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‘SEAL Team’ and other red-blooded military dramas giving blue California an economic lift

In a desolate region of northern Los Angeles County where the freeways have given way to brush-covered mountains, a television crew for CBS’ new drama series “SEAL Team” was busy putting the final touches on their effort to transform a dusty stretch of land into present-day Afghanistan.

On the edge of a barren outcrop, the crew arranged props on an Army command outpost cluttered with artillery, ammunition and even free weights for a makeshift gym. Crew members applied a brownish liquid solution to wood frames to make the structures appear convincingly weathered.

Farther up a winding dirt road, actor David Boreanaz was shooting a separate scene where his elite group of SEALs confronts members of the Pakistani military while driving to a prisoner exchange. After blocking the scene, the cast and crew shot several takes of the tense standoff for an upcoming episode inspired by the Bowe Bergdahl incident, in which a U.S. Army soldier deserts his post and is captured by Taliban forces.

The dry, rocky terrain of rural L.A. County has historically served as a backdrop for Hollywood westerns, but it has now established a second showbiz life as a theater for the war against terror. The current bumper crop of patriotic, red-blooded TV series like “SEAL Team” is giving blue California an economic lift as studios produce many of these armed forces shows in the L.A. County region, employing hundreds of local technicians and actors.

Edwards Air Force Base has served as a backdrop for military scenes in the “Transformers” and “Iron Man” movies. The state also has decommissioned Navy ships that allow filming, like the battleship Iowa in San Pedro, which has hosted “The Last Ship” and “NCIS: L.A.”

California remains the easiest state to shoot in because the on-location permitting process is streamlined and well established, according to Curtis Collins, a location manager on “SEAL Team.”

“Filming has been entrenched here for years. In different areas of Georgia, you have to walk them through the process,” said Collins.

The biggest advantage of shooting shows locally is the easy commute, according to Ross C. Day, another location manager on “SEAL Team.”

“We get to go home at night,” he said.

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