[Sign Up Now] to Receive Our FREE Daily SCVTV-SCVNews Digest by E-Mail

Inside
Weather
Santa Clarita CA
Mostly cloudy
Mostly cloudy
69°F
 
Calendar
Today in
S.C.V. History
November 14
1935 - Voters approve $22,000 construction bond to build a bigger Saugus School. WPA kicked in another $17,181. [story]
Saugus School


Director-Editor Kirk Murray (red shirt) preps a scene for "Six-Gun Savior" on Main Street, Melody Ranch. The indie film is due out in 2014.

Director-Editor Kirk Murray (red shirt) preps a scene for “Six-Gun Savior” on Main Street, Melody Ranch. The indie film is due out in 2014. Click images to enlarge.

“Last year was pretty good, and this one’s been a good one so far,” said Renaud Veluzat, co-owner of the world-famous Melody Ranch Motion Picture Studio, a setting for Quentin Tarantino’s “Django Unchained” in 2012 and thousands of classic and obscure Western and action films and TV shows going back to Hollywood’s golden age.

A man of not too many words, Veluzat wasn’t necessarily talking about the Santa Clarita Cowboy Festival, which his prodigious family (many of whom are Hart High School grads, incidentally) has hosted the past 19 years at the ranch, tucked between the oaks in Newhall’s Placerita Canyon. But the positive assessment applied to the festival nonetheless.

The 20th annual festival takes over Melody Ranch the weekend of Saturday, April 20 and Sunday, April 21, and an estimated 30,000 Western music, poetry, culture fans and food fans and vendors from many states in the West are expected each day. It gets bigger every year. You can find out all about the festival, the performers, the special events, the food, the prices and more at the official festival website.

Renaud and Paul Veluzat, hangin' on the porch.

Renaud and Paul Veluzat, hangin’ on the porch.

Veluzat was instead referring to his business the other 360-or-so days of the year, when the ranch is a working movie ranch used as a prime location for commercials, rock videos, episodic TV segments, feature films, photo shoots — you name it. Like the Cowboy Festival, all that filming activity pumps a lot of cash into the Santa Clarita Valley economy via jobs and money spent on local vendors, food, lodging, transportation and more.

In the past several years Renaud and his brother-partner Andre have built and upgraded huge soundstages at Melody Ranch, allowing interiors of any kind including non-Westerns to be built and shot on the ranch as well. A few years back, the ultra-authentic HBO Western “Deadwood” four-walled the ranch, and shot almost all the interiors and exteriors there.

Main Street looks a bit different packed with Cowboy Festival fans, as it did later in April 2010.

Main Street looks a bit different packed with Cowboy Festival fans, as it did later in April 2010.

Renaud and Andre also own the Veluzat Motion Picture Ranch (they call it “the Big Ranch”) in Haskell Canyon, in north Saugus, outside the Santa Clarita city limits. Another Veluzat brother, Rene, owns the Blue Cloud movie ranch, also now in L.A. County territory.

According to Leon Worden, SCV historian and CEO of SCVTV and SCVNews.com (and another Hart High grad), “The Veluzats have been a fixture in the Santa Clarita Valley since the arrival of patriarch Paul T. Veluzat in 1939. Among his many real estate purchases was the Haskell Canyon property in 1943, initially as a cattle ranch, and then as a movie ranch in the mid-1960s.

Worden continued: “All three of Paul T.’s sons — Rene, Andre and Renaud — ended up in the movie rental business, which expanded when Andre and Renaud bought Melody Ranch from Gene Autry after Autry’s horse Champion died at the Placerita Canyon property in 1990. Paul T. died in 2000 at age 101.”

Between them the Veluzats have or can get just about anything a film production might need — authentic Western towns, bombed-out villages, nostalgic ’50s towns, all kinds of period military vehicles and more set accouterments.

