A Hollywood guy on the set of “BC Project” lets the spectators know that we have to move. | Photos/video by Stephanie McGeary, except where noted.

Dear Diary, 

Today is the day! Finally, the big movie production that’s been filming all around Humboldt for the past couple of weeks is filming in my hometown. Arcata is going to be famous. Maybe I will be famous. I at least hope to catch a glimpse of Leonardo DiCaprio, one of the film’s stars. Maybe I’ll meet director Paul Thomas Anderson and he’ll offer me a part! There is so much uncertainty and hope on this day. I decide that I will spend almost all day at the shoot and document my experience.


12:30 p.m.: I arrive at the corner of 18th and G Streets in Arcata, thinking I am being very smart by arriving early to the supposed 1 p.m. start of filming. Much to my surprise, others seem to have had the same thought and a small crowd is already gathered to observe the Hollywood magic. I guess that is my fault for telling the world about the filming plans. 

I notice that Raliberto’s looks open and think perhaps I will get some tacos. It turns out that they are not actually open but look to be open because the business is going to be in the scene. How exciting! Although I do wish there were some tacos nearby…

Above: the crowd gathers at 18th and G. Below: the crew prepares in front of a fakely open Rali’s.

12:45 p.m.: After looking around for Leo a bit and not seeing him I find what I imagine to be a perfect spot for watching the action: the parking lot of North Country Clinic. Someone is wetting down the streets, so I think filming must be starting soon. I attempt to look like I belong there, and it seems to be working. A couple people from the film crew even look at me and smile! I see a crew member walking with some gadgets in his hand and ask what he’s doing. He says he’s going to screw some rod into another rod, or something, and I really feel like I’m a part of the magic!

I’m totally fitting in and I think most people assume I’m part of the movie because of how professional I look. Feelin’ good. 

1:00 p.m.: I am told to leave the parking lot. Apparently they are preparing to start filming, and it is pretty clear that I do not belong there. I and a few other gawkers are ushered to the corner of 18th and H, which is where we are allowed to stand and watch, we are told. 

1:20 p.m.: A pretty large crowd has gathered at the corner on H Street to see what they can see. Some other media can be seen in attendance. The crowd is buzzing with excitement with many anticipating the possibility of catching a glimpse of Leo or maybe some other famous person. Some black shuttle vans pull up in front of Szechuan Garden. Finally, some action! Maybe Leo is in one of those vans!

He is not. A crowd of extras floods out of the shuttles and goes inside Szechuan Garden. Ooh! They must be shooting a scene in there, I think. That’s cool because I have eaten there! I’ve also eaten at Raliberto’s, so this means that maybe two places I’ve eaten at will be in the movie and that almost makes me feel like I’m in the movie. 

Folks trying to watch the filming from 18th and H in in Arcata.

1:40 p.m.: Still no filming, still no Leo. But I do see a familiar face: my colleague, Andrew Goff! We decide to try to catch some footage from the footbridge, but as we are walking that way I notice that mine is the only car left parked on G Street (there weren’t any “no parking” signs, by the way, but in hindsight it may have been a stupid place to park). I talk to an Arcata Police officer and he tells me that I do, indeed, need to move my vehicle and they will let me out of one of the blocked off streets to park elsewhere.

1:50 p.m.: After I re-park my car in a more suitable location I try to get back to the footbridge, but as I attempt to walk down 17th I’m stopped by a security guard and police officer. They ask if I live down that street, and I say “no.” That is the wrong answer and I am sent away. I should have lied, I think. 

I again join the crowd of eager observers on the corner of 18th and H. I’m disappointed that I can’t join my colleague on the footbridge, where I have heard a rumor that we might be able to get a good view of the scene and Leo. But it’s okay, I think. This is where I belong anyway – among the people! Plus, this spot is really not too bad. There is a good view of 18th and it really looks like they’re getting ready to start filming!

Some equipment in front of North Country Clinic.

1:55 p.m: Someone from the production informs the crowd that we are no longer allowed to stand where we are standing. He says that we are in the shot and that, although he appreciates the “local interest,” there aren’t usually crowds of people watching in movie scenes. 

