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

Inside
Weather
Santa Clarita CA
Clear
Clear
46°F
 
Calendar
Today in
S.C.V. History
January 22
1839 - Gov. Juan B. Alvarado gives most of SCV to Mexican Army Lt. Antonio del Valle. [story]


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
    Friday, Jan 18, 2019
    Skylight Books in Downtown Los Angeles will host author and CalArts alum Johanna Hedva (Art MFA 2013, Critical Studies MA 2014) to discuss Hedva's 2018 book, "On Hell," with fellow CalArtian Asher Hartman (Art MFA 03) on Saturday, Jan. 26, starting at 5 p.m.
    Thursday, Jan 17, 2019
    CBRE announced a full-service provider to the entertainment industry leased an industrial building in Valencia for $7.7 million.
    Thursday, Jan 17, 2019
    The 91st Academy Awards nominations in all 24 Oscar categories will be announced in a two-part live presentation on Tuesday via global live stream on Oscar.com, Oscars.org, the Academy’s digital platforms – Twitter, YouTube, Facebook – a satellite feed and local broadcasters.
    Thursday, Jan 17, 2019
    The public is invited to Tomo-Kahni State Historic Park’s 25th anniversary celebration on Saturday, Jan. 26, from 1:00 p.m. - 4:00 p.m., featuring a talk by anthropologist Dr. Bruce Love and a flint knapping demonstration by master flintknapper Gary Pickett.
    Wednesday, Jan 16, 2019
    Santa Clarita Studios, an independent studio operator, has leased a 109,379 square-foot industrial building in Valencia, CBRE announced Wednesday.
    Latest Additions to SCVNews.com
    1839 - Gov. Juan B. Alvarado gives most of SCV to Mexican Army Lt. Antonio del Valle. [story]
    The Master's University women's basketball team is finding out how valuable that combination is as it rolled to a 93-30 victory over visiting Life Pacific on Saturday evening on Bross Court.
    Women’s Hoops: TMU Defends, Rebounds to Victory Over Life Pacific
    Tim Soares finishing with a season-high 32 points and lifted the No. 5-ranked Mustangs past Life Pacific, 104-96, on Saturday at TMU.
    Men’s Hoops: Soares Hits Milestone, Lifts TMU Past Life Pacific
    Santa Clarita Valley Economic Development Corporation President & CEO Holly Schroeder will be the keynote speaker at the Valley Industry Association's monthly luncheon on Jan. 29 from 11:45 a.m. to 1:30 p.m.
    Jan. 29: SCVEDC’s Holly Schroeder to Keynote VIA Luncheon
    Los Angeles County Sheriff's detectives have asked for the public's help to identify and catch two men suspected of burglarizing a home in the May Way area of Canyon Country Friday afternoon.
    Detectives Seek Help to ID, Nab May Way Burglary Suspects
    The Castaic Union School District and Los Angeles International Academy are partnering to bring Chinese students to district classrooms from their sister schools in China this week and next.
    Jan. 22: Castaic Schools to Welcome Chinese Exchange Students
    The National Weather Service has extended its weekend wind advisory for the Santa Clarita Valley through noon Wednesday, as the Los Angeles County Health Officer alerts residents of local mountains and the Antelope Valley to continuing cold temperatures through Wednesday and Thursday, respectively.
    Wind Advisory in SCV; Cold Weather Alert for AV, Local Mountains
    A trio of players from the Cougars' historic 2018 conference championship team will continue their playing careers together after committing to Warner Pacific University.
    COC Cougars Send Three to Play at Warner Pacific University
    The University of Antelope Valley Pioneers (8-11; 6-1 Cal Pac) remain tied atop the conference standings with Simpson University after defeating the Bobcats of UC Merced (9-10; 2-5 Cal Pac) on Saturday night, 79-69.
    Men’s Hoops: UAV Pioneers Score 79-69 Win over UC Merced
    The University of Antelope Valley Pioneers (16-4; 6-1 Cal Pac) remain tied atop the conference standings after defeating the No. 22-ranked Bobcats of UC Merced (17-5; 5-2 Cal Pac) Saturday evening, 95-81.
    Women’s Hoops: UAV Downs UC Merced in Top-25 Cal Pac Clash
    The University of Antelope Valley Pioneers (7-11; 5-1 Cal Pac) are now tied atop the conference standings with Simpson University (11-6; 5-1 Cal Pac) after defeating the Red Hawks on Thursday night, 101-67.
    Men’s Hoops: Pioneers Blast Simpson with Cal Pac Lead at Stake, 101-67
    The University of Antelope Valley Pioneers (15-4; 5-1 Cal Pac) continued their winning ways on Thursday evening, defeating the Red Hawks of Simpson University (12-8; 4-2 Cal Pac) handily, 89-59.
    Women’s Hoops: UAV Handles Simpson; Moves to 5-1 in Cal Pac
    Preparing for Monday's national holiday commemorating the life and legacy of the Rev. Dr. Martin Luther King Jr., Los Angeles County Supervisor Kathryn Barger shared King's powerful lesson with a group of youngsters at the Quartz Hill Library last week.
    Barger Shares King’s Powerful Lesson with Quartz Hill Kids
    iLEAD Schools, a network of free, public charter schools in California, Hawaii and the Midwest, is commemorating the 8th annual National School Choice Week with a series of events across its campuses Jan. 21-26.
    Jan. 21-26: iLEAD Schools Celebrate National School Choice Week
