincts with his personal curiosity, Johnson uses the California Now Podcast platform to develop a deeper understanding of his adopted home.

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