I want my MTV
Tan lines galore as Beach House hits South Shore
It’s the quintessential Lake Tahoe day: A sweet breeze balances out the persistent summer sun in a cloudless sky. Here on the beach at Camp Richardson, the elevation is 6,247 feet, and the population numbers 75. There’s at least that many beautiful people—tanned, bikinied, hard-bodied—in front of the cameras at the high-profile, mobile MTV Beach House, a colorful custom trailer. Hopeful teen-aged and 20-something television extras line the steps, the roof and the sand in front of the house, some with stars in their eyes, all of them dazzled that they can now say they’ve not only had their MTV but their definitive 15 minutes of fame, too.
With some South Shore-shot episodes already airing on MTV’s Hit House, Direct Effect and the hit show Total Request Live, the cable network wrapped two weeks of filming at various South Lake Tahoe locations on July 10, fueling the local economy and increasing the region’s national exposure.
As shoots go, the logistics of producing MTV’s Beach House event is fairly minimal: a small crew, a cue-card girl and tireless production assistants who keep the Nevada- and California-culled extras fired-up when the cameras roll.
“I was at Arden Mall in Sacramento, and Sunny, one of the ladies from MTV, found us,” says James, a 21-year-old Sacramento resident who’s attended more than one of the Tahoe shoots. “She hopped out of a window and was like, ‘You guys wanna be on TV?’ And we’re like, ‘Sure.'”
While the job is unpaid, James says that for willing extras the MTV experience is priceless.
“Exposure. Seeing the stars. Hangin’ out on the beach. Better than sitting home playing video games. [Tahoe’s] a spot that doesn’t have a lot of youth programs going on. It draws a lot of tourists, but the younger crowd’s gotta have some upbeat hip-hop to draw ’em in and get more revenue.”
Helping to make it happen is producer Janie Hoffman, whose “ideology company,” Planet ATP (All Things Possible), was hired by the Tahoe Douglas Visitors Authority (TDVA) to raise the allure of South Shore for younger and hipper audiences. The TDVA sponsored the Beach House event, in association with in-kind room contributions from area hotels and casinos.
“This is the first year MTV’s doing multiple locations, as opposed to having the Beach House in one place for the whole summer,” says Hoffman. “There’s no other beach out there that looks like this, so [MTV’s] thrilled with the way it looks.”
Tahoe’s breathtaking scenery is legendary, but it’s big-league exposure like MTV that really puts it on the map for a contemporary generation, enticing that target demographic to take a chance on all South Shore has to offer.
“We’re reaching a much wider audience than we normally have in the past,” says Bonnie Picker, vice president of marketing at the Horizon Casino Resort and interim executive director of the TDVA. “It really takes the South Shore message to a much broader audience. … We really had a chance to show off the beauty of the lake. It’s kind of like it was always a secret, and now we’re sharing it.”
For the MTV Beach House production, there was no live or pre-recorded music. Because there was no sound impact on the area, the Tahoe Regional Planning Agency didn’t get involved. Forest Service employees, who were at first a little skeptical of MTV coming to Tahoe, turned out to be friends of the event when they saw that it wasn’t naked drunk kids flailing about.
“We’re professionals and know what we’re doing,” Hoffman says.
Hoffman, a Los Angeles transplant with a lingering Jersey accent, commends Tahoe’s red-tape agencies for monitoring and preserving the aesthetic sense-of-place of the region and the crystal-clear quality of the water. To bring MTV’s Beach House to South Shore, she says, all those already in alliance on the project had to jump through additional hoops with the network, part of Viacom, a media monolith.
Hoffman is quick to give credit to additional local organizations that helped facilitate the production, such as the Lake Tahoe Visitors Authority’s Bill Chernock and the Nevada Film Office’s Robin Holabird.
"[Chernock] knows this region and the players so well,” Hoffman says. “He really helped us get to the point with MTV where we could go to them and say, ‘We want to do this with you because we have the infrastructure, the resources, the kids, access to the beaches and [can get] permits. [Holabird’s] amazing, and right from the get-go, when we were first doing scouting, she was right there with us, ‘What do you need? What do you want?'”
Picker says bringing an event like the MTV Beach House to South Shore gives fuel to the idea that Tahoe can be an exciting place year-round.
"[South Lake Tahoe] is a perfect marriage of outdoor activity, winter, summer and nightlife,” she says. “We need that marriage to make it work, to attract more visitors to come up and ski, use the hiking and biking trails. We’ve expanded on our nightlife as well. We have nightclubs, shows, entertainment for the family, for the older demographic. There’s a lot to do in town.”
MTV’s shoot locations include Nevada Beach, Zephyr Cove, Round Hill and Heavenly’s observation deck. Attracting viewers—and rubber-necking beachcombers, tourists and locals—are some of rap and hip-hop’s hot and upcoming artists (Lloyd Banks, Brandy and Jadakiss), including the popular and beautiful MTV DJ La La, chillin’ inside the Beach House between takes, her down-to-earth demeanor shining through her celebrity.
“It was my first time here,” says La La, who lives in New York. “I’ve definitely enjoyed my visit, and it’s good to see there are people my age and my demographic who live here or in the surrounding areas. You’d never think you have all these pop-music and hip-hop fans in a place like Lake Tahoe. Seeing all the fans and the kids out here having so much fun interacting with their favorite artists, that’s the best. So for MTV to come here and bring that to a place like this, I think Lake Tahoe should be very happy about it.”
Tahoe has made a favorable first impression on the 23-year-old star, who says she’ll return.
“I see myself vacationing here again. I would like to come back during the wintertime because that’s something I haven’t experienced yet, and that’s what a lot of the locals tell me about. So maybe a family trip here for skiing. I definitely see myself coming back. The people have been very accepting of us, and the scenery, activities, water sports, gambling—it’s just a fun place.”
For cinematographers, Tahoe’s storybook quality has to be, at the very least, a paradise. And perhaps a jumping-off point for a first-time extra, throwing caution to the zephyr.
“This is a once-in-a-lifetime thing. I even got fired from my job for this,” admits Kara, a 17-year-old from Gardnerville who’s rubbed elbows with Brandy, Banks and Jadakiss. “I’ve always wanted to do this.”
Taking direction and doing take after take seems surreal, she says, since some of the segments she was in are airing, even as she’s here, shooting more.
“I don’t have MTV," she says of the casting call that brought her here. "So I’m kind of deprived."