San Francisco is a beautiful, vibrant and charming city for anyone in need of a good holiday adventure, there’s no doubt of that. But it’s also an extremely popular filming location for hundreds of films. During our few days’ stay we concentrated on a couple of favourites and tried to pick a good selection of films and locations. One that made our list was, of course, Star Trek.
The film folk have brought Golden Gate along to many kinds of amazing adventures. In the 1978 Superman movie a school bus almost plummets down from the bridge, but gets rescued by Superman and in X-Men: The Last Stand the bridge gets altered by Magneto. It’s been destroyed by Godzilla (2014) and you can even spot it on a music video by Metallica. The list just goes on and on, and makes it clear why it’s one of the best recognized landmarks in the world. If you grow up watching movies and television, you will become familiar with its shape, colour and name eventually.
There’s even a whole page dedicated to “Golden Gate in popular culture” on Wikipedia.
When it comes to the Star Trek films and tv series, the Golden Gate should probably be mentioned in the end credits. The times the Trek crew has returned to the area either to use it as a backdrop or to snuggle right up close to it is pretty impressive. We picked a shot from Star Trek IV: The Voyage Home for our sceneframe, and here’s the result:
We also filmed this (very) short video clip on the location!
We also stopped to admire the view from the Northern end of the bridge. Without knowing much of the area we just followed the handful of other tourists who had parked their cars on top of the hills in hopes of a good photo op and view. What we discovered there was Battery Spencer, a 19th-century concrete battery with magnificent views of the bridge and the city, and boy, did we! What an amazing discovery. Despite the thick mist covering the bridge and all of our view to San Francisco, we manage to get a few peeks here and there every time the clouds cleared for a few seconds. This spot must be pretty breathtaking on clear summer days and probably even more so during sunsets and sunrises! Clearly we need to go back some day to see it in a different light…
And some photos…
For this next shot, we drove down to the corner of Kearny Street and Pacific Avenue near Chinatown. We parked our car randomly in a parking hall nearby and ended up walking through Portsmouth Square Plaza, an absolutely charming and extremely zen little plaza in the midst of all the downtown bustle. Every table and bench were occupied by (mostly elderly) people playing board games, having a chat, smoking cigarettes and just seemingly having a pretty relaxed afternoon. No wonder they call it the “Heart of Chinatown”!
Again, finding the correct spot for our shot was pretty easy thanks to the Columbus Tower, one of San Francisco’s designated landmarks. Just look at that beautiful shade of green! Very easy to spot. We fiddled around a bit to get this shot, but still couldn’t fit everyone present in the original scene inside the iPad’s frames. (Boo! Clearly we need a wide-screen tablet!)
It has to be said… We’ve lost Leonard Nimoy since we took these photos and hope he’s on his way to bigger, better adventures. LLAP, Leonard. Thank you for everything.
Another little place that really doesn’t need much introduction. A city so full of movie history and filming locations that we’d probably need to spend a lifetime there just to see a tiny fraction of it all. So, we had to make a few tough choices and stick with those, even though skipping so many amazing things broke our hearts just a little bit. We ended up doing the Warner Bros studio tour and sceneframing a bit of Drive, Pulp Fiction, Pretty Woman and the tv show Community. And we managed to squeeze in a couple of Star Trek spots, too!
Vasquez Rocks, a filming location to many outerspace-y things! In exchange for the trouble of a short car ride from LA, you’ll get to see magnificent rock formations and experience the heat of the desert.
Apart from being roughly about 25 million years old and having served as a hide-out for famous bandits in real life, Vasquez Rocks is also a film star. The list of films, tv shows and music videos filmed there is remarkable – how many of them have you seen?
And can you believe it: while we were doing our thing, we bumped into other sceneframers! We noticed this group of guys taking photos with a polaroid camera, then aligning that photo with the background for another photo. Tiia got so excited she ran down to tell them why we were there (and to exchange the secret handshake of sceneframers, no doubt!)
Imagine our surprise when one of them turned out to be Finnish! Wow. There are not a lot of Finnish people in the world, so bumping into one on another planet in the middle of the desert was quite a surreal experience.
In case you see this, guys, say hello!
The Getty Museum wasn’t anything like we expected — mainly because we didn’t expect much! This museum sits on top of a high hill safe from the city noises and rush hours. To get there, you’ll have to park your car at the foot of the hill and they’ll give you a ride up in a fancy, modern tram. This is where you already start to feel all star fleet headquarter-y, to be honest. Everything is very clean, bright and open, and once you step inside the building and visit the courtyard, you understand why a sci-fi filmmaker would appreciate this place.
All they had to do was add some futuristic bits and buildings in the background with cgi, really.
While we were walking around taking photos and looking dorky again with our iPad aligning shenanigans, we bumped into some fun Doctor Who fans. Once we explained why we were there and told them that they were actually visiting the Star Fleet HQ, they got even more excited about their visit! So a job well done, Fangirl Quest. Film tourism 4eva!
Unfortunately, we didn’t have enough time to see any of the actual exhibitions at the museum, but we were impressed enough by the architecture and the view of the city. We’ve already (heavily!) recommended the place to a few friends heading to LA for a vacation, and we’re doing so to you readers now: go, see this place. It’s amazing.
And if you ever end up going, send us a postcard!
These buildings are located in Century City, LA and (as we found out) aren’t actually very tourist friendly. Sure, you’re welcome to park your car in the parking hall underneath and walk through the lobby, but you can’t take any photos inside or you’ll get told off by the guards. So, we didn’t get the hot shot of Benedict Cumberbatch crashing through their windows in Star Trek Into Darkness with his dramatic (and amazing) flappy coat.
Luckily, we were allowed to take photos outside in the courtyard where they filmed the whole high-speed on-legs Khan-chase. There’s not much to see, not really, but the futuristic buildings and the carefully trimmed grass & stone decorations in the yard were plenty enough for a couple of filming location hunters.
We also noticed people queuing into a smaller building right next to these mirror window miracles and went to see what it was all about. Turned out, it was a exhibition space called Annenberg Space for Photography which looked all kinds of amazing, but again, us busy film tourists didn’t have time for it all.
What a pity… But who knows, maybe in 20 years they’ll be showcasing our photographs in that place?
Ha. A fangirl can certainly dream.
A detailed map of all the locations mentioned in this post below.