The director said he scoured the state looking for the perfect little cafe or truck stop to feature in his new commercial.
Thursday, the film crew, actors, producers, truckloads of equipment, sound machines, fog machines, props, spotlights and neon signs arrived at that perfect site -- George's Sandwich Shop on Route 40 in Ellicott City.
George's, a regular hang-out for hundreds of Howard County residents, went Hollywood for an afternoon last week as part of a new advertising campaign for the Maryland State Lottery.
Allan Charles, Baltimore filmmaker and advertising executive, who was directing the commercial, said he and his crew have scouted all over the state for sites that would create "little snippets of Maryland life" for the state lottery's new television commercial.
The fact that George's does not even sell lottery tickets did not turn off Charles, who said, "We looked all over the state for a cafe that had a real look -- a picture-postcard look of America."
George M. Kreis, who has run the tiny sandwich shop for the past 19 years, put it a little differently.
"I think they liked the way my building was falling down," he said.
The commercial, to air in mid-November, will probably run 60 seconds.
The new spot, part of the Maryland State Lottery's annual multimillion dollar advertising campaign, was scheduled to be shot in about six days at locations throughout the state.
If George's makes the final cut -- about 30 sites were shot in all -- it will be featured for two to four seconds, Charles said.
The commercial will show many Maryland scenes set to a new musical piece created for the lottery spot, said Martin R. Goldman, Deputy Director of Marketing for the lottery.
George's is the only site selected in Howard County. The crew planned to shoot a country store in Oella as well, but the location was rained out.
Last Thursday, the weather was not cooperating at George's either. The rain poured so hard once that crew members had to duck into the Shear Magic Hairstylists next door for cover.
"We can shoot in the rain, but not in a tornado," said Charles.
Throughout the shoot, there was a tornado watch in the area.
Although the Oella shot and several others were called off because of weather, the crew was not going to give up after setting up for three hours at George's. Instead of doing a sunny day shot, they decided to go with a foul weather one.
Mist and fog machines were brought in to add to the effect. While George's front door got a fine sheet of mist applied, the fog machine added a misty atmosphere inside.
A huge "CAFE" sign was added to the roof, as were several old-time product signs to the front of the building. Two neon signs -- one reading "EAT HERE" -- were hung in the front window and a U.S. mailbox was placed outside on the sidewalk.
Hubers Bus Service Inc. company was called in to supply "the oldest bus that still ran," said the bus driver. After all the preparation and setup, the final shot was of two sailors with duffel bags getting off a bus.
Kreis said the advertising company -- Trahan, Burden & Charles of Baltimore -- contacted him two weeks ago to find out if he would let them shoot part of the commercial there.
After checking with his landlord, who had no objections, Kreis gave the go-ahead.
But then the firm asked if Kreis would shut the place down for an afternoon.
"I said no way," he said. "We have too many regular customers. Too many people count on us."
When the crew decided they could set up around George's regular customers, the deal was on.
Getting in and out of the place, however, was a whole other matter. Film equipment took up most of the tiny parking lot, and most customers who made it into the shop greeted their friend George with, "What the hell is going on here?"
Things got so chaotic that even Kreis gave up trying to dish up sandwiches and coffee until the filming was over. He stood outside on the sidewalk, with the rest of the on-lookers, getting sprayed with rain as the wind swept it under the small overhang.
Would the commercial make George's famous?
"Nah," said Kreis. "Infamous maybe."