Good News from A Great City Haverhill, MA
Downtown Haverhill is abuzz with two distinct crowds: Set decorators and the team that supports them, and rubberneckers – everyone, The Heartbeat of Haverhill included, who likes to see behind the curtain for the latest in the repertoire of Hollywood productions shooting in our city. A couple years back we had “The Equalizer” starring Denzel Washington in the Lowes building for a while, followed by Frances McDormand shooting “Olive Kittredge” at the Bethany Merrivista Senior Home.
This week we have springtime Washington Street substituting for Christmastime Dallas of a couple decades ago in Jennfier Lawrence’s new film “Joy” also starring Bradley Cooper and Robert DeNiro. You can tell it’s Christmas by the decorations and those same decorations show that it’s Dallas with glittery boot shaped lamp pole ornaments. And this is enough Hollywood magic to bring our neighbors out in droves. I just wish we could bring new business to town as quickly as the set decorators did.
And this is where the questions start.
What does having a movie shoot in Haverhill do for us other than create a traffic jam of people and cars?
1. It brings positive awareness to the city
2. It encourages people to walk downtown and discover new real shops. THOH posted on Facebook about a newly found shop two days ago and already almost 2,000 people have clicked on the post and photos for more information.
3. It encourages neighbors to talk to one another. The Heartbeat of Haverhill met two newcomers to the city who were very excited to learn more and become more involved in the city. One is considering a position on a city group, the other is hoping to write a guest blog on THOH.
4. It brings work to the region. Today we spoke with a draper, a woman who makes all the curtains and cloth backdrops for the faux shop windows. She got her start in the drama department at Northern Essex Community College. A security guard thanked us and shook hands sincerely upon learning that well over 2,000 people had become interested in the shoot while reading and sharing The Heartbeat of Haverhill Facebook page. He was thankful because as a security person on the set he knows his being there is contingent upon the size of the crowd he must control and is appreciative of the people we are bringing to the set. (The Heartbeat of Haverhill thanks all the security personnel for being so kind and helpful to people walking around with stars in their eyes). All the real shop owners are being paid if it is requested that their shops close for the shoot as are all of their employees who would have worked that day. A Haverhill veteran we met today mentioned he was being used as an extra in tomorrow’s shooting. These are just a few examples; there are hundreds of people prepping the sets who appreciate shooting in Haverhill.
5.The movie brings business to our restaurants. Mark’s Deli said they’d had several painters come in for a meal. One film crew member said there’s demand for Andino’s pizza for a third meal either today or tomorrow. Not sure if it will come to fruition, but it’s a chance. Admittedly most meals are catered, but for those that are not, our local restaurants are up to the task of feeding a hungry crowd.
6. Our local stores see new business. One person on the set today told me that in order to fill all the fake storefronts, a lot of local shopping took place: at Burlington Coat Factory they purchased hundreds of dollars worth of shoes and clothes for the fake dress shop, mirrors and second hand goods and accessories from our consignment stores.
7. Our city looks better. How much better is it to see full stores with tidy signs and clean windows. Maybe this will help move business into the downtown vacancies. Landlords should use photos from the filming to help market their space.
8. Cities typically receive a gift from the production company that enhances the town vision. Last movie provided trees, but they shot here for several weeks. THOH thinks playground equipment or more landscaping enhancements? Maybe matching awnings so we can have a consistent downtown look? Maybe a shed to house kayaks and canoes we could rent out on the Merrimack?
9. Movie revisions to our downtown allow us to envision it better. Seeing the hat shop and the BBQ joint, and the hardware shop come to life, THOH is convinced these businesses should become a reality. Experiencing the pretty faux shop windows gives direction for real windows – maybe fewer fluorescent screaming phone number signs and more creative approaches to drawing in business. To the driving school for example – put a car hood or side panel in the window and forget about all that ugly signage, you’ll catch a lot more admiring eyes. Real beauty/wig shop – style your window as carefully as you style hair and make it look designed not just crowded.
10. And we get a chance (maybe only a slim one) to see Jennifer Lawrence, at the same time she gets a chance to see Haverhill if only a little bit. Let’s give her something wonderful to remember. Jennifer will be on set on Tuesday, April 14, 2015. Brad and Robert have finished their scenes already and so are not expected.
Making movies in Haverhill doesn’t correct the challenges we have, it doesn’t come close, but for a few temporary inconveniences, it does what movies have always done, let us dream.
Here is a link to the post THOH wrote about the set of “Olive Kittredge” in 2013 http://wp.me/p3wgPC-ce.