(By Scott Wilk) Anthony Hopkins dons a three-piece blue suit with a shiny gold pocket-watch chain dangling from his right pocket. He walks out across the barren hills of Santa Clarita, leaning heavily on his cane. It’s the final scene of an episode of HBO’s Emmy nominated series, Westworld. And it almost didn’t happen. At least, not here.

The scene unfolded at local Santa Clarita Valley movie ranch, Rancho Deluxe, where for over thirty years moviemakers have come to shoot the rolling hills and wooded meadows for their dramatic motion picture scenery.

Last month, I honored Rancho Deluxe, operated by Steve Arklin Jr. and his family, as my Small Business of the Month for January. Not only for their presence as an economic powerhouse and their ability to bring world class productions like Westworld to our area. But more than that they, and businesses like theirs, show that the impacts of the film industry seep in to all aspects of our community as they give back to local education, health and recreational causes that help all of us. 

But until recently, shooting like this was becoming increasingly scarce in our valley and for a while it looked as if California’s place atop the movie-making world was doomed to become but a distant memory like so many classic films of our childhoods.

During the recession movie makers began, wisely, to look for ways to cut costs. They quickly found that one of their top expenses was the taxes imposed by state lawmakers in Sacramento. Equally suitable if less convenient locations to shoot offered them boatloads of savings in taxes alone.

So, they began to leave. One by one shooting locations began to shift from places like Santa Monica and Santa Clarita to more tax friendly ones like New Orleans and Atlanta. 

I’ve lived in Santa Clarita for over 25 years and I’ve seen firsthand the impact this industry brings to our community. And just as booming film business leads to prosperity, a dwindling and increasingly outsourced one lead to despair.

Read more here: Wilk: Film and Television Tax Credit working where taxes failed