Andre and Renaud Veluzat's "big ranch" in Haskell Canyon

Andre and Renaud Veluzat’s “big ranch” in Haskell Canyon

Both Saugus ranches could be annexed by the city of Santa Clarita as early as March 26, when the City Council is scheduled to weigh in on a proposed 824-scre “North Saugus” annexation, which the city’s Planning Commission OK’d in September in part as a way to further facilitate local filming.

So, lots of lucrative action on the sets, a pending annexation, the impending Cowboy Festival — seemed like a good time to visit the ranch and see what’s happening before the hordes of people take over, and update the community on what’s been happening at the ranch since last year. A pre-festival interview is something of a ritual for the Veluzats and this reporter, and it’s always fun.

At Melody Ranch’s main production building, Renaud invited me into his office. “Come on in, I’ll play you a little intro for our interview,” he said, picking up his handy acoustic guitar. He’s been playing rock, surf, country and whatever since the ’60s, so it was a short and sweet treat.

melody_skp_031213gAndre Veluzat was away on business, but his son Paul, also Andre’s and Renaud’s right-hand guy around the ranch (and a fair drummer, as well), joined us and drove our golf cart a short distance, silently sneaking up behind an old Western store facade. Right on the other side was Main Street, where an independent film crew was busy shooting scenes for a supernatural-western mash-up titled “Six-Gun Savior,” with a cast including Eric Roberts as The Devil and and Martin Kove as The Mentor. The production had been shooting at Melody Ranch for several days and would be wrapping up before the Cowboy Festival.

Just as we rolled up, the director and crew took a short break. Perfect timing. Paul introduced me to the movie’s producers, who instead of throwing me off the set because I was a press guy, invited me to stay because I was a press guy. It’s 2013; these are filmmakers who get that movie-making and promotion is a whole new game. Separate story coming soon; it’s literally a whole different movie.

Meanwhile, back at Melody Ranch, Renaud and Paul filled us in on the latest Veluzat news. What follows are excerpts; you can see the entire interview here (complete with Renaud’s opening tune).

 Andre and Renaud Veluzat survey Main Street at Melody Ranch days before the April 2010 Santa Clarita Cowboy Festival.


Andre and Renaud Veluzat survey Main Street at Melody Ranch days before the April 2010 Santa Clarita Cowboy Festival.

“Well, we’ve had an exciting new year. Big movie with ‘Django Unchained’ with Jamie Foxx, Quentin Tarantino’s new movie,” Renaud said. “It was really good. Two Oscars, right?” “Yeah, it was great for us, but it was great for Santa Clarita,” Paul said. “They were here for a long time and spent a lot of money in Santa Clarita.”

A win-win-win situation, to be sure.

“They shot the saloon scene here — you’ve got to go see the movie, and you’ll see Melody Ranch in it,” Renaud said. “It’s cool.”

From the grit of “Django Unchained” to the pip-pip Grey Poupon commercials that ran during the 2013 Oscars telecast, Paul said the studios can handle just about any kind of production, and that the nearby soundstages (looking like large adobe structures from the outside) keep the ranch hopping between Westerns.

“You could film anything in there,” he said. “We’ve had farms in there, houses in there, backyards in there, grocery stores in there, diners in there, you name it, it’s just about been inside there. Having those sound stages has really helped out a lot in business, not just for us here at the ranch, but bringing filming into Santa Clarita. And we’ve been knocking out a lot of commercials, music videos, overflow stages. Shows will come in, they’ll need extra room for their stage, they’ll come in there and set up. Or they’ll just want to base out of here with their show. So, it’s been a real blessing, having the sound stages.”

Paul noted that pop star Ke$ha shot a video at the Saugus ranch; another one shot there for heavy metal band Megadeth involved a monkey driving a car.

melody_skp_031213d“That actually was a funny video, really funny,” he said of the latter. “It’s not everyday you see a monkey driving a car, especially spinning it out.” “Yes, that’s a good one,” Renaud agreed.

If the two Saugus ranches are indeed eventually annexed by the city of Santa Clarita, Renaud said, “That’s going to be a good thing. For one thing, it’s easier for all the film commissions right here. Everything’s local so we don’t have to mess with L.A. County anymore. That’s going to be a really great asset.”

