Birch County— in Brea, California!

https://www.youtube-nocookie.com/embed/0eKTRiaZWgk?rel=0 

In the wake of the initial Police Academy film there was another police-type movie that debuted the following year in 1985, Moving Violations. Based around a group of folks having to go to traffic school, with a busload of hijinx involved, it was made by the same creators of Police Academy. Though it didn’t perform as well as Police Academy— it’s a cult classic to this day. It stars Sally Kellerman, James Keach, Jennifer Tilly, Fred Willard, Wendi Jo Sperber and John Murray— younger brother of Bill. It has appeared on cable from time to time, but not often. The DVD came out over ten years ago and is now out of print… but it can still be purchased online.

In December of 2006 my brother Shawn and I were riding around here in Orange County and he revealed to me that he had recently discovered that some of the core scenes from Moving Violations were filmed not too far away. The Brea Civic & Cultural Center, both inside and out, doubled as the Birch County Civic Building. This was all done over several weeks back in 1984— in the middle of the night— and it sure wore heavy on director Neal Israel. The Civic Center is located at 1 Civic Center Cir, Brea, California 92821. And yes, I know, the classroom in the film’s trailer isn’t the same as the actual movie; that was a set.

I’m making this page because initially the photographs I took that night, and customized with the picture-in-picture inserts from the films, and then posted to my personal Flickr account, have since appeared elsewhere online. Some have credited the photographs as their own, and incorrectly to others. Does this really bother me? Not really. But I wanted to post them here and give some background. Clicking on them will produce a larger view.

This is the establishing shot seen a time or two in the film, and although the inner “driveway” is Civic Center Cir, the main street out there is actually called Birch (coincidence?). This was filmed from across Birch out on the curb.

The main staircase that was used after one of the traffic school sessions. Gone were the planters next to the railing, but other than that it still mostly looked like it did in the film.

The outside landing, in which the classroom is on in behind the doors, was filmed on the second floor just to the left of the staircase. The only significant change was the doors— out with the oak and in with glass.

That’s my brother in the modern picture; he essentially stood where you see James Keach and John Murray did in their confrontation. This little area is actually inside the doors to the previous two pictures and immediately in front of the actual classroom. It did appear, when there in 2006, that the display case seen in that shot was a prop… because all art in and around that part of the building fit to be from the 80s era. It even looks like the same wallpaper was still there.

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And there’s the famous classroom… almost EXACTLY like in the film. The orange chairs were very 70s-era looking and if you look at the bottom photo (that’s my then-shaved head mug there), you’ll see there is no chair to my left. They’re removable and slot right into place by a short pole. They obviously were removed for sake of the film and replaced with more traditional school desks. It was interesting to see that on the tops of the wooden dividers in each row there were voting buttons. You can see those in the second and third pictures in this set. Down the side of the wall from the entrance in the back it shows a wooden railing was added sometime after the film was done, but most of the fixtures, lights and wall switches were all there.

And the entrance for James Keach and Lisa Hart Carroll when they bust John Murray’s character. Untouched from it’s filming in 1984— everything there was dead-on including the door’s label number at the top-left of the doorjamb. It’s interesting to note that when they initially come in it appears as if they’re looking straight ahead at Murray’s character leading the class… when in fact he was over to their left. Behind that door is a simple hallway leading to other rooms in the building.

And these are the last three that I took… all on the ground floor and out behind the classroom area up alongside the Brea Mall. In the shot where James Keach and Lisa Hart Carroll are standing in the grass— the lights in the background are the parking lot at the mall. It all mostly looked the same out there except that half of the grass is now dedicated to two fallen Brea Police officers who were killed in the line of duty back in the mid-90s. The table set up for the arm wrestling match was not there; just all grass. The door you see, where James Keach runs after John Murray, is actually just a utility room. It doesn’t go anywhere (despite the chase to the bathroom in the film). If you walk around and to the back of that corner… you’ll see that it’s only a ten foot enclosed room. We couldn’t find where the bathrooms may (or may not) have been used for the two bathroom scenes.  But the elevator there actually looks right out to this grassy area.

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In the past I’ve been asked “What about the court room and judge’s chambers? Where was this???” We didn’t get to see this part of the building on our visit that night. We later found out that the courtroom is actually the City of Brea’s City Council chambers, and although I’ve still never been in there I have seen recent pictures and little has changed. The judge’s chambers is also an office not too far from the council chambers. Also I should note that the traffic course and the scene with the road flare in the trunk was not filmed in Brea. They utilized a large parking lot out by the Los Angeles International Airport in the city of El Segundo for those scenes.

Again, this was December of 2006 when my brother and I were out at the Brea Civic Center, and it was by pure luck that we had the access we did that night for the inside of the “classroom.” The doors were simply opened and it appeared that a nightly cleaning crew was soon going to make it’s way in there. It is a public place, but not everything is open. I’ve also been asked how to go down and see, and the best answer I can give is take advantage of any public events they hold there— especially of the arts variety.

To see where you can find most of the other filming locations for Moving Violations you can go here. With my own long and arduous research— I personally tracked down (and submitted to the IMDb) the exact location of the train crossing in Oxnard. You wouldn’t believe that most of the original train signaling equipment, as seen in the background of those scenes, was still out there only up until at least 2008! The train tracks up in that area are no stranger to film making. In fact the pivotal ending to Back to the Future III was filmed on another set of tracks exactly 3½ miles directly north of this crossing.

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