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Press Telegram

Locations & luck

September 9, 2000
By Tim Grobaty

In the movie biz, it's all about big breaks. Don't let nobody tell you different. Our house has been trying to bust into show business for about 10 years and it's still a starving residence. Just as easily it could be a household-name house, but for lousy, rotten, stupid luck. Just five months ago, our Plaza-area, classically trained house lost out by a matter of about four blocks for a role as a house in an "X-Files" episode. And only this week we got a call from our location scout asking if our house has a sliding door off the kitchen. Our house is old-school. It has the stock, regular door. Our house can't be changing doors with Hollywood's every whim. It lost the gig. It was just a one-day commercial shoot, but don't think it didn't hurt just the same.

So, it was with some amount of bitterness that our house accepted the fact that a home on Long Beach's swank Country Club Drive in the Los Cerritos neighborhood scored a lengthy, 15-day feature film shoot last month for the Drew Barrymore film "Donnie Darko." And this was only weeks after the home's owners, Bruce and Jenny Patterson, had even considered a film career for their 4,850 square-foot Colonial-style home.

The Pattersons had just moved into the home in January when local filming scout John Robinson, who runs the new Long Beach Locations business out of his office on Pine Avenue, sent them a flyer detailing his work in finding roles in feature films, TV shows, commercials and print ads for residences and businesses. Robinson's clients include several area homes, as well as such properties as Mum's, Legends,the Villa Riviera and the Long Beach Convention Center.

Bruce Patterson recalls that "we signed an agreement with Robinson and he came in and took some pictures and it wasn't even a month later that he called and said that he had a client interested in a Colonial house, preferably one that backs onto a golf course." Patterson's home is on "just a sliver" of Virginia Country Club.

Adds Robinson: "The script also called for a trampoline in the backyard, and when the film people came to look at the house, there was a trampoline in the yard. I think that really helped seal the deal."

See what we mean by breaks?

On Aug. 7, crews for the production company for the film "Donnie Darko," which stars, besides Barrymore, Patrick Swayze and, in the title role, Jake Gyllenhaal (of "October Sky"), descended on the Patterson pad and began transforming it into Darko's digs.

While they liked the trampoline, they weren't nuts about the kitchen. The crews preferred the lighting and the location of the Patterson's airy sun porch, so they took everything out of there and built a full (though mock) kitchen in the porch.

They also took apart the living room and made it a bit more masculine, painting the walls darker and tossing in a big easy chair over an Oriental rug.

The shooting ran for 15 days, during which time Bruce and Jenny and their three daughters, Morgan, 16, Whitney, 14 and Chelsea, 12, were put up in a beach house in Newport Beach for one week, and another in Sunset Beach for the other. They also were compensated handsomely (we're not allowed to disclose the sum, but we'd have a blast spending it), and, when it was all over, everything was jake with the Patterson place.

"I'd describe the entire process as being fun," said Bruce, who owns Patterson Construction in Long Beach. "Everybody involved in the process was very professional and did exactly what they said they would do, which is a great trait in any business."

The Pattersons' daughters had a great time, too, all appearing as extras in scenes shot in and around their home.

"It was also a good opportunity to get to know the neighbors," said Bruce. "Every day people from the block would come out to see what was going on, and we all got to know each other pretty quickly."

With the three daughters, Patterson said that the fact that the movie was made in the summertime was important. "I don't think I'd want to go through something like this during the school year," he said. "But I certainly wouldn't hesitate to do a commercial or a one-day shoot any time.

"But, in my next venture, I'd really like to direct."

If you think you have a unique home or business suitable for work in movies or commercials, check out the Robinson's Web site ( or call him at (562) 951-0306.