Located just offshore from the worldwide capital of film production, it’s no surprise that Catalina Island and Hollywood have a love affair that goes back to the earliest days of movie making. Legendary filmmaker D.W. Griffith made one of the first films on Catalina Island, 1912’s Man’s Genesis.
Since then, thanks to the island’s varied terrain and unique topography, Catalina Island has portrayed a variety of environs, from the South Pacific to the American West. Surrounded by the sea, Catalina Island is also ideal as a base for films set on the high seas, with Waterworld, the Hunt for Red October and Mutiny on the Bounty just a few of the many films that have been shot around Catalina Island. Treasure Island, Captains Courageous and Chinatown are just a few of the many movies that were filmed on Catalina Island. The list also includes the Catalina Caper, Suicide Kings and The Navigator.
Movies aren’t all that’s filmed on the island; dozens of television shows have filmed here, ranging from Airwolf to the Bold and the Beautiful and from Arrested Development to Fear the Walking Dead. And array of commercials, as well as music videos, such as Sublime’s Badfish, have found a perfect setting on Catalina Island.
Intrigued with the idea of filming on the island? Here’s what you need to know:
Locations: Catalina Island offers a diverse array of film locations. In Avalon, location managers will find everything from quaint cottages to expansive estates as well as charming streets and a picturesque waterfront. Farther afield, filming on Catalina Island presents options like remote beaches and stunning seascapes, but also wide canyons, undeveloped hillsides and unique topography. Two Harbors, at the island’s West End, was regularly transformed into the South Pacific and in many ways offers a blank canvas.
Permits: Avalon, Catalina Island’s only incorporated city, is also home to most services, including lodging, dining and shopping. The city requires a filming permit for all commercial shoots as well as a business license. In addition to the permit, the city also requires an insurance policy.
Film shoots outside of the city limits will require permission from either the Catalina Island Company or the Catalina Island Conservancy. The Catalina Island Company owns and operates Two Harbors at the West End of the island. The Catalina Island Conservancy is the non-profit organization responsible for protecting the island in perpetuity. It manages 88 percent of the island's land.
Logistics: While Catalina Island’s offshore location does offer some challenges, it is much more convenient than many destinations. UPS, FedEx and the USPS serve the island. Heavier equipment and supplies as well as vehicles are shipped to the island via the Avalon Freight Services barge, which leaves from San Pedro several days a week year-round.
Transportation: There are many options for getting to the island. The most popular option is the ferry to Catalina Island, with two companies offering service: Catalina Express provides several departures daily from San Pedro and Long Beach and more limited daily service from Dana Point. Catalina Passengers Service offers a once daily round trip from Newport Beach most of the year. Boat transportation to the island takes about an hour. Helicopter service is also available through IEX Helicopters and takes just 15 minutes from either San Pedro or Long Beach – charter helicopter service is available from most Southern California airports and takes just a few minutes longer.
Celebrating film – both on and off the island
Catalina Island’s long relationship with Hollywood was the genesis for the on-going Catalina Film Festival, held each year in late September with events both on the island and in Long Beach. Industry events, screenings and awards presentations are held at a number of venues throughout town, including the Catalina Casino.