Back at Melody Ranch once again, “Right now we’re doing ‘Six-Gun Savior,'” Renaud said. “And then we’ve got the Cowboy Festival coming up right behind.”

“I remember the first Cowboy Festival,” said Paul, who was just a whippersnapper. “Man, it was exciting. I encourage you all, whoever’s watching (or reading) this, to come because it’s exciting and fun. It’s different than any other festival going. It’s not a wild party. It’s a group of good folks coming out. We really like it. They’ll walk 10 feet to the trash can to throw their trash away. And over the time, (city organizers have) made a lot of stuff for the kids, family-oriented, great food — the peach cobbler is one of the highlights of the festival.”

Renaud confirmed that his longtime friend Nokie Edwards, original lead guitarist for The Ventures, will be in Santa Clarita from Arizona, as he has for the past few festivals, and the two guitarists will again be casually jammin’ on the side from time to time, with young Paul on drums. Among the official Main Stage performers, both Veluzats are looking forward to seeing headliners Riders in the Sky in a rare local appearance.

Renaud and Andre Veluzat welcome the writer to the Melody Ranch Museum in April 2010. Photo by Tom White.

Renaud and Andre Veluzat welcome the writer to the Melody Ranch Museum in April 2010. Photo by Tom White.

Renaud and Paul also confirmed that Santa Clarita Western aficionado Tom White and Western author Julie Ream are collaborating on a new batch of memorabilia for the Melody Ranch Museum. The large building is already stuffed with a mind-boggling assembly of vehicles, props, photos, displays and other artifacts from the films and TV shows shot there. The museum will be open to all Cowboy Festival attendees.

The first phrase out of many first-time visitors’ mouths is, when they see things like the full-sized Russian tank from “Red Dawn” or the gangster cars from “Last Man Standing” is usually something like, “I didn’t know that  was shot here!”

So many actors who’d later become famous shot some of their first scenes on Main Street.

“Burt Reynolds was in ‘Gunsmoke’ way back then. John Wayne started here and did 21 movies right here at Melody Ranch when he was just a kid. Republic and then Monogram Studios were right here. All those old Westerns you see on the late-night channels, most of them were shot here.”

“‘Annie Oakley,’ ‘Rin Tin Tin,’ ‘Hopalong Cassidy,’ ‘The Cisco Kid,’ ‘The Lone Ranger,’ ‘Gunsmoke,’ ‘Have Gun — Will Travel…” Paul said, rattling off just a few (see the ranch’s website for more filmography details).

“Big list of shows,” Renaud said. And there’s a story behind every one of them.

Melody Ranch burns down in 1962. (SCVHistory.com photo)

Melody Ranch burns down in 1962. (SCVHistory.com photo)

I mentioned the “Combat!” series from the early ’60s; some of the first season’s early black and white shows were shot at Melody Ranch after part of the main town burned down in a devastating fire in 1962.

“This town unfortunately burned down from the ranch fire over here off in Placerita Canyon, out of here over at Circle J Ranch, which was a riding academy at the time,” Renaud said. “A pile of manure self-ignited and that’s what started that fire. It came through the canyon and went all the way to Pasadena. It was a major, major fire.

“And Andre and I, we were in (Hart High School) at the time,” Renaud said. “We’d come over here and there was a dairy down the street, and he’d let all the cows out, a friend of mine we went to school with. All the cows and the bales of hay were burning and everything. We had cows all over this canyon. It was a bad fire. Then Gene Autry kept the ranch and filmed six episodes of ‘Combat!’ right here on the street as the burned-out village and stuff in Europe. When we bought the ranch (in 1990), we duplicated the whole place as it was (before the fire).

