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From 'Heat' to 'Blade Runner', This Guy Immortalizes Himself In L.A.'s Most Famous Filming Locations
If I’m ever headed to Videotheque in South Pasadena with a friend in tow, and if said friend is new to that area, I always end up pointing out a specific house by Mission Street and Meridian Avenue. That's Michael Myers' pad—the masked guy from the Halloween movies with an affinity for kitchen cutlery. I’m not sure why I feel a compulsion to do this, but the urge is near universal. Think: your Lyft driver who somehow knows all the filming locations to Training Day, or the Rush Hour notice that’s painted on the side of Foo Chow. I guess there really is something special about a spot that’s been captured on film; in an L.A. where developments are cropping up everywhere, and where buildings sometimes get repurposed in a lackadaisical fashion, filming locations are unique in that they're afforded the promise of eternal life. Even if it got bulldozed and replaced by an Equinox, it’ll live on somewhere on YouTube or some Sunday matinee on KDOC. It’s myth-making at its most literal.
Phil Grishayev, like many a film buff, takes part in that tradition of marking filming locations (on Instagram). But the difference is the sheer volume of his work, and a nifty little touch in which he inserts himself into the scene. That shot of Lloyd Dobler holding a boombox aloft in Say Anything? Now it’s Grishayev with his arms stretched up. In an email exchange, we spoke with Grishayev about his motivation, hard-to-find spots, and Vin Diesel's Dodge Charger.
What's your background in terms of career and/or hobbies. Is there something that led to your fascination with filming locations?
I work as a video editor and VFX artist. I was always fascinated by movies, especially the old ones.
I grew up in Poland and as a kid would watch all those '80s blockbuster hits like Beverly Hills Cop, Ghostbusters, Back to the Future and wondering how those places look like now, how much has changed, etc. When I first visited L.A. with my family one of the main places to visit was the Millennium Biltmore Hotel in downtown L.A., captured in countless movies. I wanted to see it since it was featured in Ghostbusters.
At what age did you first visit L.A. with your family?
First time I came to L.A I was 16, and that's when I fell in love with the city.
When did you first start taking these pictures? Did you start on Instagram? Or were you doing it before you had an Instagram account?
The whole thing started about 4 years ago. I had a Tumblr blog and would occasionally post some photos. I got some exposure (even was on a radio station) and someone suggested that it needs more attention so I "moved" to Instagram.
How do you pick the subjects that you feature? I'm looking through the account and there seems to be a pretty eclectic mix. We get everything from L.A. Confidential to Christine, even to old photos of Marilyn Monroe and bands like Nirvana.
I try not to focus mainly on movies but also on iconic music videos, photoshoots and even famous crime scenes (Black Dahlia, Charles Manson). The search for the place is what's really addictive. The final photo is just a small bonus for the others to see because it's all about the experience. Sometimes I would get the chance to sit in a screen-used car [from] Christine, or Vin Diesel's Charger from Furious 7.
How were you able to find those cars from Christine and Furious 7?
The car from Christine is owned by my friend Martin who bought it right after the filming of the movie wrapped. Currently it's on display at the Petersen Automotive Museum. As for Vin Diesel's Charger it belongs to my good friend Franck who was crazy enough to buy it from the person responsible for building all Fast and Furious vehicles. There are only two of these left in the world.
The photos take place not just in L.A. I also see shots from New York and Oregon. Are you traveling for work? Or maybe just for this Instagram?
If you look at my Instagram as a whole you'd think that all I do is travel the world, but in reality this hobby takes very little of my time. I post one location per week and I rarely leave L.A. Whenever I travel to a different country or a city I make a list of famous locations and movies that were filmed there. Last March I went to New York for three days only but managed to visit almost 25 locations throughout Manhattan. I consider it to be just another type of tourism.
Is there a scene in L.A. that you wanted to track down but had a hard time finding?
There aren't many places that are hard to track down. I've been lucky enough to find most of them. I have a few friends here who are also heavily involved in urban exploration/pop culture scenes and they help me with some of the locations.
Unfortunately, L.A. is changing pretty quickly and sometimes the location would be fenced off, completely remodeled or even demolished (this has happened to the iconic hideout from Reservoir Dogs, which now is just an empty parking lot).
Is there a location in L.A. that you feel is under-depicted, but should get more screentime?
When it comes to filming in Los Angeles, there are movies shot in almost every area of the city, but I feel like Los Feliz doesn't get enough attention in movies.