An extract on #videolar
Although American Graffiti is set in 1962 Modesto, California, Lucas believed the city had changed too much in 10 years and initially chose San Rafael as the primary shooting location. Filming began on June 26, 1972. However, Lucas soon became frustrated at the time it was taking to fix camera mounts to the cars. A key member of the production had also been arrested for growing marijuana, and, in addition to already running behind the shooting schedule, the San Rafael City Council immediately became concerned about the disruption that filming caused for local businesses and therefore withdrew permission to shoot beyond a second day.
Petaluma, a similarly small town approximately 20 miles north of San Rafael, became more cooperative and American Graffiti moved there without the loss of a single day of shooting. Lucas convinced the San Rafael City Council to allow two further nights of filming for general cruising shots, which he used to evoke as much of the intended location as possible in the finished film. Shooting in Petaluma began on June 28 and proceeded at a quick pace. Lucas mimicked the filmmaking style of B movie producer Sam Katzman in attempting to save money and authenticated low-budget filming methods.
In addition to Petaluma, other locations included Mel's Drive-In in San Francisco, Sonoma, Richmond, Novato, and the Buchanan Field Airport in Concord. The freshman hop dance was filmed in the Gus Gymnasium, previously known as the Boys Gym, at Tamalpais High School in Mill Valley.
More problems ensued during filming: Paul Le Mat was sent to the hospital after an allergic reaction to walnuts. Le Mat, Harrison Ford and Bo Hopkins were claimed to be drunk most nights and every weekend, and had conducted climbing competitions to the top of the local Holiday Inn sign. One actor set fire to Lucas's motel room. Another night, Le Mat threw Richard Dreyfuss into a swimming pool, gashing Dreyfuss' forehead on the day before he was due to have his close-ups filmed. Dreyfuss also complained over the wardrobe that Lucas had chosen for the character. Ford was kicked out of his motel room at the Holiday Inn. In addition, two camera operators were nearly killed when filming the climactic race scene on Frates Road outside Petaluma. Principal photography ended on August 4, 1972.
The final scenes in the film, shot at Buchanan Field, feature a Douglas DC-7C airliner of Magic Carpet Airlines which had previously been leased from owner Club America Incorporated by the rock band Grand Funk Railroad from March 1971 to June 1971.