It’s 1910 and Hollywood’s first motion picture is shot: D. W. Griffith’s ‘In Old California’. One hundred and four years later and Hollywood has never looked back, becoming what it is known today as ‘the movie capital of the world’. Your average actor and filmmaker aspires to reach the top of their profession and cracking Hollywood is the ultimate prize. But what makes this the case? And what makes this leafy district of Los Angeles so special?
Well its history speaks for itself… From Gene Kelly’s Singin’ in the Rain to Steven Spielberg’s ET, Hollywood has produced some of cinema’s greatest ever moments and brightest ever stars. The likes of Marilyn Monroe and James Dean epitomising the legendary iconic status achieved by certain actors who have caught the public’s imagination through the years. To explore these themes, make my own impressions and just discover the place nicknamed Tinseltown, I travelled to one of the film industry’s oldest and most famous landmarks, Universal Studios.
Universal is one of many major film studios based in Hollywood. Studios such as 20th Century Fox, Warner Bros and Paramount are all located in close proximity. But Universal is responsible for some of our finest ever films. Apollo 13, Back To The Future and Psycho, to name but a few. The film studios and sets are scattered around the park’s themed attractions and rides, which I discovered further as I took part in the Studio’s official tour.
From torrential rainfall to earthquakes to Mexican towns to generic European squares, the whole of Hollywood fakery was laid out before me in a series of extraordinary sets and special effects. Seeing historic and prestigious sets such as Amityville (Jaws) was quite something. Up close and personal, everything seems so false and tacky but still incredibly well made. I even began to question whether the water was real. Sets for War of the Worlds and King Kong were also most impressive. The sheer amount of detail gone into every last prop and half housed set made me realise that, although much of this wouldn’t be possible without the vast amount of money invested in each production, the level of expertise and sheer hard work from the backstage crew to make it all so believable through the camera’s lens must be applauded and even marvelled at.
As the day drew to a close and I made my way back to London, I reflected upon the Hollywood way of life. It may be artificial and fake, from the well-crafted sets to the fame-hungry people, but the fact remains that Hollywood plays a huge part in the on-going history of cinema. And as millions of fans still flood in to see these big-budget bonanzas, as well as the smaller independent productions, it can only look to a bright future. So we may as well get comfy, munch on our popcorn, sit back, and enjoy the latest offering from that dream factory they call Hollywood.