Pearl River offers a small-town feel that even a big-time writer/director couldn't resist.
Sopranos creator David Chase is filming a movie this week and next on Main St. in Pearl River between Franklin Avenue and E. Central. The film does not have a name yet, but it does feature Sopranos star James Gandolfini in the cast along with Brad Garrett.
"We liked the town a lot," said Mark Johnson, one of the film's producers. "We think it's very picturesque. It works very well for our story, and everybody here was very welcoming."
"It's great for Pearl River. They looked all over Rockland County and chose Pearl River because it has that small-town feel," said Rockland County Tourism Director C.J. Miller. "It has the character they were looking for. The changes they had to make were really miniscule."
The Paramount Pictures film, which Chase wrote and will direct, does not have a title yet, but it is a story of a group of friends living in the suburbs who form a band in the 1960s.
Filming began today and is expected to last from 7 a.m. to 10 p.m. today, Friday, Feb. 22 and Feb. 23. Part of Main Street will close off for short periods of time through the day and parking on Main St. will be restricted to cars used in filming.
"It’s really cool," Miller said. "It’s a big deal. I can tell you the Rockalnd Department of Tourism has been working with them to get everybody excited about it. We want to welcome them to Rockland County. We are very happy to have them here."
Miller said this is part of an ongoing goal of bringing more movie productions to the area.
"This is a source of revenue we haven't begun to tap into," Miller said. "We really want ot make Rockland County into a Hollywood East. We are so close to the city. They have a 30-mile radius where they can film without the expenses going through the roof and we are in that radius."
The production does bring some disruptions -- including periodic closings of Main St. and forbidding parking between Jefferson and E. Central, near the post office, during the days of filming. Traffic was blocked on some side streets, including parts of Jefferson and Gilbert and parking was also retricted on Franklin Avenue. The sidewalk on S. Main St. was also closed periodically Thursday.
The street closings and parking issues should lesson over the remainder of the shoot because the bulk of the exterior shooting is being done Thursday, Gandolfini's last day on the shoot.
Orangetown Police were on the scene to direct traffic. Orangetown Highway Superintendent James Dean had to sign off on the traffic and parking plan before the permit was granted to the production company.
"We try to be cognizant of (potential disruptions)," Dean said. "We set the requirements. There will not be any detours. We don't expect any long-term closures."
Orangetown Supervisor Paul Whalen did hear some complaints Thursday.
"Today, I dispatched jim Dean and Lt. Don Butterworth of the the police department to keep an eye on the situation to make sure the interests of the taxpayers of the town are taken care of," Whalen said. "We wanted to make sure the rules and regulations are being followed.
"I recognized the need for economic development and that perhaps the filming people can bring to our community in terms of purchasing goods and services from downtown businesses. I will note for the record that Orangetown took in over $35,ooo in filming fees last year."
At least one store manager expressed concerns about the lack of parking hurting his business and a lack of notice of the parking restrictions. Some store owners were not notified of the restrictions until Tuesday. Miller said she did stay longer than expected Thursday to help deal with any complaints. She said anyone who has an issue or question should call her at 845-708-7300.
"The production company has been amazingly accommodating in taking care of everybody and making sure that if they have been inconvenienced in any way, they have taken very good care of them," Miller said. "I talked to store owners who said we are losing business, but they are compensating us. The department of tourism wants to make sure everybody is happy and taken care of.
"For us, we're all for it," said Madelynrose co-owner Michelle Worob. "Our general feeling is that anything that brings exposure to the town is good. We love to see filming it town. It brings new people into town, people who might not have known we exist."
Bella Heathcote (Beneath Hill 60, Neighbors), Christopher McDonald (Boardwalk Empire, Harry’s Law), Molly Price (Bionic Woman, Third Watch) and comedian Lisa Lampanelli are also part of the cast for Chase's film.
"It's about a group of guys in the 60s who live in this town and form a band, and it's about the relationship with each other and with their families and everything else," Johnson said. "It's very much a [...] coming-of-age story."
Johson said that Gandolfini plays a relatively small part as the father of the main character.
"Today we're shooting a scene where the father finds the son, who is hanging out with his buddies, and makes a date to have dinner with him later," Johnson said.
He then said that they remade the fronts of the local stores to make them look like the 1960s, and he also said they had to redo the parking meter heads to make sure none of the newer ones were shown on film. The Newer ones take credit cards, which they did not do back then.
"They've been wonderful so far," Johnson said of the reception in town. "This is our first day, but everybody is excited that we're here, and they've been really welcoming."