Lights, camera, action in Berlin Town shines in role as location shoot for Gere, Roberts film

November 06, 1998|By Chris Guy | Chris Guy,SUN STAFF

BERLIN -- Colleen Anne McLaughlin Bunting long ago got used to people calling her "Cam," an affectionate nickname taken from the initials of her maiden name. But lately, the real estate broker has earned a new nickname in her adopted Eastern Shore hometown -- "Cammywood."

As a horde of directors, actors, technicians, caterers, crew members and nearly 400 local extras begin wrapping up two weeks of location shooting today for the movie "The Runaway Bride," Bunting isn't the only one who is enchanted by the filmmakers. It seems as if the whole town wants to be in pictures.

A large portion of Berlin's restored downtown district is providing the setting for the fictional village of Hale, where Richard Gere's character pursues a reluctant bride, played by Julia Roberts.

Bunting got involved three months ago when location scouts from Paramount Pictures came in search of real estate -- everything from houses to rent for the stars, to Main Street shops that could fit the needs of the script, to storage units for equipment.

As the only real estate firm in town, Bunting says she fell into her temporary role as location adviser to the production company.

"They needed buildings that could be used as sets, but they also needed big houses, preferably waterfront houses," Bunting said. "I didn't know what to charge them and they had no idea how to pay me, so they put me on salary."

After showing about 30 homes, and trying to convince the homeowners that it would be fun to get paid for moving for a few weeks, Bunting says rumors have been flying about where the stars are staying.

Bunting isn't telling, nor is she saying how much folks in town have received for renting their homes or for turning over their Main Street stores to film crews.

The filmmakers won't disclose their location budget, but no one denies that Paramount spent $60,000 remaking a small Main Street shop to look like the store described in the script. Property owners whose buildings might wind up in the background of scenes shot outdoors have been paid "a couple hundred dollars," Bunting said.

'Great for the town'

Mabel Hall and her son, Larry Hall, have nothing but good things to say about the crew members who transformed the hardware store the family has owned since 1963 into "Hale Hardware."

For one day of shooting, Paramount painted the front windows with the store's fictional name and cleared one wall of shotguns and hunting gear.

"They are good at what they do, that's for sure," Mabel Hall said. "They came in and took pictures of everything so it could be put back the way it was. These boys are just as nice as they can be. They've got personality plus."

Since the day of shooting, crew members have become good customers, the Halls say, buying everything from electrical tape, to drill bits, nails and screwdrivers.

"It's been great for us, great for the town," Larry Hall said. "I've heard a little complaining about the inconvenience, but it's been pretty good-natured."

With a block or more of Main Street roped off and patrolled by police who are intent on preventing anyone with cameras from entering the closed set, the movie has created plenty of inconvenience. Back streets and parking lots in downtown Berlin are also crammed with tractor-trailers and dressing trailers.

As one crew member described the scene, "it's like having the circus coming to town and staying."

Town officials say the hoopla has been well-contained. Berlin is billing Paramount at hourly rates for providing services. The Police Department is charging the company $25 an hour to provide security and traffic control and has hired officers from nearby departments to supplement the town's 17-member force.

Refreshing change

Crew members who are veterans of location shoots throughout the country say their stay in Berlin has been a refreshing change from fast-paced Hollywood.

Director Garry Marshall spent several hours last weekend bTC signing copies of his book, "Wake Me When It's Funny," and answering questions from fans who crammed the historic Globe Theater.

Casting director Maryellen Aviano, who is working in cramped space in Bunting's real estate office, says she would like to pack up the populace and take them where her next movie takes her.

"Their generosity is beyond belief," Aviano said. "It's as if they don't always have their guards up, they're so open."

Aviano says she was stunned when she received flowers from students at nearby Stephen Decatur High School who have been hired as extras for several street scenes. The students had lost to archrival Snow Hill High School when Paramount decided to shoot key scenes there last week.

"I thought they'd be resentful because we wound up at the other school," Aviano said. "Instead, they were happy we've tried to use some kids as extras."

A boost to marketing

Berlin's business leaders say the movie, which will be released in theaters next summer, will continue to boost their efforts to market the town and draw tourists from nearby Ocean City. The Chamber of Commerce is trying to develop a local celebration to mark the movie's premiere.

"Obviously, the long-term effect is going to be tremendous," said Kate Patton, who owns Globe Theater. "If Berlin has been good enough for Paramount, we're sure the rest of the world will feel the same way."

Pub Date: 11/06/98

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