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.
Fortunately, 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.
For 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.