Hollywood Love-Hate On The Cuyahoga

I’m up in Cleveland for meetings today, as I look out my window I see what looks like the scene of a terrible traffic accident, with a car flipped on its roof and onlookers gathered around.

IMG_3782Fortunately, it’s not an accident scene, it’s just on-location shooting for Captain America:  The Winter Soldier, which is filming in Cleveland this week.  That film is the latest action thriller to be shot along the shores of Lake Erie, where some of the street scenes for The Avengers were filmed.

I don’t want to give away any spoilers, but I’m guessing that someone in Captain America is going to get into a car accident at some point during the movie.

As a visitor to the city, it’s interesting for me to watch the careful prep work for the scene.  You begin to dimly understand the jobs of the key grips, second unit directors, and other curious titles that scroll by in the credits at the end of films.  First the overturned car gets placed, then some kind of light barrier is put into position, then cameras are adjusted and moved, then electrical cables are strung out.  There are dozens of people involved in the exercise.

IMG_3786For Clevelanders, however, this filming is a love-hate thing.  They like the abstract notion of big-budget movies being shot in Cleveland.  It’s cool, and it makes their city seem cool, and they know that it brings jobs and publicity and money to their fair city, all of which are good things.

But Clevelanders are, at bottom, practical Midwesterners.  Once filming begins the novelty wears off and the reality of closing major freeways and thoroughfares sinks in.  This traffic accident scene is being shot in front of the Cleveland Public Library on blocked-off Superior Avenue — which would otherwise be bustling with cars and buses full of people going to work.  Today, they’ve had to make alternative arrangements.

The Avengers Tear Up Cleveland

I was up in Cleveland yesterday, innocently walking along East Ninth Street, when suddenly I found myself in New York City.  And on a movie set.

A scene along East 9th Street

The Avengers, a movie that is set to open in 2012, currently is filming in Cleveland.  One of the blocks along East Ninth Street has been turned into a scene of awful carnage in New York City, with overturned taxi cabs, chunks of concrete, and flattened police cars.  No doubt it is where the Avengers fight a pitched battle against some super-villains who possess awesome destructive power and are despicable fiends, besides.  Apparently folks working in downtown Cleveland have heard explosions on other days of filming, and on one occasion hordes of extras were sent running down the street, screaming.  Whether it was from the wrath of the super-villain or the latest bad economic news is not clear.

When I was present, there were no sightings of any bad guys or of Iron Man, Thor, Captain America, or for that matter the Vision or the Scarlet Witch — just a street strewn with rubble, cameramen, key grips, and prop guys wandering around, filming cranes and other moviemaking equipment, and some parked vehicles that would help create the feel of New York City — like NYPD police cars, buses, and fire trucks.

Cleveland has been the location for filming on lots of movies, including A Christmas Story, Air Force One, Spider-Man 3, and American Splendor.  Let’s hope The Avengers is a notable addition to that list, and that Hollywood continues to occasionally bring some excitement — and debris — to the City by the Lake.