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Film stars get El Dorado County foothills introduction

Actor Michael Blackson waits in a chair as the film crew sets up a scene for Deon Taylor’s “Meet the Blacks,” filming Monday near Placerville. The film cast includes Mike Epps, Lil Duval, former boxer Mike Tyson and Paul Mooney.
Actor Michael Blackson waits in a chair as the film crew sets up a scene for Deon Taylor’s “Meet the Blacks,” filming Monday near Placerville. The film cast includes Mike Epps, Lil Duval, former boxer Mike Tyson and Paul Mooney. pkitagaki@sacbee.com

A spacious foothills ranch house north of Placerville was L.A. north on Monday as transplant filmmaker Deon Taylor continued work on his new movie, “Meet the Blacks.”

The courtyard between the home and the garage – overlooking the rolling El Dorado County landscape – was the backlot as young actors and experienced comics took turns posing for pictures with comedy veteran Paul Mooney. Taylor, who is from Chicago but now calls Sacramento home, said he likes to shoot close to home and build the Sacramento film scene.

“While I’m independent and I can choose where to make it, I choose to do it where I can sleep in my own bed at night,” said Taylor, whose previous credits include “Chain Letter” and “Supremacy” with Danny Glover set to be released Jan. 30. “Meet the Blacks” stars comedian Mike Epps, but also features comedians Lil Duval, former boxer Mike Tyson, Mooney and others.

Taylor challenged other Sacramento film directors to shoot in Northern California.

Films set in Northern California have been relatively rare in recent years in part because California’s film tax incentives were no longer competitive with other markets that give major rebates for movies being shot there, said Kathleen Dodge, executive director of the El Dorado/Lake Tahoe film and media office.

Legislation passed earlier this year more than tripled the total film and television tax incentives that can be granted in the state, a move that Dodge said should help the state land more movies. Under the legislation signed by Gov. Jerry Brown, eligible films will be chosen on merit, rather than through a lottery. The rebate amount – 20 percent to 25 percent – does not change.

Filming a movie is big money for the area. Taylor’s film will spend “tens of thousands” of dollars in lodging alone, Dodge said. The crew was a mix of people brought up from Los Angeles, with a few locals sprinkled in. Independent contractor Scott Miller manned the craft services (snacks) station. A local food truck came up to provide lunch.

For many members of the cast, the last three weeks in El Dorado County was their first Northern California experience. Colombian-born actress Zulay Henao, who plays one of the leading roles in the film, was somewhat surprised it snows in California. (She spent some off time trying to spot a bear at a Lake Tahoe wilderness area.) With her real-life friend actress Bresha Webb playing her daughter, the pair said it hardly felt like work.

But without proper plans, the two budding stars spent Halloween at their Placerville hotel.

The film has another week at the ranch before production wraps.

Another benefit of shooting in Northern California is the abundance of landscapes and possibilities within close proximity of each other, Taylor said. “It’s an underserved market that’s brilliant for film,” he said.

As Taylor has progressed as a filmmaker, it’s getting easier to book the talent he wants. “This movie, we have everybody from Tyson to Paul Mooney,” he said. “Eight years ago, nobody would have let me in the room.”

Call The Bee’s Ed Fletcher, (916) 321-1269. Follow him on Twitter @NewsFletch.

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