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Lights, camera, action: Snoqualmie Valley is becoming a big draw for independent films | Photo gallery
“Is this a movie movie, or is this a monster movie?”
That was a logical question in Carnation, which last year was the setting for the Syfy Channel’s made-for-TV movie “Bigfoot,” and Becca Hall, who teaches a children’s writing class in Carnation, was probably asking for a lot of residents.
“Lucky Them,” the movie in question, is an independent film directed by Seattle writer/director/producer Megan Griffiths (“Off Hours,” “Eden”), and starring Toni Collette (“Little Miss Sunshine,” “United States of Tara”) and Thomas Haden Church (“Sideways,” “Wings”).
Unconfirmed Facebook posts last week also suggested an appearance by Johnny Depp of “Pirates of the Caribbean” and “Alice in Wonderland” fame.
No monsters, no low-budget effects. A movie movie.
“This is just really exciting,” said Carnation businesswoman Lee Grumman, who helped the film crew arrange for Carnation filming sites.
“It was pretty cool, actually,” agreed Rob Sherard, owner of the Mount Si Pub in North Bend. His log-cabin bar was the setting for several scenes of the movie, and he was there for filming, Feb. 6.
“They started at 5-something in the morning!” he groaned, but he enjoyed the experience of watching the movie get made, with the added bonus of great food from the catering truck, and the opportunity of, some day, seeing his own bar in the movies.
Mostly his bar, anyway. “If anybody’s been in here, they’ll definitely know this is the place,” Sherard said, but the film crew spent about two days before filming redecorating the bar to fit the script’s “logger bar” description.
Animal heads, a bear skin and stuffed raccoons were added, plus lots and lots of signed dollar bills.
“There are dollar bills all over our walls and ceilings, and they loved ‘em,” said Sherard. “They made a whole bunch more. Of course they weren’t real.”
Only one thing about the bar couldn’t be changed, Sherard said, the name.
“That was pretty big with me,” Sherard said, “as long as I get to keep my name.”
As planned, most of the Valley locations you’ll eventually see in the movie—residential Carnation, roads in Snoqualmie, and the Mount Si Pub—will get to keep their names.
“This will be the Mount Si Pub,” said location manager Dave Drummond during filming outside the North Bend bar on a rare sunny day. “Everywhere in this movie is essentially playing itself.”
The movie follows Collette, a rock journalist on assignment, and Church, an eccentric former fling of hers, as they attempt to track down her old boyfriend, a rock star who vanished into the Pacific Northwest and obscurity 10 years ago. It was originally set in New York, where the writers, Huck Botko and Emily Wachtel, and the production company Mymy Productions, are based, but several factors made the transition to Washington an easy decision to make, said Adam Gibbs, a producer with “Lucky Them.”
It started when writer Wachtel asked her friend Colin Trevorrow (“Safety Not Guaranteed”) to direct the film. He was working on another project, but suggested Griffiths, also a Seattleite. Along with Griffiths came much of her crew from her past two films, including Drummond, an expert on Washington locations, and the location manager for last summer’s “You Can’t Win” shot in Snoqualmie and North Bend.
“The story seemed to make sense up here, and the city (Seattle) is so film-friendly,” said Gibbs, so the script was rewritten for a Seattle setting.
Washington Filmworks, a non-profit organization devoted to supporting film productions statewide, helped make the state an attractive shooting location by subsidizing up to 30 percent of the movie’s locally-incurred costs.
The Snoqualmie Valley, at about 30 miles from Seattle, is also perfectly spaced for production rules limiting work to within a 30-mile radius of a production hub.
“It’s called the zone,” explained Drummond, and it means that the film can take advantage of “these beautiful rural settings,” and the spectacular view of Mount Si — “that’s a value for sure,” Drummond says — without incurring additional travel expenses for cast and crew.
The distinctive red Mount Si Pub was just inside the zone and, of the handful of Valley businesses Drummond scouted for the bar scenes, had the right look, Drummond said.
Sherard had owned the bar for only two months when Drummond contacted him about using the building for the film, last December. He said he didn’t mind closing the bar down for a half day, considering it an investment in the future. However, he was glad the company paid him for the space, enough to compensate his bartender for her lost hours for the day. He also enjoyed watching the movie being made, although he didn’t try to talk with the stars.
“I just said ‘hi.’ I didn’t want to be the star-struck weirdo,” he said. “They had stalkers… there were people parked across the street, trying to get autographs.”
He was impressed with the professionalism of the crew, he said, but a couple of things about the day were baffling to him. One was “rolling.”
“Every time they said ‘rolling,’ you had to shut up and not move,” he said, “even in the parking lot.” He also was surprised at what it took for anything to happen in the movie, including the final scene, being filmed as pool league players started showing up for their 7 p.m. matches. In the scene, an actress closes down the empty bar and walks out the door.
“It was only once, but she had to do it five or six times,” he said.
Getting out of the bar turned out to be tricky, too.
“You know we have multiple doorknobs on our door inside,” Sherard said, “and we got ‘em a couple of times with that.”
Church especially seemed to struggle with finding the knob that actually opened the door, he said. “They could have marked the doorknob for the poor guy,” Sherard said.
Filming wrapped up on the movie Thursday, Feb. 28, with a final day of shooting in Tacoma. The movie travelled throughout the Seattle area, including Capitol Hill, West Seattle, and Fremont. When it’s through production, producers hope the movie will travel further, to the Toronto and Sundance Film Festivals, where a major studio could pick it up.
Because it’s an independent film, Gibbs said, there’s no guarantee it will be distributed widely, but many on the crew are optimistic.
Drummond says, “I believe you’re going to see it in theaters.”
Photos by Carol Ladwig
A film crew with the movie "Lucky Them" visited the Valley last month for a few weeks of shooting in local settings like the Mount Si Pub, and a street in Carnation, where fans gathered to watch the process. Crew members borrowed the Sno-Valley Senior Center as a headquarters while in Carnation, and the Mount Si Pub in North Bend. "Lucky Them" is expected to be released in 2014.