Two ‘local boys’ in charge of Malibu Locations’

Lifelong friends Marshall Coben and Rob Dohan gave up the four-hour commute to Hollywood and now work in their own backyard in Malibu, running a film location business.

By Ward Lauren / Special to The Malibu Times

The two best friends grew up in Malibu-skateboarding, surfing and hanging out. One, who became a film and television executive, got the other his first job in the entertainment industry as a location manager. They both got married and have two children each, the same ages. As if that wasn’t enough for the lifelong friends, now, Marshall Coben, 43, and Rob Dohan, 42, are in business together.

Coben and Dohan, “both local boys,” as Coben says, took over the film location business, Malibu Locations, from longtime Malibuite Donna Klein earlier this year.

Coben, a television executive for 25 years, the last 11 as vice president at Paramount Studios, and Dohan, an experienced union location manager, were both born and raised in Malibu.

“Rob and I were skateboarders,” Coben said. “We know every nook and cranny out here. We skated every street in this town and know all the people and every neighborhood. And Rob knows the location business inside and out, so for us, walking into this was like putting on an old pair of gloves. It just fit; there wasn’t a lot of transition for us.”


Dohan echoed his business partner’s feeling of comfort and satisfaction in working where they grew up and continue to live. “The homeowners who are our clients know Marshall or know me,” he said, “or one of them knows my wife, or my kids, or a friend of a friend. It’s very rare that we run into a property out here in which somebody in the family doesn’t know one of us.

“So they’re comfortable with us. Some of them even leave their keys with us. They’ll say, ‘We’re going out of town. Show the house whenever you want.'”

Malibu Locations’ office is located on Pacific Coast Highway in the Zuma Beach shopping center. The company’s name, Coben said, could not be more appropriate to what the business is all about-film locations in Malibu. Eighty per cent of their locations used for the entertainment industry are in Malibu. They don’t go overseas, but do reach out from time to time to nearby communities such as Agoura, Calabasas and Beverly Hills, and even as far as the Hollywood Hills.

Dohan’s years of experience as a union location manager has already paid off, he said. Since taking over the business they have seen a bit of an increase in filming in Malibu, and filming seems to be having less of a negative impact on the neighborhood. Shoots had been getting out of hand because they were not being supervised well; consequently, the rules have become stricter, to better control filming in the city.

“What Rob has done is set up new guidelines in the company about supervising the shoots,” Coben said. “He chooses a person for each one to be there the entire time a company is on the property, just to make sure that no neighbors are inconvenienced, that houses are not being abused, that Malibu city permit rules are not being violated.”

“One thing I try to do,” Dohan said, “is make sure that on the film day there are no surprises. That’s the advantage of having done location work for all types of filming, even music video (which I’ll never do again!). I know exactly what to tell the homeowner to expect and how to prepare for the shoot.”

Both Coben, who lives in Malibu Colony, and Dohan, who lives in the Deer Creek area, said they could not be happier about having their office close to Zuma Beach rather than inner Los Angeles.

“Rob and I each have two- and five-year-old kids,” Coben said. “We both got really tired of driving into town every day. We’re surfers; we need the ocean to live.”

“Driving to Hollywood from my house, four hours a day in the car is not exciting to me,” Dohan said. “Malibu Locations has been a dream for a long time. My playground has been Zuma Beach for the last 15 years and now my office is right across PCH.”

Coben’s affinity for the ocean began on the beach near the Chart House restaurant, where his parents lived and where he learned to walk about a year after he was born in 1962. They later moved to the La Costa Beach area, where Coben lived until he graduated from UCLA in 1985 with a bachelor’s degree in English, coupled with “an interest in film.”

The latter led to his career in television, first in various capacities in production as an assistant director, location manager, and writer and ultimately to Paramount, where he oversaw TV series and films both from creative and financial standpoints. “I just got disillusioned with the whole corporate atmosphere,” Coben said of the change in career course. “I could have gotten a job at another studio, but I just felt there’s no heart there.”

Dohan also grew up in the La Costa Beach area. “When Marshall and I were kids our backyards connected,” he said.

After college, Coben actually got his friend started in the movie business, giving him his first job as a location manager. Dohan worked at Paramount for many years and then for Fox Television, gaining 20 years experience and a reputation for excellence in his profession. He still does location work for one low-maintenance TV show at Fox as he transitions into full-time duty in his office across from Zuma Beach.

“That’s what’s so cool about it; even though I’m making a career change-in a sense-I’m still involved with locations,” Dohan said.

And, Coben added: “The best part of the new venture is just connecting with the people in our community, meeting old friends that we haven’t seen for so long.”

The Malibu Times is the first newspaper in Malibu, serving the community since 1946.

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