“We’re still restoring, so that’s…24 years now,” he said. “But we’ve still got time to finish. (laughs) Eventually we’ll finish.”

melody_skp_031213a“It’s funny, at the festival, just watching it and seeing it,” Paul said. “On Saturday it’s neat to see everybody dressed up in hats and boots and dress the part, but it’s also funny to see the same person you saw on Saturday, you see them on Sunday limping because their new boots tore up their feet, and now they have a pair of Nikes and shorts. But you know what, they’re back at it again, coming out to enjoy that music. I tell folks who never really got into country or that type of festival, ‘I don’t care where you live, how you were brought up or raised, what music you’re into. You come to the Cowboy Festival, you will have a good time.’ You can’t help it. It’s just a great experience for everybody.”

“We’ll see them there,” Renaud said.

As to what will be going on next at Melody Ranch in the 51 weeks until the 21st Cowboy Festival in 2014, stay tuned.

“A lot of times we keep it on the down-low ’till it gets released, so keep tuning in, and I guarantee, if you watch television every night, you’ll see either Melody Ranch or Veluzat Ranch, either on a commercial or in a video or on the news,” Paul said.

“How many times did you see it on the news the other night?” he asked his uncle.

“Five times,” Renaud laughed.

 

Comment On This Story
COMMENT POLICY: We welcome comments from individuals and businesses. All comments are moderated. Comments are subject to rejection if they are vulgar, combative, or in poor taste.
REAL NAMES ONLY: All posters must use their real individual or business name. This applies equally to Twitter account holders who use a nickname.