I, like everyone else in the crowd, I’m sure, feel hurt. But I do not wish to anger Hollywood, so I obey and walk down the street, where they tell us we need to go. I decide to commiserate with my fellow townspeople and ask one binocular-clad guy why he came down here today.  

“I heard about it about an hour ago … so I was like, ‘I’ll just walk over and check it out, since I’m on break,’” Liam Haas, a Cal Poly Humboldt student, told me. “Then someone said Leo was here, or maybe here. My mom loves Leo, so I thought I’d come check it out for her.” 

This young person telling me that it is not he but his mom who is the big Leo fan makes me feel old. I do not like that. But it’s okay. I’m going to see Leo soon and everything will be fine. 

2:10 p.m.: After realizing that our new location will yield no view of the scene or the movie stars I decide to walk around and try to find a better stake-out spot. I manage to sneak my way onto the balcony of the apartments right next to Raliberto’s. Yes! This is the place to be. I can see extras rehearsing a scene right below me! It looks like some kind of raid happening at Rali’s, with fake police officers dragging fake criminals off in handcuffs. 

A couple of other folks are up there with me and I ask them what they’re hoping to gain from observing the day’s spectacle. They tell me they’ve been watching for about an hour and one of them, Taylor, had been in a scene as an extra that morning and wanted to come down to watch the rest of the filming. Of course, they weren’t able to tell me much about the earlier scene or where it took place. 

“It was pretty cool,” Taylor said. “This is the next part of that scene, so I just wanted to see a little bit of it.” 

They point to the 101 North onramp where there are men standing and observing the scene, and they tell me that the person on the left is director Paul Thomas Anderson. Finally I have seen a famous person!

PTA directs from the Highway 101 onramp in Arcata. | Photo: Andrew Goff

2:45 p.m.: Seeing PTA was cool, but with still no Leo onsite I decide to abandon my very cool post and continue looking for action elsewhere. I find Goff and we decide to drive around to LK Wood to see if there is a better view from up there. We see more people on the on-ramp. Goff tells me to pull over and he jumps out of my car and quickly disappears behind the shrubbery. 

I hope that he will be okay. Then I realize that I am starving and decide this might be a good time for a break. I go to Wildberries for a burrito, which I eat alone in my car. This would be a sad scene, I think, if I were not here as a bigtime Hollywood reporter. 

3:00 p.m.: I swoop back to LK Wood to pick up the courageous Goff. He got some good shots of PTA, but still no Leo. This is starting to get frustrating. 

3:30 p.m.: Now back at the corner of 18th and G, I see that they have allowed the crowd of spectators to return and actually have let them get even closer to the shoot! There are a bunch of extras scattered throughout the street in front of Szechuan Garden and they are rehearsing a scene that seems to consist of the extras just walking down the street toward the raid at Rali’s. 

Someone from the production tells the extras that they are not walking correctly and that he doesn’t want them to look like zombies from the “Thriller” video. Wow … Hollywood.

4:00 p.m: I have still not seen Leo. My heart is broken and my feet are sore. I decide to return home for the time being and come back later. The movie is set to film until 1 a.m. Maybe Leo will be in the nighttime scenes? Plus, there won’t be as many people around later, I bet. This is smart. 

7:30 p.m.: I return to the filming locale and they are already finished. I watch as vans drive away from the Raliberto’s parking lot. I have missed my chance to see Leo. Raliberto’s still isn’t even open, so I am not able to get tacos to ease my pain. But that’s okay, I suppose. I guess he never showed up? I go home and decide to look up videos of Leo instead. I wonder if he has ever hosted SNL. He has not. Pfff! Maybe he’s not so great after all. 

Wednesday morning, 9 a.m.: I shake off my Hollywood hangover and decide that I will write up my adventures from the day before. I see via LoCO’s email and social media that Leo was, in fact, present at the filming and that many people saw him and have photos and video to prove it!  

Why? How could I, as a reporter, have missed Leo?! I feel ashamed. But I am grateful for the existence of cell phones and am happy that others got to experience what I did not. At least I can say I was there and that my beautiful hometown and two of my beloved restaurants will get to be featured. I think I’ll get those tacos now. 

Now, enjoy these videos of Leo running, captured not by me, but by Kate Webb (immediately below) and Randi Hornbrook (beneath):