On Saturday afternoon, a row of semi trucks lined the curb of Eureka’s W Street where it runs past Sequoia Park. Moviemaking equipment — metal rigging, generators, dollies, light shields — spilled from the trailers.
Across the park’s expansive front lawn, at a picnic table on the edge of the redwood forest, a pair of film producers sat hunched over their laptops, their eyes squinting at the screens, noses and mouths covered by cloth masks.
A woman with a rolling cart pushed past them, boxes full of Snickers bars and peanut M&Ms jostling as the plastic wheels bumped across the asphalt pathway. About a hundred yards back, deep in the shade of the soaring sequoias, an 80-person production crew had set up shop. One masked crew member was disassembling a pop-up canopy. Another operated a hydraulic boom, elevating a lighting rig into the lower branches.
Another crew member — a production assistant who’d been trained to serve as the COVID compliance officer — stated the obvious. “We’re here for the trees,” he said, glancing upward with a smile.
While production of Afterward, the Aaron Eckhart/Terrence Howard movie we wrote about last month, has been put on hold indefinitely, another Hollywood crew has come to Humboldt County in search of natural beauty and movie magic in the midst of the coronavirus pandemic.
This one, a production from Apple and A24, is an adaptation of the 2010 young adult novel The Sky is Everywhere. The principle cast includes Jason Segel (Forgetting Sarah Marshall, The Muppets, TV’s “How I Met Your Mother”) Cherry Jones (“The Handmaid’s Tale,” HBO’s “Succession”) and Grace Kaufman, who has a bunch of TV credits, including the Matt LeBlanc sitcom “Man With a Plan.”
Segel has been spotted around town. He stopped by Jitter Bean in Arcata to grab a cup of coffee, for example.
Another crew member on set Saturday, who asked not to be quoted on the record, said the production’s COVID compliance measures are “as strict as it gets.” Everyone involved is tested and cleared before traveling to Humboldt County, and once here, they’re tested as frequently as once a day.
The length of the shoot has been extended to accommodate additional safety measures, including social distancing, an on-set hand-washing station and regular cleaning and disinfecting of surfaces. The production will take advantage of many Humboldt locales, including Swimmer’s Delight on the Van Duzen River. The crew expects to continue working here through Thanksgiving.
Humboldt-Del Norte Film Commissioner Cassandra Hesseltine declined to comment on any specifics regarding The Sky is Everywhere, but earlier today she did issue a press release regarding the economic impacts of movie and TV production in the county:
The Redwood Region has been open for filming since late June and to date has completed four projects, has one feature film on hold, one feature filming in production, and a project on its way in the near future.
Humboldt has seen from the completed projects $22,075 while Del Norte has received $22,500 in direct dollars. Direct dollars are the amount the production spent on hotels, permits, locations, local crew, food costs, etc. According to the California Film Commission, the multiplier is $2.95 for every direct dollar spent. This takes in account other expenses as well as the money circulating around the county three times before leaving the area). This means that Humboldt’s original number will feel more like $65,121.25 while Del Norte’s is $$66,375 indirectly. Humboldt’s numbers are expected to go up considerably once the project that is on hold and the current project that is filming turns in their final numbers.
As stated above, productions stimulate the economy in many ways including renting of locations (both public and private). Due to Covid-19, many businesses have had to alter their day to day activity’s or close temporarily for safety reasons and have had a considerable financial loss due to it. Filming has been one way the closed or temporarily closed locations (i.e. school campuses where no students are attending or has limited staff in segregated portion of the school) can supplement their income.
Accommodations is another way locals can benefit from productions in the area. Many of the current crew in town are looking for long term accommodations. If you have a rental, Airbnb, VRBO, or something of that sort that is available due to vacancy (including due to the on hold production being on hiatus) and would like to rent to the cast and crew that is currently filming, then please email the Film Commission and we will pass on your contact info.
All projects are required to have a compliance officer, safety plan, and follow the state, union, and county’s guidelines which includes being negative before entering the region and testing frequently. As of the day of that this press release went out, all projects have been Covid-19 free including both feature films.
The Film Commission is a free service to all productions and can be reached at email@example.com.