Michael Jackson?s production crew in June of 1995 built a set at El Camino Pines camp that created a sylvan paradise for a music video about a young man trying to reclaim his childhood. ?Childhood? was also the theme song for the feature film Free Willy II. Inset, Lori Murphy on June 30, 2009 pulled out the story from 14 years ago and reflected on the economic value to this area of creating an organized effort to invite production companies to film here.
‘Childhood’ Tells Tale of the Past and the Future
“Have you seen my childhood? …It’s been my fate to compensate for the childhood I’ve never known…” —Michael Jackson
It was 14 years ago when a wide-eyed Michael Jackson gazed upward into a camera mounted above him on a tall crane, surrounded by the lush forest of El Camino Pines Lutheran Church Camp in the Los Padres National Forest just beyond Cuddy Valley, near the Mil Potrero ‘Y’.
The most economically successful superstar in musical history—and some say one of its most troubled—chose the center of our Mountain Communities to sing the words to "Childhood,” the theme for the feature film Free Willy II and a song included in Jackson’s HIStory, Book 1 album, among the world’s best-selling records. Local Historian Bonnie Kane and photographer Lori
Murphy were both reminded of Jackson’s visit when “The King of Pop” died last week in Los Angeles. They helped us find The Mountain Enterprise report from 1995.—P. Hedlund
Michael Jackson Films Video Locally
Reprint from June 6, 1995
The Mountain Enterprise
By M. Michael and L. Murphy
For those of you who saw the bright lights in the mountains near Mt. Pinos and an entourage of vehicles traveling Cuddy Valley Road—it wasn’t aliens.
It was M. J. Productions, along with Propaganda Films and Optimum Productions, filming Michael Jackson’s latest music video, Childhood, to be released in three weeks along with his album [HIStory, Volume I].
While most of us were returning from Memorial Day weekend events, the production’s art department was busy arranging ferns and other greenery to create an “enchanted forest” for Jackson to sing in and children to wonder at. The actual filming took place at night, with giant lights to create the right effect. Eating schedules for the crew went something like lunch at 8 p.m. and dinner at midnight.
Under the Forest Service’s watchful eye (making sure the environment was not disrupted) the crew worked from Tuesday, May 30 through [Friday], June 2 to wrap up and “strike” the production.
The Greater Frazier Mountain Chamber of Commerce was called upon Tuesday to assist with some last minute details before the shoot.
Even though some campers were a bit displaced from the trip they may have planned, it was offset by being in the right place at the right time (even 2 a.m.) to watch Michael Jackson at work. They were kept at a distance by Jackson’s security team. No photographers were allowed except Lori Murphy, who is a local photographer and co-author of the local chamber’s Filming Coalition which was given exclusive permission to take photographs of the set.
On a larger scale, you may have seen David Sheehan’s interview broadcast on CBS, Channel 2 on Wednesday night, who noted that the filming was “somewhere in the mountains” between LA and Bakersfield. Sheehan stated: “I didn’t realize some place this beautiful was only one hour out of L.A.”
Rather than the traditional management of a set where the assistant director makes all the decisions, on this set every decision was cleared and made directly by Jackson himself. Those people given permission to be on the set were given guidelines and most everyone signed confidentiality agreements to maintain privacy.
Goals of the local film coalition include providing a liaison between production, the media, local industry workers and businesses, all in unison with the local government agencies, other areas and our Kern County Film Commission in Bakersfield.
There were several local residents who are in the filming industry who worked on this set.
This is part of the July 03, 2009 online edition of The Mountain Enterprise.
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