Chevrolet films Equinox SUV commercial in Balch Park for Chinese TV, online audience


By Steve Pastis
Special to the Sun-Gazette
TULARE COUNTY – A commercial for the 2018 Chevrolet Equinox SUV was filmed in Balch Park for Chinese television and the Internet on Jan. 27-28.
Two film production crews with a total of about 60 people, mainly from Southern California but which included a few locals and five people from China, filmed three trained squirrels in the 20-degree local mountain weather.
The production crews spent about $400,000 on expenses that included 150 room nights, dining out and hiring local caterers in the Porterville area, and renting a wide variety of items ranging from a luxury RV to port-o-potties. The crews also had to arrange for a snow plow on roads that are usually not used in the winter.
“Without giving away the plot of the commercial, a young woman, who is a major photographer, is travelling around America in her SUV,” said Eric Coyne, Tulare County film commissioner. “She interacts with an American bison, with squirrels and then with an American eagle.”
The bison was filmed in Kern County and the eagle was filmed in Inyo County on Jan. 29. The locally filmed segment featured three trained squirrels: Clyde, described by Coyne as “a five-month-old affectionate and intelligent squirrel”; and two squirrels named Inky and Binky that “you had to rehearse once or twice because they wanted to play with everyone.”
The three squirrels were given a variety of nuts, since each variety influences their behavior differently, according to Coyne. “Clyde is a sucker for valley grapes and would do anything for a grape. I had never seen a squirrel peel a grape before.
“No live squirrels were hurt during the filming of the commercial, but we lost a stuffed squirrel,” noted Coyne, who acknowledged an unanticipated problem working with the three squirrels. The native squirrels seemed angry about the three visitors, apparently seeing them as competition for food.
“The native squirrels would have a good time dropping pine cones on us from the sequoias,” said Coyne. “There must have been some turf issues there.”
Chevrolet’s decision to film part of the its commercial in Tulare County was the result of “a lot of aggressive marketing by the Tulare County Film Commission,” said Coyne. “We go to a lot of trade shows and we work with a lot of location scouts.”
The new Chevrolet commercial is expected to be on Chinese television and on the Internet by late February or early March, according to Coyne, who now turns his attention to increasing the possibility that an ABC television pilot will be filmed here.