As most residents of western Malibu and Point Dume can attest, Point Dume State Beach has been a favorite for film, television and advertising agency productions for decades. Peering down from the cliff or up the beach, locals have seen everything from an elephant walking on the beach to the giant head of the statue of liberty lodged in the rocks to the Charlie’s Angels red sports car.
In the latest annual survey conducted for the Los Angeles Times by the nonprofit group Film LA, Inc., Point Dume State Beach (also known as Westward Beach) was the second-busiest location for shooting films, TV shows and commercials in all of Los Angeles County.
Phil Sokoloski with Film LA, Inc. said that the vast majority of production days at Point Dume involve television commercials and commercial still photography. Beach locations have become somewhat more popular this year, Sokoloski said, because certain restrictions have now been lifted by the state and county. For example, whereas production companies weren’t allowed to dig holes in the sand to anchor equipment in the past, the government now allows it.
In 2012, there were 163 production days at the beach, which included a number of car commercials as well as an episode of the hit TV show “Modern Family.”
The fact that the beach is publicly owned makes it easier for production companies to get film permits to shoot there. The state’s California Film Commission offers free online permitting for all state property including state parks and beaches, freeways, roads and government buildings.
The beach is also a favored location because of its proximity to Pacific Coast Highway, yet is still isolated from traffic, traffic noise and large numbers of beachgoers. In fact, because of its tall cliffs and its location at the very end of Westward Beach Road, it is a much easier production environment to control than some in terms of stray people, animals, vehicles, etc. wandering into the background.
In addition, no houses, roads or other signs of humanity can be seen from most angles at beach level, so there’s nothing to date the location. It can be set up to look like almost any time period.
The locale also contains a number of different elements and potential backgrounds in one small space—cliffs, ocean, beach, sand dunes and mountains.
Former Malibu mayor and longtime special effects coordinator Jefferson “Zuma Jay” Wagner estimates he has obtained permits to perform work at the beach “hundreds of times” over the years while working for the movie industry. Wagner said the beach is popular within the industry principally for its access to big parking lots (for the dozens of trailers required during filming), distance from residents and access to facilities.
“It’s access to crew parking, it is a clean beach, a lot of sand. It’s got that beautiful, unimpeded western sunset,” Wagner said. “You have easy access to facilities, you got the fire department right there at the Point. There’s all kinds of things that make it appealing to filming.”