Santa Cruz on the Big Screen

Jordan Peele and FX film in Santa Cruz

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Decal on the set of “Devs” taken outside of McHenry Library.

Santa Cruz locals saw a little piece of Hollywood this summer when a new FX miniseries, “Devs,” and Jordan Peele’s “Get Out” follow-up, “Us,” were partially filmed in the city. Both productions hosted open casting calls for Santa Cruz residents, and will be released next year.

“Devs,” written and directed by Alex Garland, director and writer of “Ex-Machina” and “Annihilation,” was filmed at UC Santa Cruz’s McHenry Library, Quarry Plaza and Science Hill between late-August and mid-September. Set in Silicon Valley, the miniseries follows the story of young engineer Lily Chan, played by Sonoya Mizuno from “Ex-Machina” and “Crazy Rich Asians,” who believes her employer killed her boyfriend.

Campus administrators collaborated with series producers in May to organize filming for “Devs” so that it would impact daily campus operations as little as possible. The revenue UCSC gained from filming will be used to support the campus, said Scott Hernandez-Jason, UCSC director of media relations.

For example, McHenry Library received $35,000 from hosting “Devs” to be used for repair and maintenance of furniture, and TAPS received about $65,000 from parking accommodations. These will be used to maintain parking facilities and transportation programs like the bike shuttle.

Jordan Peele’s newest film, titled “Us,” came to the beaches of Santa Cruz in mid-September for filming. Similar in tone to “Get Out,” it’s a horror-comedy film that centers on one white couple played by Elisabeth Moss and Tim Heidecker, and one Black couple starring “Black Panther’s” Lupita Nyong’o and Winston Duke.

Ayo Banjo, a second-year at UCSC, was an extra in “Us” because of his interest in acting and got to meet the director and some of the cast.

“They just reminded me about how excellent Black people are,” Banjo said. “[…] It showed so much representation and that was a concept that needed to be refreshed in my mind, especially in Santa Cruz. I’m just really happy that my people are getting in these far places and it gives me hope for my own future.”

Other films featuring Santa Cruz include “Chasing Mavericks” (2012), “Dangerous Minds” (1995) and “Harold and Maude” (1971).

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Shinae Lee is Arts and Culture Editor for City on a Hill Press. She has reported for every desk at City on a Hill in her two years on the paper, but has focused most of her time until now as a campus reporter and editor. She describes her favorite reporting subject as, “in-depth stories about things that really matter to people.” Though she focuses much of her time on the newspaper, she is also a Feminist Studies major, vice president of the Korean American Student Association, print coordinator for Student Media and occasional babysitter. In her scarce and precious free time she can be found organizing her life artistically in her bullet journal, watching The Great British Baking Show or traveling on a budget.