No Comments

    Leave a Comment


    ARTS & ENTERTAINMENT LINKS
    ARTS & ENTERTAINMENT NEWS
    Wednesday, Nov 13, 2019
    The Los Angeles County Board of Supervisors voted Tuesday to approve the transfer of the operation of the John Anson Ford Theatres to the Los Angeles Philharmonic Association.
    Wednesday, Nov 13, 2019
    Five College of the Canyons students won the People’s Choice Award at the International Interior Design Association's LA Haunt Couture show on Thursday, Oct. 24.
    Wednesday, Nov 13, 2019
    With the holiday season just around the corner, the College of the Canyons School of Visual and Performing Arts, or VAPA, has an exciting lineup of shows that are sure to delight family and friends of all ages well into the next year.
    Tuesday, Nov 12, 2019
    Castaic Union School District and The Music Center announced Tuesday the upcoming Korean Classical Music & Dance Company performance at Northlake Hills Elementary on Thursday, Nov. 14, at 8:15 a.m. and 9:30 a.m.
    Monday, Nov 11, 2019
    The fall 2019 Star Party at College of the Canyons' Canyon Country campus, originally set for October 25 but postponed due to the Tick Fire, has been rescheduled for Friday, November 15.
    Latest Additions to SCVNews.com
    Two people were killed and four others, all students, were wounded when they were shot at Saugus High School Thursday morning.
    2 Dead, 4 Wounded in Saugus High School Shooting
    “Shooter, Shooter! There’s a shooter!” That was the first thing Saugus High School 10th-grader Nathan Ephren remembers hearing while he walked onto campus Thursday morning.
    Saugus High Shooting Survivors Share Their Stories
    Public officials released statements and posted social media comments Thursday in the wake of the Saugus High School shooting Thursday morning.
    Officials Weigh in on Saugus High School Shooting
    The Santa Clarita community responded quickly to come to the aid of those affected by the shootings at Saugus High School Thursday morning.
    Community Reaches Out to Those Affected by Saugus High Shooting
    It was like any other day of the week for the Branch and Beltran families — making breakfast, getting ready for the day’s routine — until they heard a swarm of police surround Saugus High School on Thursday morning as an active shooter incident developed.
    Centurion Way Residents React to Saugus High Shooting
    1935 - Voters approve $22,000 construction bond to build a bigger Saugus School. WPA kicked in another $17,181. [story]
    Saugus School
    Today in SCV History (Nov. 14)
    The Los Angeles County Board of Supervisors voted Tuesday to approve the transfer of the operation of the John Anson Ford Theatres to the Los Angeles Philharmonic Association.
    County Names LA Phil New Operator of Ford Theatres
    The candidate filing period for the March 3, 2020, Presidential Primary Election is now open, Los Angeles County Registrar-Recorder/County Clerk Dean C. Logan announced Tuesday.
    Filing Period Now Open for 2020 Primary Candidates
    The Greater Los Angeles County Vector Control District will hold its regular meeting, Thursday, Nov. 14, at 7:00 p.m.
    Nov. 14: Greater LA County Vector Control Regular Meeting
    Five College of the Canyons students won the People’s Choice Award at the International Interior Design Association's LA Haunt Couture show on Thursday, Oct. 24.
    Five COC Students Win Interior Design Award
    The Los Angeles County Board of Supervisors passed a motion authored by Supervisor Janice Hahn and co-authored by Supervisor Sheila Kuehl Tuesday to address the Board and Care crisis throughout the county.
    LA County to Intervene to Prevent Board and Care Closures
    Santa Clarita Valley Sheriff’s Station deputies detained a man Wednesday who reportedly threatened to jump from a freeway overpass, after a reported disturbance on an out-of-town bus trip.
    One Detained in Bizarre I-5 Freeway Disturbance
    With the holiday season just around the corner, the College of the Canyons School of Visual and Performing Arts, or VAPA, has an exciting lineup of shows that are sure to delight family and friends of all ages well into the next year.
    COC Visual, Performing Arts Sets Holiday Concerts at PAC
    The Women’s Council of Realtors of Santa Clarita Valley invites local residents to help celebrate the installation of its 2020 Board members at the Sand Canyon Country club on Friday, November 22, at 6 p.m.
    Nov. 22: Women’s Council of Realtors to Install 2020 Board
    Santa Clarita veterans and residents are invited to board a Santa Clarita Transit coach for a patriotic ride to Knott’s Berry Farm for on Sunday, November 17.
    Nov. 17: City Bus Service to Knott’s for ‘Military Tribute Days’
    The Los Angeles County Board of Supervisors approved a motion by Supervisors Kathryn Barger and Hilda Solis that adopts a framework and associated funding to help the county's cities address their individual homelessness challenges.
    County Adopts Initiative for City Homelessness Funding
    The Sulphur Springs Union School District board of trustees was scheduled Tuesday to consider the authorization of a $78 million bond measure to be placed on the March 2020 ballot.
    Sulphur Springs Considers $78M School Bond Measure
    The Santa Clarita Valley’s top cop, Capt. Robert Lewis, took a moment Tuesday to reflect on a county report showing the SCV Sheriff’s Station received the second-highest number of commendations from the public and tied for third place for receiving the most complaints among Los Angeles County sheriff’s stations, bureaus and divisions.
    Capt. Lewis Reflects on Latest OIG Findings
    The Santa Clarita City Council voted Tuesday night to extend a temporary ban on new sales of flavored tobacco products through October 2020.
    City Council Extends Moratorium on Flavored Tobacco Products
    Governor Gavin Newsom and First Partner Jennifer Siebel Newsom joined the California Museum, the state's official history museum, in announcing the 13th class of inductees into the California Hall of Fame.
    Dec. 13: Induction of California Hall of Fame 13th Class
    Detectives from the Santa Clarita Valley Sheriff's Station would like to hear from Castaic residents who might help solve a series of property thefts from vehicles late Monday night.
    Detectives Seek Info on Vehicle Property Thefts in Castaic
    Department of Water Resources officials lifted a caution advisory Friday about the threat of algae for both Pyramid Lake and Castaic Lake.
    Algae Threat Removed for Pyramid Lake, Castaic Lake
    A man identified by deputies as a transient was arrested in Newhall on the weekend on suspicion of attempted arson after allegedly setting magazines and papers on fire and then throwing them in planters.
    Detectives Arrest Transient on Suspicion of Attempted Arson
    1966 - Pico No. 4 oil well listed as a National Historic Landmark [story]
    Pico No. 4
    %d bloggers like this: