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You are here: Home > Recent > News > "The Majestic" production - Final Week in Ferndale
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"The Majestic" production - Final Week in Ferndale
28 Apr 2001    

To close the Ferndale chapter with a golden key, here's JCO's Anonymous reporter with a final recap of last week's filming and other curious set happenings. Illustrating it are photos taken by Ferndale Fritz, David LaRue, Ferndale Resident, and by Lora Jabot:

«The circus vanishes! The Majestic circus disappears into the mist as Castle Rock leaves Ferndale for filming in Ft. Bragg and Mendocino a hundred miles to the south. They leave behind a collection of stuff: boards, aluminum, neon tubes, and a troop of ghosts drifting down Main Street dressed like my parents the year before I was born...

On Monday, a prop department truck started to unload the various dressing props and furniture from the Diner set.

The soon to be dismantled Mabel's Diner
The soon to be dismantled Mabel's Diner.
© David LaRue

The extras (don't call them that: they are supposed to be known as 'background artists') were working at the cemetary again in the morning.

Grand Opening: 'Minority Report'
Grand Opening: "Minority Report".
© Ferndale Resident
By Monday evening they had moved down to Main Street to the Majestic set, where the local Boy and Girl Scout troops were escorted onto the set for autographs. The night shoot went on quite late, with the boom camera going up and coming down.
And the theatre marquee changing titles: from 'An American in Paris' to 'The Invasion of the Body Snatchers' to 'A Streetcar Named Desire' over the next several nights (and in the daylight hours, peculiarly "Grand opening tonight: A Steven Spielberg film 'Minority Report'"---which is a film currently shooting in LA with Tom Cruise...)

Tuesday morning was overcast but not raining, perfect for matching the shots taken last week: the 'background artists' had gathered in front of the sheriff's office at the Town Hall set to take reaction shots from the principles. By afternoon, the usual group of extras had been joined by possibly a hundred new faces and the marching band for the big memorial scene at Town Hall park (look for cookie lady Ellie Green in her coral dress and flowered hat!).

The scene was taken a number of times, with the Marching Lumberjacks playing The Star Spangled Banner and America the Beautiful many times through, as they arranged and re-arranged all the townsfolk for each take. The new faces included a number of gentlemen in WWII era uniforms, some people in mourning, and at least one older man in an American 'doughboy' uniform from World War One with helmet and tight leggings.

WardrobeThis building, just a short block off Main Street, is "wardrobe" for the extras. Thousands of clothing articles were trucked in prior to filming. The building had been a veterinary hospital, and Castle Rock agreed to make their remodeling, and leave the place in a condition to lend itself to its next life...Ferndale's new police station, after filming is finished.
Caption and photo © Ferndale Fritz

Tuesday night, the crew moved back to the Majestic for a late night shoot in front of the theatre. After dark you can see the orange glow of little heaters brought out for the crew, and the pop and sparkle of flashbulbs from cameras---both from tourists and crew taking pictures for continuity as they do dozens of times a day.

The last couple of days of filming, there were a lot of goodbyes and picture taking among the background actors and their directors, with farewell gifts given to some of the assistant directors---Yvonne the background hairstylist said goodbye with a beautifully rendered song, from the stage at the holding area.

Wednesday seemed to be a repeat of Tuesday's schedule: by nightfall it had been a very long day and the background people were tired, some even dozing on the benches outside their holding area.

Dressing areas Cafeteria
The now-unused Assumption Catholic School classrooms and cafeteria, right next to "wardrobe" behind Main Street, provide convenient rooms for dressing, and for crews and extras to get a hot meal or snack. Caption and photo © Ferndale Fritz.

One of the key moments focuses on the passage of time, seen on the face of the town clock which is right next to the Majestic: its an old clock, belonging to the Ferndale Museum, and its operated from inside a jewelry store just behind---but the shopkeepers could not be found. The production came to a screeching halt as Castle Rock searched high and low for the owners, who were finally located and driven into to town so they could open their shop and change the hands on the clock. Finally, the night shoot was back on track, but it made for a very late (and probably very expensive) night.

The background artists were sent home, and the principles seem to have been dismissed after a long day: that left only the camera, and Frank Darabont and his crew and the Majestic. The marquee now read 'Sand Pirates of the Sahara' as the night fog lowered silently over Main Street. That's where I left them.

There have been a lot of fun moments during this event. I could see Jim Carrey almost every single day, at some point: that first day or two was chilly, and his assistant brought Jim a puffy black down jacket to wear over his costume.

When the cameras rolled the assistant would pluck the coat from Jim's shoulders and rush to hide around a corner out of the shot, then return with the coat the second the director said 'Cut!' maybe a minute or two later---this happened maybe ten times an hour, coat on-coat-off-coat-on-coat-off. It became known at the Coat Ballet.

James Whitmore was admired in Ferndale and well-liked for his down to earth attitude. I talked to him while he was shopping for his own groceries at the market. I forget to mention that I had seen him two nights before, in a 50's sci-fi classic 'Them!' being eaten by a giant ant... My friend Geoffrey Spencely is about Mr. Whitmore's age, and they paused one afternoon to exchange stories about knee problems---and both lifted up their pants legs to show off their scars.

There is a blue tent used to protect the sensitive equipment during shooting: it's where Frank Darabont makes his home base during the day, and where the actors go to watch the taped replay of their performances---every time a new shot is set up, the blue tent is moved by grips, and I'd often see it floating dreamily down the street at shoulder level, silently tilting and gliding like something out of a dream.

Frank Darabont and Director of Photography, David Tattersall
Frank Darabont and David Tattersall.
© Lora Jabot
Movie making is for the young! The seniors on this crew were Frank Darabont and Michael Sloane the screenwriter, and maybe the producer. There were a few gray hairs, but for the most part the crew were made of people in their twenties and 30's. It's a lot of physical labor: walking, lugging, carrying, loading miles of cable, and equipment, clothing and parking signs: it's like moving a small town complete with kitchen and clothing store and generators for electricity.

Oh, it's been fun. But time goes on, and the movie rolls on toward its completion: we can't wait to see it. But for now, for us, the great Majestic circus vanishes into the dawn.»

-- With a world of thanks to our Anonymous reporter for another masterfully written review, to David LaRue, Ferndale Fritz, Ferndale Resident, and Lora Jabot for the photos, and to Ferndale Resident for letting us know who Mr. Darabont's "co-worker" was. Click to comment this article.

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