Inside Seven
Current Issue: September 2014
Lights, Camera, Action!  The District 7 Headquarters Building is ready for its close-up.

by  Maria Raptis
Issue Date: 10/2007

Only three years old and already a child-star, the building is cutting back her busy film career.

Like a beautiful movie star, the District 7 building is so brilliant, so popular, and wanted by so many. Is it just the way it gleams in the daylight, or the way its exterior glaze glows at night? The diva District 7 building is cutting back her busy schedule and is now only available for close-ups, that is, for filming its exterior.  The building interior and the underground parking lot are no longer available for use by the filming industry and to production personnel.

Last month, the Department decided that the Caltrans District 7 building will no longer accommodate filming indoors.  The new policy, announced by the California Film Commission to the film industry, will permit exterior filming, including the plaza, at the building between 5 p.m. and 5 a.m. on weekdays and all day on weekends.  Additionally, Caltrans District 7 will allow for one production per week at the building.

“With the team of security and facilities personnel having to work the night shifts, our resources and personnel are being stretched during interior filming.  We must maintain the building’s integrity and functionality, be respectful of its occupants,” says Hammer. “The District continues to partner with the community through hosting and accommodating events during the weekend.  We want to be a good neighbor by sharing the building and its unique features while still maintaining safety, security and productivity.”

Actually a child-star (the building was dedicated three years ago on September 27, 2004), the Caltrans District 7 building is a very popular film backdrop. The building is said to be one of the three most distinctive structures in downtown Los Angeles in the company of The Cathedral of Angels and the Roy and Edna Disney Cal Arts Theatre (REDCAT).

“This building is still available to the film industry and for other production companies, but the primary purpose of this building as a state facility is to conduct official business for the State of California,” says Hammer.

And the price is right.  Use of the building and many other state-owned properties for filming is free, no location or permit fees, only a $70 per hour permit monitoring fee, usually for security staff to remain on-site during use.   Through the California Film Commission, the State Theatrical Arts Resources (STAR) Partnership is a unique program allowing filmmakers access to state-owned properties. 

When the architectural firm Morphosis was hired to design the District 7 Headquarters, who knew that the building would actually morph in so many ways, so easily and so creatively?

Most recently, Caltrans employees, upon leaving at the end of the workday, were finding that instead of exiting the Department of Transportation, they were entering a memorial hospital set, or a backdrop for a rock band’s music video, or that amphitheater was a landing pad for a flying action-hero. And another superhero movie, “John Hancock,” starring Will Smith and Charlize Theron, used the building during its September film production. 

Since 2004, this building has earned credits for its appearance in several feature films including “Pathology” (Alyssa Milano); “Fun With Dick and Jane,” (Jim Carrey and Tea Leoni); “Mr. and Mrs. Smith,” (Brad Pitt and Angelina Jolie); “The Island,” (Ewan McGregor and Scarlett Johanssen); “Because I Said So,” (Diane Keaton); and “Mission Impossible III,” (Tom Cruise). Numerous television series filmed here include:  “Alias,” “National Geographic,” “CSI,” “Exxon Educational Film,” “Vanished,” “The Nine,” “Shark,” “Movidas,” (Spanish TV), and “Kamen Rider” (Japanese TV).  The building has been a backdrop in music videos for singer Usher and the group Maroon 5, a skateboard set for X- Games Gold Medallist, Tony Hawk, and a host of commercials for Campbell Soup, Oil of Olay, Arby’s, American Express, Prudential Insurance, Calvin Klein, Reebok, Ameritrade, Choice Hotel, Clairol, AT&T and IBM. 
By morning, it morphs back into a workplace for 1,850 Caltrans and 500 Los Angeles Department of Transportation employees.

So, as some new buildings become historic structures, today we do what is necessary to maintain the building’s integrity and remember that we are part of an iconic building that graces downtown Los Angeles.  As it multitasks as a government office and a starlet, we hope this Caltrans building, like all silver screen legends, ages gracefully during its Hollywood career.


In costume as a memorial hospital. In makeup.  Production crews creatively give the building its desired look.  That\'s a wrap! 
(All photos by Terrie Monaghan, Caltrans)