'Better Call Saul' visits the 507
How did online sleuths figure out an approximately 30-second scene in "Better Call Saul" was filmed in Rochester?
ROCHESTER — Just like Bob Odenkirk isn’t actually con artist attorney James McGill (AKA Saul Goodman), Rochester, Minnesota, isn’t Omaha, Nebraska.
For 30 seconds of the penultimate episode of the final season of AMC's drama “Better Call Saul,” a snowy Rochester streetscape filled in as Omaha.
Odenkirk, as McGill, formerly Goodman, and now laying low as Omaha Cinnabon manager Gene Takovic, sings to “The Tide is High” while driving. Show fans determined the 30-second scene was shot on a stretch of North Broadway in Rochester.
All viewers see of Rochester is a blur of a few buildings and trees along North Broadway from the windows of a moving car.
“There’s a small group of people from around the country who really get involved with filming locations for television,” said Marc Valdez, who blogs and writes about location filming for the show.
Valdez, who lives in Sacramento, Calif., grew up in Albuquerque, N.M., where most of the events in “Better Call Saul” take place. Much of the show, along with its predecessor “Breaking Bad,” is shot on location in Albuquerque.
That’s what roped Valdez, an author, a semi-retired PhD atmospheric researcher, and former California Gubernatorial candidate, into sleuthing where episodes of both shows are shot.
Valdez recalled the moment he went from a casual first-time viewer to a post-broadcast location scout. He was watching a first-season episode of “Breaking Bad.”
“I’m looking at it and Walter White (played by Bryan Cranston) is handing Jesse Pinkman (Aaron Paul) his life savings in order to buy an RV,” Valdez said. In the background was a hill Valdez enjoyed hiking when he was growing up in Albuquerque.
“For me, it became very personal,” he added.
Valdez began occasionally posting on social media whenever he immediately recognized an Albuquerque location. Then he began to dig a bit on obscure locations and blogged about it.
“I became a guy on the internet posting about locations,” he said.
Valdez gives credit to his fellow location detectives for spotting Rochester in “Better Call Saul.”
“Our group of people recognized pretty quickly it wasn’t the Albuquerque area,” Valdez said. “My thought is okay, maybe it’s the Omaha/Council Bluffs area.”
People affiliated with the show don’t publicly share that kind of information. Sometimes that’s because location sites are negotiated with private property owners and people affiliated with the show are trying to protect privacy. Other times, directors, production staff and location scouts don’t like to share their secrets of good spots.
However, Valdez and the group have a particular set of skills.
“We all have our super powers,” he said. “Working together, we know we can do this.”
James Gelet, a professional photographer, has an eagle eye for spotting locations based on road markings and signs, Valdez said.
Valdez said it was likely Gelet who figured out the scene was shot in Minnesota.
“Hats off to him, he’s a miracle worker,” Valdez said.
Gelet travels to visit shooting locations throughout the country, he added.
“He’s in constant motion,” Valdez said.
Google Maps likely helped confirm the scene was shot along North Broadway around Northern Heights Drive.
Could that 30-second scene inspire a would-be location scout in Rochester the same way “Breaking Bad” inspired Valdez?
“It might,” Valdez said. “It’s like a point of pride that you didn’t even know was there.”
Valdez has published two books listing and interpreting location shots for “Breaking Bad” and “Better Call Saul.” Now that “Better Call Saul” is concluded, Valdez plans to travel to some of those locations later this month and finish revisions of both books for publication in September.
However, there are still some locations he and his group are trying to figure out.
On Tuesday an extra bragged online about being part of a “Better Call Saul” courtroom scene but isn’t saying where it was shot.
“We’ll figure it out in a different way,” Valdez said.
What’s next for Valdez now that the books are almost complete and the show has run its course?
“For me, the purpose of existence will have disappeared,” Valdez joked.
Whatever comes next, “I will do to my utmost whatever I can what I’m doing,” he added.