Film crew turns city's hot August into leafy autumn

August 09, 2005|By Kim Hart | Kim Hart,SUN STAFF

The mercury hovered around 90 degrees yesterday, but autumn was in the air around Baltimore's Homeland neighborhood.

Brown leaves littered lawns, and golden-hued silk trees disguised the lush green of summer. Teenagers clad in hooded sweat shirts and jean jackets wiped sweat from their foreheads while clutching backpacks and waiting to climb onto the bright yellow school bus parked down the street.

The season switch was spurred by the filming of the movie Rocket Science, a comedy about a stuttering high school student who joins the debate team to impress his crush.

Under director Jeffrey Blitz and producer Effie Brown - both have earned Oscar nominations - the movie began filming July 21 at various area locations, including Dundalk High School and spots in Timonium.

Although much of the movie is being filmed in Baltimore during what is traditionally the hottest month, the scenes are made to appear as if they take place in Plainsboro, N.J., in the peak of fall.

"We just have to make sure we don't point the camera at the wrong tree," said Michael Faulkner, assistant location manager for the film.

Producers looked at more than 30 houses before deciding on a pair facing each other on Enderly Road.

"It's hardest on the actors, who have to wear clothing that's appropriate," Faulkner said.

When a school bus scene had concluded, the makeshift students poured out of the bus, stripping down to tank tops and rolling up long-sleeves. They removed backpacks, revealing large patches of sweat through layers of sweaters.

"I wouldn't do it," said 10-year-old Robbie Vint, who lives a street away from the action and occasionally walks over to catch a glimpse. "Well, if I was getting paid I would."

"They should have a hose out there for them," said Mary Kay Daily as she took a stroll by the set with her two children to see what all the fuss was about.

More than 30 garbage bags and 20 tarps full of maple and oak leaves stood by for the "autumnization." A dozen fake yellow-leaf shrubs, which would soon be transplanted into lawns to block the view of greener trees, waited in a truck around the corner. Crew members found the brown leaves under picnic tables at local parks and plucked yellow leaves from linden trees in Fells Point. Tiny evergreens replaced bushes lining sidewalks and porches.

Enderly Road residents Ave and Marcia Amith first noticed the landscape changes when they walked down the street Friday night on the way to dinner with their daughter and grandchildren, who live next door to one of the houses being filmed.

"I saw a gold-colored tree in a front yard and thought it was a bit odd," Marcia Amith said. The crew didn't approach the Amiths to re-landscape their yard, but she wishes they would have. "I've been wanting to get rid of those plants for ages."

Their 7-year-old granddaughter, Leah, watches the filming from her bedroom window and knows every crew member and actor by name, Ave Amith said.

"Now, of course, this whole block will go to see it," he said. "Maybe one of the cats will wander into the shot."

"And we'll all applaud in the theater," Marcia Amith added.

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