    The Santa Clarita Valley Historical Society will commemorate the 91st anniversary of the second worst disaster in California history with its annual St. Francis Dam Disaster lecture and bus tour to the dam site in San Francisquito Canyon to be held on Saturday, March 9.
    March 9: Annual St. Francis Dam Disaster Lecture, Bus Tour
    The Santa Clarita Valley Sheriff's Station has released its crime information and public safety report for Newhall (Zone 6) for Jan. 7-13, 2019.
    Crime Blotter: Spousal Assault, Grand Theft in Newhall
    Over the last year, tips to Crime Stoppers have been of tremendous assistance and helped lower crime in the Santa Clarita Valley, SCV Sheriff's Station officials report.
    Tips from LA Crime Stoppers Help Deputies Solve More Crimes Than Ever
    1914 - Signal newspaper owner-editor Scott Newhall born in San Francisco [story]
    1993 - Hart High grad Dee Dee Myers (1979) becomes first female White House press secretary [story]
    1967 - Original airing of Star Trek "Arena" Episode: Kirk battles the Gorn commander (Saugus resident Bobby Clark) at Vasquez Rocks [watch]
    Skylight Books in Downtown Los Angeles will host author and CalArts alum Johanna Hedva (Art MFA 2013, Critical Studies MA 2014) to discuss Hedva's 2018 book, "On Hell," with fellow CalArtian Asher Hartman (Art MFA 03) on Saturday, Jan. 26, starting at 5 p.m.
    Jan. 26: CalArtians Asher Hartman, Johanna Hedva to Talk ‘On Hell’ at Skylight Books
    Bank of Santa Clarita announced Friday that for the fourth quarter and full year of 2018, bank earnings continue at record levels, as net earnings for the quarter totaled $795,000, more than doubling its earnings for the fourth quarter of 2017.
    Bank of Santa Clarita Reports Record Earnings for 2018
    No. 9 Vanguard forced 18 turnovers, made 13 threes and led by as many as 18 on the way to an 82-75 win.
    Men’s Hoops: No. 5 Master’s Falls to No. 9 Vanguard
    The Mustangs held the Golden State Athletic Conference's top offense to four points in the fourth quarter, outscoring their host by 18 in a dominant final period.
    Women’s Hoops: Lady Mustangs Dominate 4th to Beat Vanguard
    The Los Angeles County Board of Supervisors on Tuesday will consider a motion by Supervisors Kathryn Barger and Hilda L. Solis to develop a plan to increase the number of mental health hospital beds in the county.
    Barger, Solis Seek Plan for More Mental Health Hospital Beds
    The next meeting of the Los Angeles County Board of Supervisors is set for Tuesday, Jan. 22, starting at 1 p.m.
    Jan. 22: LA County Board of Supervisors Meeting
    The city of Santa Clarita wants to remind residents they can receive permit assistance from the comfort of their home or office by using the Online Permit Center available at santa-clarita.com/PermitCenter.
    Reminder: City’s Online Permit Center Makes Process Easier
    The St. Francis Dam Disaster National Memorial Act has been reintroduced in the U.S. Senate by Senators Kamala Harris and Dianne Feinstein (both D-California), according to a Harris tweet Thursday.
    St. Francis Dam Bill Reintroduced in US Senate as Stand-Alone
    Despite an attorney for a former Los Angeles County jail officer telling a federal jury Friday her client didn’t know his report about fellow officers beating a man inside a jail in 2011 was wrong when the FBI interviewed him, jurors wasted little time in finding him guilty of lying to investigators.
    Jury Finds Officer Lied to FBI in LA County Jail Beating Cover-Up
    The fifth day of the Los Angeles teacher strike began Friday with bargaining talks and a union rally, capping off a tumultuous week for parents, students and educators.
    Rallies Cap First Week of LA Teachers Strike
    Thousands more children may have been separated from their families at the U.S.-Mexico border under the since-abandoned “zero tolerance” immigration policy than previously thought, a report by the Office of Inspector General revealed Thursday.
    Report: Feds Separated Thousands More Families at Border Than Thought
    The four Pacific storms that battered California in January produced the season's first significant rainfall, dumping enough moisture to ease the state's historic drought, according to the U.S. Drought Monitor.
    January Storms Ease California Drought
    Segments of California State Road 126 aka Highway 126 will be closed next week for a grinding operation in the cities of Ventura and Santa Paula, California Department of Transportation District 7 officials announced Friday.
    Night Closures Set for Highway 126 Repaving in Ventura, Santa Paula
    1899 - Martin & Richard Wood buy J.H. Tolfree's Saugus Eating House, rename it Saugus Cafe [story]
    CBRE announced a full-service provider to the entertainment industry leased an industrial building in Valencia for $7.7 million.
    Full-Service Entertainment Provider Leases Valencia Building for $7.7 Million
    California State University, Northridge biology professor Steven Oppenheimer is celebrating 23 years of collaboration with Los Angeles Unified School District (LAUSD) teachers to promote science, technology, engineering and mathematics (STEM) research done by K-12 students with the debut of volume No. 23 of The New Journal of Student Research Abstracts.
    CSUN Professor Celebrates 23 Year Collaboration with LAUSD STEM Students