Lights, Camera, Action!
Story and Photos by Gareth Kelly
A long time ago in a valley not so far away, Creston specifically, Todd Fisher bought a 44-acre ranch. It’s not visible from the road, and without ever visiting the property most would never realize the wonder and amazement this ranch holds. Fisher is the brother of Carrie Fisher, author, producer and actress best known for her role as Princess Leia in the original Star Wars trilogy. Todd is himself a renowned producer, director and writer having worked in the Hollywood movie industry since he was a small boy. The son of Singing in the Rain star Debbie Reynolds and crooner Eddie Fisher, Todd fell in love with the Central Coast 26 years ago and has been quietly working on the facilities at his ranch, home to the Hollywood Motion Picture Experience or HMPE.
“I loved the old movie studio back lot model. They were, in essence, a manufacturing factory producing movies. I want to create something similar here at the ranch, “ said Fisher. “I want to provide a facility with the best state of the art equipment, find the best local creative talent and give the film industry a unique place to make movies at a fraction of the cost outside of LA.”
Freedom Farms, as the ranch is known, features a 6000 square foot indoor stage, masses of camera equipment ranging from the latest 4K cameras to older more traditional movie cameras. The property also has an extensive lighting and grip package, dressing, hair and make up rooms, pre and post production facilities including the finest state-of-the-art editing suites for both film and sound, a voice over room, mobile production trucks for on location shoots, a huge props department, workshop, RV’s for keeping talent and staff happy, a 7800 sq. foot 6 bedroom ranch house complete with private home theater, a back lot for building sets and even a small lake. Throw in some horses, wild foul and a few fully movie trained animals and you have a truly breathtaking location and facility capable of producing the highest quality film and video one could ever wish for.
“I really see this place as an opportunity to create high paying jobs for numerous local people and to also shine a spotlight on the area,” Fisher said. “Sideways had an amazing effect on the wine industry in the Buellton area, and I feel we could do something similar here in Paso. I have run into some resistance from some of the neighbors but Paso mayor Steve Martin and county supervisor Debbie Arnold have been incredibly supportive in what I’m trying to do. In many ways I don’t see much difference in what were doing to that of traditional agriculture. Making movies uses a lot less water than farming and we simply want to produce a great local product that benefits everyone locally.”
With the world’s largest collection of Hollywood memorabilia this writer couldn’t help but get a little giddy as Fisher let him hold and flick through Carrie Fishers original Star Wars script, complete with her handwritten notes. Movie posters are dotted all over the ranch showcasing some epic classics Lawrence of Arabia, Apocalypse Now, The Great Escape, When Harry Met Sally and of course numerous Star Wars posters. In addition to working in the movies, Fisher is clearly a movie aficionado. His passion for this industry is evident in everything he says.
“We are in somewhat of a golden age of film and television right now,” Fisher said. “There are so many distribution channels and so much good content out there, I want us to be part of it, here in SLO County. Here we can film a $3million movie that looks like it cost $10million. I think it would be such a plus for the area if we could bring all this amazing local talent together, provide jobs for them and have a film or show based here that ends up on Netflix or HBO.”
The HMPE is a serious business, and Fisher is a serious businessman with a wealth of knowledge, connections and passion. To have such an incredible facility right here on our doorstep is something SLO County should be proud of and embrace. Fisher is a man driven by dreams by ideas and by the love of the movie industry. As a self confessed TV and movie junkie, nothing is more inspiring than being in a place where ones imagination is allowed to run wild and free. The lights dim, the curtain rolls back, the screen flickers and in that brief moment an endless world of possibilities lies ahead.
To find out more about the HMPE you can visit them on the web at www.hollywoodmotionpictureexperience.com
Gareth is pretty sure he saw a Wookie out in Creston, what Star Wars character would you be? Email him at firstname.lastname@example.org