Miracle Day: Escape to LA
By Steven Barber
The fourth series of Torchwood brought the cast and crew to a whole New World: North America. As part of the production deal with STARZ, much of Torchwood Miracle Day would take place in the United States, China, South America as well as the United Kingdom, creating an international scope and scale to the production.
Much of the show was shot in and around Los Angeles, in areas ranging from downtown LA, to Venice Beach and the area of LA known as San Pedro. For the first three episodes, however, LA was not allowed to be Los Angeles. The locations were used for other cities up to and including Washington, DC.
But in the fourth episode, ESCAPE TO LA, LA becomes LA. The team find themselves on the run, having escaped the clutches of the American CIA and going into hiding in a place they wouldn’t stick out: Venice Beach.
Venice, for the uninitiated, is a part of Los Angeles even Angelenos consider a little “off”. It’s been described as a particular bit of grunge bohemian, even before those terms became popular. For our British friends, think “low-rent Blackpool” and you’ll have it.
But in truth, if you picture in your mind what “LA Beaches” looks like there’s a good chance you’ll picture Venice. It’s smelting pot of cultures, people and ideas, and probably one of the few spots you’ll encounter ganja smokers, the homeless, blue-hairs, bohemians, weightlifters and Millennials all mixing together and mixing it up for a truly unique Venice Beach culture. Oh, and quite a few tourists who contribute their monies to the local economy.
In other words, a perfect spot for Team Torchwood to hide out. You’ll find, I think, this is one of the more fun spots on the Torchwood locations to explore and enjoy for itself as well as a spot the show was shot. I’m including some local resources to help you out.
In addition to Venice Beach, production also included using the inside of the US Bank Tower as a stand-in for PhiCorp, and the Warner Brothers studio lot.
ESCAPE TO LA LOCATIONS
US Bank Building - DOWNTOWN
The US Bank building was, until recently, the tallest building West of the Mississippi River. At more than a thousand feet tall, the building’s “crown” is familiar to both local Angelenos and movie watchers as the tower that gets destroyed in spectacular fashion in the film Independence Day. Several suites in the tower were used in the production of MIRACLE DAY, in particular standing in for the PHiCorp offices and facilities.
Finding the US Bank Tower is relatively easy. Look for the building on the Los Angeles skyline. Unfortunately getting access to the film sites is not permitted, but since you’ve gone through the effort to find and pay for parking, adventure seekers might want to try out the building’s new attractions, one of which* might even scare Captain Jack himself into submission.
One of the most storied studio lots in Los Angeles, the Warner Brothers lot is located north of the Hollywood Hills in the San Fernando Valley (aka “The Valley” where girls used to talk funny). All episodes used this facility, so it seemed necessary to add it to the list of LA locations.
The studio was the site for all set-based shoot, including the majority of interiors for the team’s apartment and CIA headquarters.
Venice Beach is certainly a place you’ll want to visit on your tour of LA shooting sites. It’s a wildly fun and fairly safe area of the city which features a vibe all its own.
Named Venice of America by a developer in the early 1900s, the nascent tourist attraction was built along a section of the Pacific Ocean just north of what would become Marina Del Rey. In an attempt to garner publicity the resort was complete with canals, echoing its namesake city in Europe. But, as some dreams do, it didn’t quite work out as planned, and the city - annexed to Los Angeles in the 1920s when the city’s infrastructure simply couldn’t keep pace with its growth.
Venice continued to decline, until eventually gangs and members of the counter-culture were the sole residents. This could have doomed the site permanently except for two things: the massive development of Marina del Rey, and the presence of the Pacific Ocean. Slowly things tired around and began to be improved, but the vaguely “down on its luck” mystique of the area continued to prevail, lending itself to the current mix of many different people and cultures.
The Venice shooting sites for Torchwood are along a mile or so along the main boardwalk (though it’s cement. No boards.) Park in the middle and make your way up and down the beck. Be prepared for almost anything. There’s a constant police presence, but scammers and pickpockets also ply their trade here. On weekends there are plenty of street entertainers, as well as some truly off-the-wall shopping opportunities and chances to grab the trashiest of trashy souvenirs.
When looking for the Torchwood sites I’d recommend you have fun and don’t be afraid just to stop and watch the going’s on.
A terrific resource for a visit to Venice is the website http://venicebeach.com
“Market Street: Location Torchwood arrives in LA"
That’s it for this month. As always, enjoy your tour of the LA area and make sure to be as safe as possible. And if you see Captain Jack, run.
Next Up: We return to Venice Beach and two new locales for episode 5, Torchwood Miracle Day: Categories of Life!