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A Graveyard Full of Life

The 1999 murder mystery “8MM,” starring Nicolas Cage, has a scene set in Sunnyside Cemetery, located on 1095 E. Willow St. in Long Beach. While investigating the authenticity of an eight-millimeter film involving someone’s murder, Cage ends up at the cemetery, and there, gets into a fight with a foe. Cage crashes out of a window atop the second floor of a house on the premises of the graveyard.

“We built an entire back of a house on site [at Sunnyside Cemetery] in order to shoot that scene,” remembered location manager Michael Burmeister. “We needed an old-fashioned cemetery with upright tombstones, which are hard to come by these days—most of the tombstones now at cemeteries are flat.”

The dramatic scene takes place at night in the rain. Cage’s character, named Tom Welles, is sent to the cemetery for a clue into the murder he’s investigating.

“If I went to a cemetery by myself, I’d be scared to death,” Burmeister said. “But with a full film crew, I was okay,” he added while chuckling. “I remember it was cold, wet and muddy. We used a rain machine to create the desired effect. The scene looked really cool.”

Sunnyside Cemetery was founded in 1907. In 1921, wellers struck oil in the area and oil derricks now surround much of the premises. The cemetery is indeed unique, because it can be used for haunting, dark films such as “8MM,” yet with its greenery and picturesque statues, its bucolic setting has been popular with filmmakers.

The television shows “Jane the Virgin” and “CSI Miami” have also been shot at Sunnyside Cemetery. Other notable film projects shot at the graveyard include “Click,” “The Fast and the Furious,” and “Phantasm II.”


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