Santa Anita Park and Arcadia got some more good news today: HBO has picked up the Michael Mann-directed drama series pilot “Luck” for at least seven – nine original episodes to be shot at Santa Anita beginning as soon as September during the Oak Tree meet, with pre-production potentially beginning at the track as early as mid-August.
Shooting such a high-profile series — all the actors from the pilot are expected to return for the series — will likely mean dozens of additional daily jobs for locals and hundreds of sporadic jobs for extras during production that could run for several months. It will also mean hundreds of thousands of dollars and maybe much more in additional revenue for Santa Anita, which can use the income after emerging from bankruptcy protection earlier this year and facing what may be the final year of Oak Tree Racing this fall, which pays more than $4 million per meet to Santa Anita.
HBO’s greenlighting of the series and the commitment to Santa Anita by writer David Milch and director Michael Mann, the latter of whom fell in love with Santa Anita when he shot a pick-up scene for his “Public Enemies” last year, is great for everyone involved, said Pete Siberell, director of community services and special events at Santa Anita.
In addition, Siberell said there are many other costs the series will cover, such as additional emergency equipment — horse and people ambulances, workers to man starting gates, catering, etc. Extra expenses will also include paying as many as 200-300 extras for certain scenes, daily production crews of at least 150, and anywhere from 25-50 daily jobs for extra security staff, track maintenance, tractors and water trucks; horse exercisers, trainers, ambulance drivers, etc.
And Mann (“Miami Vice,” “The Insider”) has a reputation for going so far to create the most authentic atmosphere that he even likes to hire real veterinarians and ambulance drivers for those roles.
He also prefers to shoot when there are real crowds watching real racing, which will happen on Wednesdays – Fridays during Oak Tree Racing in October and the Santa Anita Meet January – April. Although sets are technically closed, oftentimes the public will easily be able to see camera crews and maybe catch a glimpse of some familiar stars during races and sometimes at Clockers’ Corner during morning workouts. Nolte, who plays an old-school trainer, is expected to be a frequent celebrity on set. Many of Hoffman’s scenes for the pilot in April were shot at the Beverly Hilton and downtown restaurants, but the production is said to be looking for local warehouse space to create stages to keep all shooting closer together. Hoffman plays a mobster who has been released from prison as the pilot for the series begins; Farina is his driver who becomes a horse owner.
Stevens plays an aging, street-smart jockey’s agent, while local jockey Chantal Sutherland plays an horse exercise rider.
More scenes are expected to be shot at Rod’s Grill, where actor Dunn and his degenerate foursome gather to try to figure out the Pick Six winners. The logistical challenges to accommodate such a large production are formidable, particularly during racing and even during year-round morning workouts. During production of the pilot Mann wanted to shoot not only in the grandstands and on the track but also in the barn area and right in the middle of the stable, all of which can be very disruptive.