Ranger John O’Rourke receives special film award

The 18th annual California on Locations Awards (COLA) was held on Sunday, Oct. 28 at The Langham Huntington in Pasadena this year and produced a winner from Humboldt County.

COLA is a signature event of the Film Liaisons In California Statewide (FLICS), a non-profit organization of 43 regional film offices and film commissions throughout the state, including the Del Norte/Humboldt Film Commission. Every year individuals and production teams are nominated that went above and beyond in their job to help make filming happen with in California.

Film commissioner, Cassandra Hesseltine, has nominated ranger John O’Rourke for two years in a row in the public employee of the year (state category). Last year, ranger O’Rourke made it as one of the four finalists in that category. This year, he won.

"He is a gem when it comes to having a ranger that not only protects the redwoods by adhering to the high standards of treatment of the parks but also knows the importance of being film friendly," says Hesseltine.

Last year’s nomination was based on his help scouting for locations for the feature film "After Earth" (starring Will and Jaden Smith and shot in Humboldt County in April).

This year’s nomination was written right after the shooting of "After Earth" commenced and included a testimony from the location supervisor, Doug Dresser, who said, "We requested to film in the crown jewel of the park... the last and largest remaining old growth redwood grove in the world. What makes ranger O’Rourke special is that instead of saying "no" he offered solutions and alternatives that met the requirements of filming in a protected area and did so in ways that allowed us to film for multiple days and get what we needed. We were blessed to be able to film in one of the most fantastic places on earth and in turn will show the park to the world. It was all thanks to ranger O’Rourke and his team. It was spectacular."

Hesseltine says that it was bitter-sweet watching ranger O’Rourke accept his award with his delighted wife, Christina, watching in the audience, "This is the last time we can nominate him. He’s retiring! Ranger O’Rourke is just not replaceable. Though I know the rest of the rangers in Humboldt Redwoods State Park are great and I don’t doubt they will rise to the challenge."

Along with a COLA winner from Humboldt County, the Film Commissioner was able to take a gift-basket full of Humboldt-made products and Del Norte keepsakes to the location team of the year for TV episodic show "Southland:Sunset," including items from Dick Taylor Chocolates, Mad River Brewery, Old Town Coffee and Chocolates, Drakes Chocolate, Eel River Brewery, Lost Coast Brewery, Six Rivers Brewery, Humboldt Hardware, an Abruzzi gift certificate and a certificate for a night’s stay at Rose Court Cottage.

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Film commissioner, Cassandra Hesseltine stands with COLA winner, ranger John O’Rourke, from Humboldt Redwoods State Park, and his wife, Christina, at historical Langham Huntington Hotel in Pasadena, Calif.