And Seward’s loving the movie making too!
By Heidi Zemach for SCN -
Sugar Mountain, the independent movie being filmed in Seward is bringing in some money, some fun times, and a few small roles for local residents. Some 72 volunteer extras showed up for a sunny all-day shoot near the beach at Lowell Point Monday, March 31st. They included 18 members of the Seward and Bear Creek volunteer fire departments and Seward Volunteer Ambulance Corps, along with their trucks and equipment. A crew from KTVA Channel 11 was there, occasionally playing themselves while producing an actual story on the movie event. Three Seward high school students also volunteered.
The cast of Hollywood actors and actresses, Drew Roy, (Falling Skies, Secretariat, Hannah Montana), Haley Webb (Teen Wolf, Final Destination), John Karna (Bindlestiffs, Premature,The Neighbors) and Shane Coffey, (Pretty Little Liars, Drunk In Love, Starry Eyes) mingled easily with the locals, clearly enjoying the Alaska experience.
The scenes being filmed Monday were set at the base of “Sugar Mountain” where a community-wide search was underway for missing hiker “Miles,” one of the film’s two main characters. Extras Fred Moore and Harold Faust were decked out in neon orange vests, helmet, cleats, and Moore held a hooked ice ax. It was a lot more enjoyable to pretend to be on a search-and-rescue mission than to actually be on one, said these longtime Mount Marathon racers. Two summers ago they had participated in the grueling, lengthy community-wide search of a missing runner that ended without ever finding the man, an event that like the story in this movie, had garnered considerable media attention.
“This was certainly more lighthearted than that,” Faust said. “There’s no anxiety, we just scurry about a little bit.” “Also, we didn’t run a race yesterday,” added Moore. His attention was soon interrupted by the sight of a strange drone flying over the crowd of tents, perhaps filming aerial shots. “It’s kind of interesting watching the process, I’ve never been around that before,” he said.
Linnea Hollingsworth, a local actress/singer who frequently appears on stage in Seward, was given her first speaking part ever in a real movie. In one scene, she, and other people playing “news reporters” vied to try to get a story on the missing person from a glum-looking returning search team. Her slightly larger talking role was filmed a few weeks earlier when she got to interrogate Miles’ girlfriend, the main female character, outside Saint Peters Church.
“I think it’s great,” Hollingsworth said. Her uncle Rolf (Bardarson) had a bit part as a priest, and fellow actor Hank West got to play a scout master. A lot of other locals have been helping the production as drivers, gofers, and crew, she said: “It makes people come together and have something fun to do and something to talk about during the winter, and it brings a little bit of an economy boost to Seward, which is really good,” Hollingsworth said. In addition to hiring local restaurants to cater meals during filming, the actors and production crew have been staying in local motels and hotels, going out to the restaurants and bars, and taking wildlife cruise tours.
Actor Drew Roy had been trying to get to Alaska for the past couple of years, and he jumped at the chance to be in a movie filmed here.
“One of my favorite locations was probably Mount Marathon, doing that hike and going to that back bowl. We hiked up in there and shot some really remote looking stuff,” said Roy. “Victor Creek, we did some ice climbing there, that was incredible, I mean I feel I’ve gotten a pretty good taste of Alaska. Me and the boys went out to Rugged Island this past weekend and saw some Orca and porpoises, and did some hiking. It’s been amazing.”
It felt “surreal” to be filming scenes among actual wildlife at the Alaska Wildlife Conservation Center, he said. They staged some up close encounters, with the two actors running between some wood bison, and encountering a moose and a brown bear . These wild animals didn’t exactly do what the producers had hoped they would, but the bear did go in whatever direction meat was thrown, Roy said. When the bear got a little edgy the “trainer” would menacingly hold up his shovel, and the bear would know to back down, he said, using a Hollywood expression generally reserved for someone who works with trained animals. “The thing is supposed to come up on us and we see it and nothing bad happens- but when you encounter a bear it definitely gets the heart pumping,” Roy said.
Haley Webb also has gotten the Alaska bug.
“Amazing. I have loved it ever since I’ve landed in Seward. I’ve fallen in love with the city and absolutely love everybody that I work with, which is rare. It’s been probably my favorite film experience so far,” she said.
The actors and producers had actually hoped for more typical blustery Alaska winter weather for the sake of the movie, but only had a little rain, snow or drizzle to work with this unusually mild winter, and lately had seen nothing but sunshine.
Webb was appalled to learn that the generous Alaska tax incentive program that had recently been subsidizing and encouraging the U.S. movie industry to film in the state was reduced and is currently in danger of being repealed by the Alaska Legislature.
“I really hope it doesn’t get repealed,” Webb said. “This is a very unique place and I feel like there are a lot of stories that need to take place here… because it’s gorgeous, and the fact that all of the extras are locals, and the fact that I walked into a church and saw 40 local people there—it’s amazing!”